Among my friends, it is an article of faith that there are two restaurants in my general neighborhood where you can expect (at best) indifferent service. One is much worse than the other, with servers who seem openly hostile to the idea of exchanging money for goods (food) and services (someone else making the food and bringing it to me)- sort of a “how dare you walk in here an expect me to answer your questions about the menu AND take your order AND bring you a beer. THE NERVE!” vibe. I once contemplated walking out of a tab there (it was 2 drinks) after waiting for 20 minutes (I timed) at an empty bar with the bartender ignoring my attempts to first secure another drink, and then simply to cash out.
The other teeters on tolerable. It’s in a good location, has a commitment to cleanly produced food, and is part of a locally owned mini-chain. But. As a former server myself, I am willing to let a lot of things slide, but agressive indifference towards customers is not one of them. As such, I pretty much never patronize this particular restaurant.
I found myself with a group there for brunch last winter though, because I like to think myself too considerate to force my restaurant jihads on other people, or at least on other people I don’t know well. A more attentive server could have increased the check considerably, but ours seemed uninterested in serving us more than a perfunctory round of bloody marys.
I digress. The point of all this is that at this infernal restaurant, I happened upon one of my most favorite dishes in all of DC. It’s right up there with the crabcake pasta from Afterwords and the black cod at Rasika. It is neither glamourous nor particularly complicated, but it is goddamn tasty, and until that moment, completely new to me.
On a salad.
I know, I know, I’m sure that’s not earth shattering to most of you out there, but cut me some slack. I’ve been far too concerned with finding the perfect burger bun to realize it could ever be anything other than a sandwich. I have a long and storied history with chopped salads- with bacon, with chicken, with beans. With beef even, in the form of leftover steak. But never, ever a burger.
This salad changed all that. It has all the best parts of a burger, with all the textural complexity and bright colors (my favorite part!) of a good chopped salad. It’s (perhaps), healthier than a burger, but it’s also far more filling, with much less meat. The most important part is to dice or chop everything to roughly the same size. And feel free to alter- I hate tomatoes, but they’d be a great addition. So would corn, pickled onions, cucumber, or whatever else you have languishing in the produce drawer. I’ve been known to cook enough meat for several of these salads at once, but it’s also a good way to use up all those leftovers from summer barbecues. You know, if it ever gets warm again.
4 oz burger (I like beef, but whatever floats your boat, cooked to your desired doneness/leftovers), room temp
1 head romaine lettuce, end discarded, chopped (or a bag of mesclun)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 carrot, diced
2 oz cheese (feta, pepper jack, cheddar- whatever), diced in 1/2 in cubes
ranch dressing (please, make it from scratch, it’s not hard)
1. Assemble all ingredients in a large bowl and toss
2. Crumble cooked burger on top
3. Pour over dressing (go with half what you think you’ll need- trust me) and toss
4. Season to taste with worcester sauce and pepper. Eat immediately,