Archive for February, 2010

COBBS IN THE ‘BURBS

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Those of us who live in the suburbs (even the ones closest to the City limits) find that we are still miles from some of Chicago’s finest eateries. Happily, however, there is no shortage of venues for a good entree salad.

California Pizza Kitchen (various locations). This is Karen’s favorite salad place, and I know why. The CPK Cobb is made with both romaine and iceberg lettuces, combining both good-for-you greens and crunchiness. The chef adds bacon, avocado, chicken, tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, basil and gorgonzola. Our server asked if I also wanted fresh beets. What?! The toppings were presented in classic Cobb style, i.e., separated on the plate. The bacon was crisp and the vegetables were nicely chilled. Skip the bland herb ranch dressing, and go right to the blue cheese.

Cheesecake Factory (various locations). Their Cobb is served on mixed greens, with chicken, blue cheese, bacon, tomato and hard-boiled egg. The vinaigrette dressing is disappointingly nondescript. But my main complaint is that the salads are just too big, even some of the so-called “lunch-size” portions. One big plus: the honey whole wheat bread—which you can have a lot of because, after all, you’re having salad for lunch.

Graziano’s (Niles). Rob and I like to frequent this local Italian restaurant. Their Club Salad is short on ingredients (iceberg, turkey, bacon,  and tomatoes), but the house Italian dressing is first-rate.  I sometimes buy a jar when I want to dazzle a dinner guest. Good focaccia, too.

Lou Malnati’s (suburbs + Chicago). How can you go to Lou’s and not order the pizza? Because you can have their mighty Malnati Salad. It has romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, black olives, sliced mushrooms, crumbled Volpi salami and gorgonzola cheese, all tossed with “Lou’s famous dressing.” Rob and I order it as our luncheon main course, usually with a cup of homemade minestrone soup first. While we’re waiting for our food to come, we check out the walls plastered with baseball memorabilia. The Malnati Salad is definitely a home run.

O’Neil’s (Winnetka) is where I usually meet Mary Ann, one of my favorite foodie friends, for lunch. The Cobb there has mixed greens, turkey breast, chopped hard boiled eggs, bacon, tomato, cucumber, carrots and crumbled blue cheese. The homemade blue cheese dressing is smooth and tasty. And, if you eat your Cobb while sitting on their terrace on a beautiful summer day (remember those?)—and with Harvey as your server—it will taste even better.

Others good Cobbspots: Georgie V’s in Northbrook (Charlene’s recommended locale); Red Star Tavern in Deerfield; Panera (various locations) and Chili’s (I get the Southwestern Cobb with the chicken grilled, instead of fried).

Last but not least, The Clubhouse (Oak Brook) is where I meet my Du Page County pal, Jennifer.   When we last ate there and it was Arctic outside, the hot tea that I ordered actually came in a heated cup!  Their  salad menu is impressive.   The “Carne Asada Cobb”  was delicious, although not quite what Henry Cobb had envisioned: iceberg lettuce, grilled skirt steak, chimichurri sauce, tomatoes, eggs, black bean corn relish, white cheddar cheese (nice substitute for the gorgonzola), tortilla strips, avocado and barbecue ranch dressing. It can also be prepared with chicken. But I think that would be a mis-steak.

Yours till the lettuce leaves,

NJL

3/23/10:  Bobbi S, an NJL salad maven, has recently sampled the Cobb at Abigail’s in Highland Park.  She reports that the contained “[j]ust the right amount of cubes of turkey, avocado, eggs, etc. over mixed greens. Light dressing. Also, the parmesan crackers are wonderful and atmosphere is very pleasant. (although could get noisy at night I have heard.)”

3/28/10: I took Debbie out to lunch at the Happ Inn in Northfield. Their “tossed cobb” contains, among many other things, ham (in addition to bacon) and swiss cheese (no blue). It comes with Thousand Island Dressing. The salad was decent, but I think it must have an identity crisis: it just felt more like a dolled up Julienne.

11/11/10:  Barbara was right about the “pollo chop-chop” at Marco Roma in Winnetka.  Traditional Cobb fixings + onions + pasta elbows + raisins (!) = yum-yum.