Manliest Salads In Chicago

November 28, 2011 2:00 PM

There are a nearly unbreakable set of requirements and rules in modern social interaction that must precede a man eating a salad. Vegetarians, people adhering to carb-free or Paleo diets, and those on doctor’s orders get a free pass to dig into greens. For the rest of us, men have to hem and haw about ordering “just a salad”, furrow their brow, and probably order several meat side orders just to make up for their perceived sleight to meat-eating humanity. Restaurants and bars know this plight, and some have made salads that can be consumed without the men needing to arm-wrestle everyone at the table for the right to be considered manly again. The following salads are meaty, hearty, “dude”-friendly meals – they just happen to be served over greens.

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Meat and potatoes kinda guy? Somehow, there’s still a salad for you. One of the West Loop’s more promising beer havens, Haymarket’s stellar beer selection matches perfectly with their sandwiches, brats, and the cherry-jalapeno-glazed ribs. But where do you fit a salad in there? From time to time, the chefs will whip up their “Brewer’s Salad” – endives, boiled Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced bratwurst and a porter mustard vinaigrette.

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Lest anyone get the impression that a meaty salad is somehow a lowbrow affair, let Naha settle that once and for all – even restaurants with Michelin stars can beef up their salads. Or chicken in this case: Naha takes roasted corn, pecans, onions, and some buttermilk “ranch” dressing to liven up their own take on southern-fried chicken (there might be some romaine in there too, but who’s counting).

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Only one of Bandera’s four salads is actually meat-free. Of the other two carnivore-friendly bowls, one contains seared tuna, and the other “hacked” chicken. So what kind of salad tops that? An indulgent mix of roasted chicken, avocado, dates, almonds, and goat cheese – you might end up getting more protein than the guy who got the burger. (And the name certainly clears up any lingering doubts of masculinity.)

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Dunlay’s have been serving up fine sandwiches and the occasional Healthy Choice (bowl of fresh fruit, house made granola, and yogurt) to customers for years. But lest you think you’ve tried everything on their menu, think again – the Wrightwood Salad (or as sister restaurant Frasca Pizzeria sells it, the “infamous” Wrightwood Salad) contains chicken, tomatoes, avocado, corn, almonds, fresh goat cheese and craisins (because they are manlier than normal raisins, no doubt).

Chicagoans have plenty of pride regarding their junk food, but we’re only messing with things that were unhealthy to begin with – hot dogs, pizza, and Italian beef weren’t exactly heart-friendly before we got our hands on them. But the people of Pittsburgh are a whole other sort – everyday sandwiches get French fries stuck in them, their local beer traditionally gets a shot put in it (“Imp an arn”) and they have something called “city chicken” that we’re not even going to ask about. But the most mind-boggling cuisine that Pittsburgh has concocted is the Pittsburgh salad – a salad covered in French fries, American cheese and ranch dressing. Eclipse has been known to offer this regional delicacy – if you’re possessed of an iron (or Iron City) stomach, then by all means dig in.

Dan Morgridge is a writer in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. He enjoys eating and drinking above his means, finding new music, and socially conscious hedonism.

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