There is something about a simple wedge salad that has always appealed to me. When I was growing up we referred to this type of salad as the Steakhouse Wedge Salad, or sometimes just Steakhouse Salad. I’m guessing my parents first encountered it at a steakhouse. So the ‘steakhouse’ part of its name made sense to me. However, the term ‘wedge’ confused me some. My mom served this salad in inch-thick discs as opposed to the triangular wedges I prefer today.
Whether it’s a round disc or a triangular wedge the Steakhouse Wedge Salad is essentially not much more than an iceberg lettuce salad topped with creamy blue cheese or ranch-style dressing and a few basic accoutrements (onion, radish, tomato, croutons and often bacon). There’s nothing fancy about it. In fact from the 1950s well into the 1970s this salad was ubiquitous. Mostly because there weren’t a lot of other varieties of lettuce available outside the San Joaquin Valley. Modern advances changed that fact. Soon a backlash against the once popular Steakhouse Wedge Salad began to spread across the continent. By the late 1980s the iceberg revulsion was in full swing. You could no longer admit to being a fan of the lowly Steakhouse Wedge Salad. It was dead to the likes of you and me.
Fortunately for us other types of lettuce began to come into fashion. Baby field greens made their first appearances. What a revelation they were. So tiny. So delicate. Each leaf like a small gift. With their discovery the mesclun salad was born and it stormed our plates. It made all the other types of lettuce seem brutish.
Like any self-respecting foodie I’ll admit I embraced the mesclun salad. Who among us didn’t? But I remained a closeted iceberg lettuce fan. It’s hard to beat a fat chunk of crunchy iceberg lettuce tucked between the buns of a really juicy burger. In fact I credit burgers for helping me look more clearly at those trendy but emaciated limp little lettuce leaves and think– Is that all there is? Because when it comes to beef– especially steak– nothing beats iceberg lettuce.
Modern Day Steakhouse Wedge Salad
And so we come full circle. The Steakhouse Wedge Salad has made a serious comeback. Exciting versions featuring radicchio and house-cured charcuterie are finding their way back onto the menus of restaurants everywhere. But there’s something about the iceberg original that continues to hold my attention. So today I pay homage to the original, with one small twist. In a nod to my parents and the steakhouses of their youth, I’m serving my salad with steak. Not on the side or in a separate course. My Steakhouse Wedge Salad has blackened chunks of spiced up flatiron steak standing in for traditional ‘croutons’. GREG