Don’t Mess with Success

Editor’s Note: You know we love us a good food rant, so we were pretty excited when ML (who you may know from Food, Redefined) told us about her rabid, Cobb Salad-induced anger. Please welcome ML, who is joining the ES mix to share her culinary concoctions along with some food rants and raves. And holler back if you know where a girl can find a genuine Cobb Salad.


Sometimes I get on these food kicks. I eat something I really like, and I continue eating it as often as I can until I’ve had enough. This normally only lasts a few days, maybe a week, but can go on for months (the most notable being Spicy Tuna Roll Summer ’06, but this surfaced at the age of four when I refused to eat anything but hot dogs for several weeks).

Recently I was visiting a friend in State College, Pennsylvania and unexpectedly experienced the best salad I’ve ever had. Our choice of restaurant was based solely around drink specials; I wasn’t expecting much from a place with $6 pitches of Long Island iced tea. However, I ordered a Cobb salad and it was heaven. Perfectly cooked chicken, warm crispy bacon, plump tomatoes, buttery ripe avocados, and a perfect greens-to-topping ratio (I prefer a 1:1 or 2:1, depending on the salad). The flavors blended flawlessly and I was addicted. Sadly I haven’t found anything close for comparison since, and there’s a reason…

On an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David is criticized by his friends for ordering a Cobb salad without all of the ingredients that make it a classic Cobb. But I find myself doing quite the opposite. It seems that most popular restaurants, from large chains to cafes to sports bars, do not understand the concept of classic dishes. These places add their own ingredients as they please, sometimes for aesthetic value, other times for no reason other than to “add their own twist.” If I see a Cobb on the menu, I expect lettuce, chicken, bacon, tomatoes, blue cheese, avocados, hard-boiled egg, and some sort of chives/scallions/onion. I don’t want to see carrots, tortilla strips, pre-sliced canned olives, or any sort of yellow shredded cheese on my Cobb salad. And I should not have to ask for ingredients to be taken out of the Cobb salad in order to make it a real Cobb salad.

Sure, the Cobb’s invention might not have been deliberate. However, the reason it has become popular is because the original ingredients tasted great together. If it tasted like it needed more or different ingredients, perhaps they would have been added. Why does Mr. I-create-the-menu-for-a-popular-restaurant-chain feel entitled to make those changes? Olives that taste like a metal do not add to the Cobb’s fatty, delicious flavor. Neither does anything else.

Needless to say, my Cobb salad kick has been ruined (bastards). I can’t change the minds of these restaurants that insist on neon cheese as an accompaniment for my Cobb. Sure, one solution would be to not eat at these places. But that’s what I can afford. For now, I’ll be that customer who endlessly amends her order, and hopes to get lucky with someone who gets it right.

(Photo: Nemo’s Great Uncle)

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  • jenn April 20, 2009  

    where in state college was this magical salad from? i’ve been here for 3 years and haven’t found something i couldn’t make better at home without going to one of the expensive restaurants outside of town with my parents…

    or cozy thai. if you ever come here, go there.

  • ML April 20, 2009  

    The magical Cobb was from The Deli ( on Hiester Street. I combined my Cobb with a bowl of “The Ultimate Jewish Penicillin”, which I’m convinced has superpowers. I’ve never had anything from this restaurant that wasn’t spectacular. I wish I could sample the entire menu, but with how large it is, it might take me awhile.

  • Maids April 20, 2009  

    I agree, shredded yellow cheddar is always a disappointment on salad. I can’t even eat cheese and the other day when my BF tried to purchase wisconsin cheddar I slapped his hand and made him get the extra sharp cabot. no excuses!

  • Very Very Good Girl April 20, 2009  

    I agree – if it has 5 ingredient changes it’s not a classic cobb & therefore needs another name altogether. It reminded me of an incident I had with eggs benedict at a decent restaurant. I never return dishes but I had no choice because the eggs were hard-boiled. The waiter snidely stated ‘so you want you eggs undercooked?’. I restrained from slapping him & haven’t eaten there since. I mean that’s cooking 101 right?!? Still makes me angry to think about!

    ML, I must admit that I am in love with a non-traditional Q-cobb and am probably part of the problem. If you’re in Durham, NC give it a try with the chipolte blue cheese.

  • melissa April 21, 2009  

    I think Washington Post had the recipe for BLT’s cobb, which is ridiculous.

  • mariah carey April 21, 2009  

    “I hear the cobb is good here.” – John Preston, SATC

  • gansie April 21, 2009  

    @MC best comment ever. i cant believe i didnt think of it myself.

  • mariah carey April 21, 2009  

    That one was for you, babe. duh.

  • JoeHoya April 23, 2009  

    Just had lunch at Bullfeathers on Capitol Hill, and I was shocked to discover their Cobb salad contains:

    Diced Tomatoes
    Blue Cheese
    Boiled Eggs

    …and that’s it!

    No scallions, and they let you have your choice of dressings, but it was probably the most traditional Cobb I’ve encountered in recent memory.

    And the price point wasn’t too bad, either…maybe $10 or so.

    Check it out next time you’re on Capitol Hill (or at a Nats game).

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