It was my first time at Plate Restaurant, and I made the mistake of ordering a Caesar Salad. What I wanted was traditional chilled Romaine lettuce laced to perfection with garlic, lemon juice, egg, and anchovies topped with salty, garlicky, crunchy breadcrumbs.
What I got was two wedges of Romaine lettuce that appeared to be frosted with dressing on the outside and naked (and bland) as hell underneath.
After laboring to cut the wedges into pieces myself, I tried to doctor up the flavor by applying two ramekins of extra dressing. It didn’t do the trick and left me wondering why I paid $12 for the bastard.
To give the restaurant owner Christian Joseph and his staff a fair shake, the pasta at Plate is amazing. I highly recommend the Pappardelle (pork shoulder ragout) or the “classic” Carbonara. If you don’t like eyes starring back at you, forego ordering the Igatoni e Gamberi (shrimp and pasta), which comes with a crawfish on top.
Note to Chef
If you’re going to make a statement with an entrée or appetizer, don’t do it with a classic like carrot cake or Caesar salads. It’s blasphemy. A wedge salad works when iceberg lettuce is smothered in Buttermilk blue cheese and bacon bits. A Caesar salad should never be served as a wedge salad unless it’s in a contemporary art exhibit at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Few Caesar salads served in Kansas City restaurants bear little, if any, resemblance to Caesar Cardini’s original recipe. Cardini’s recipe was made with romaine lettuce and croutons tossed in a dressing prepared from parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, a raw egg, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper. NOTE: The original recipe did not contain canned anchovies or anchovy paste, and the subtle hint of anchovies came from the Worcestershire sauce, which includes anchovies as one pivotal ingredient.
Who Makes the Best Caesar Salad?
Kansas City has hundreds of Italian restaurants, many of which can make a decent Caesar salad. However, if you want to taste perfection, here are the five Kansas City restaurants that refuse to bastardize a Caesar salad.
Lidia Bastianich has made her name and her many restaurants famous by mixing simple ingredients with old-world magic. Her food and recipes speak volumes without the need for showy or gimmicky food plating being spun at modern restaurants such as Plate.
Out of more than 1,100 TripAdvisor restaurant reviews, 27 mentioned that Lidia’s serves the best Caesar salad in Kansas City.
Lidia shares her Caesar salad recipte in her cookbook “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen.” Her version is made with cooked boiled eggs instead of raw eggs as she does in her restaurants for safety reasons.
- 2 CUPS CUBED (1/2 INCH) FIRM-TEXTURED WHITE BREAD
- 3 YOUNG, FIRM HEADS ROMAINE OR ONE 18-OUNCE PACKAGE HEARTS OF ROMAINE
- 2 TABLESPOONS RED-WINE VINEGAR, PLUS MORE FOR DRESSING THE SALAD
- 2 TABLESPOONS FRESH LEMON JUICE
- 4 CLOVES GARLIC
- 4 ANCHOVY FILLETS
- 1/3 CUP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, OR AS NEEDED
- 1 TABLESPOON DIJON MUSTARD
- 1 HARD-BOILED EGG YOLK
- ½ TEASPOON SALT
- ½ TEASPOON WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE
- FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER
- 1 CUP GRATED GRANA PADANO, PLUS A BLOCK OF GRANA PADANO FOR SHAVING
The Mixx is a bright cafeteria-style venue offering signature salads (aka the don’t freak around with what works). Whether you go to The Mixx’s Plaza or Overland Park location, its chefs are purists — never deviating far from the traditional Caesar salad topped with a tangy made-in-house dressing. Caesar salads are either $7 or $10, depending on your order size.
Overland Park Grill
This beloved restaurant was formerly called J. Alexander’s. Fortunately, the name change didn’t alter the restaurant’s high standards for classics done right. Several reviewers claim they’ve eaten the best Caesar salad of their life at the Overland Park Grill. This picture confirms they don’t mess around when plating a crisp, freshly dressed Caesar salad.
Restauranteur Michael Garozzo brought what he learned on the Hill in St. Louis to Kansas City when he opened Garozzos in 1989. We thank him for it.
While Garozzos is widely known for its Chicken Spiedini entrees, its authentic Caesar salads deserve just as much respect.
Jasper Mirabile and his family-owned restaurant are beloved by Kansas Citians. You can enjoy an unadulterated Jasper’s Caesar salad for $5 or $8.50. The late Charles Ferruzza, Kansas City’s restaurant reviewer, preferred to dine at Jasper’s Restaurant for his Italian fare and Caesar’s salads.
Why is the Caesar the Holy Grail of Salads?
The harmonious blend of garlic, salt, pepper, anchovy, mustard, egg, lemon, and parmesan cheese, tossed with crisp stalks of romaine lettuce and hand-torn, toasted croutons, and more parmesan cheese, make the Caesar salad the holy grail of salads.
Where is your go-to salad spot? I’d love to hear your salad favorites from around the region.
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