Steakhouse Salads

Originally posted at Chocolat and a Baby Doll

Never order the entrée salad at a steakhouse. I’m not talking about places like Outback Steakhouse. I’m talking about actual steakhouses. Steakhouses where the cheapest steak on the menu is $50, if they even have the prices listed at all. Steakhouses that sell wine by the bottle but don’t have a pasta entrée on the menu. Those are the steakhouses I’m talking about. There is probably a chandelier or two and the chairs are upholstered in leather. The lighting will be dim, presumably to hide the less than choice leaves of lettuce that serve as an excuse for an entrée salad. If you find yourself in a restaurant that fits that description, then for the love of God, do not order the entrée salad. Especially if it comes with croutons.

I don’t like steak, and have only ordered it twice in my life. The first time was, well, my first time. I was at a steakhouse in Arizona and figured I might as well try a steak. The second time was at a very upscale Argentinian steakhouse in Sao Paulo; I don’t speak Portuguese so our translator ordered for everyone, and that meant I was served a steak so raw it was still cold in the middle. I ate two bites to be polite and then gave the rest to my co-worker who devoured the rest of the steak and pronounced it delicious.

Apparently I am in the minority. Most people I know, including my husband, love steak and get very excited about going to upscale steakhouses. Therefore, I have been to some very nice steakhouses and while their steak might be top notch, their entrée salads rarely are. At a very upscale, very swanky steakhouse in San Francisco I was served what could have passed for those little salads they feed zoo animals. Not to mention the waiter, who was very polite and professional with everyone else at the table, immediately turned cold and derisive when I dared to order the salad, like, we have some of the best steak in the world and you’re ordering the fucking salad?

I once spent a night curled up on the bathroom floor of my hotel room in Winnipeg after ordering the Caesar salad at an upscale steakhouse. I shouldn’t have eaten the salad; the romaine lettuce leaves were brown and wilted. But I figured, hey, I’m in Canada in May. Probably all the romaine lettuce in this country is brown and wilted right now. And there were croutons. Tons of croutons. The real clue, though, should have been the dressing. The Caesar dressing tasted like it had expired and then been left in the sun for three days in order to marry together the flavors of putrefaction and salmonella. But Caesar dressing always kind of tastes like that to me, so I soldiered on and forced myself to eat a good portion of the salad. Instant regret. While lying on the bathroom floor later that night, I had a thought that I’d never had before, I should have had the steak.

Now of course, there are exceptions to every rule. I did get a good salad at Ruth’s Chris in Fresno. I have eaten at Ruth’s Chris three times and have never had their steak. The first two times were in Cancun, and I ordered a bunch of sides, none of which were good (oddly, none of the food was good in Cancun, except for the banana, chocolate boozy drinks served on the beach). The third time was in Fresno. I ordered the Harvest Salad and it was very good. You can’t go wrong with dried cherries and goat cheese. But, I asked for no bacon and when I got my salad, it had bacon on it. To a vegetarian, or to someone who doesn’t eat a lot of meat, this was the equivalent of ordering a steak medium well and getting it well done. The steak would be sent back. The chef would be fired on the spot and publicly humiliated. Probably tarred and feathered and run out of town by an angry mob wielding torches and pitch forks. And in a classic American rags to riches tale, the El Salvadorian dish washer would be put on the line where he would excel and go on to open up his own world famous El Salvadorian pupuserian fusion food truck.

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