Getting back to Portland, I've finished my first survey of Caesar salads. Honestly, I was surprised by how much variation there is, both in quality and style. I'm really interested to hear where others' favorites are and which they like and don't like. I could really use some suggestions for Caesars west of the hills. As always, more photos, etc, at the link.
Apizza Scholls: Really one of the better Caesars I've tried so far. I like that they use large shavings of parmesan and good quality whole anchovy filets (extra). I think it's gotten bigger over time, too. The dressing is more subtle than most, but well-balanced. If I was going to improve anything, it would be the croutons, which aren't as light and crisp as some.
Gino's: One of the more famous (or infamous?) Caesars in town. This an old school Caesar using coddled eggs. However, the dressing is over-powered by garlic. Actually, that's not strong enough. If you could create a nuclear isotope from garlic, devise a nuclear bomb from that isotope, and then explode it in a salad, you'd get close to the power of garlic that radiates from their salad. It's garlicky. It's also huge, but at $10.50 it damn well better be. For me, there isn't much to recommend it except for its size.
Lovely Hula Hands: This is what happens to a Caesar when a chef tries a little too hard and doesn't pull it off. Flavor balance is wrong, almost entirely lemon. But the powdery parmesan mixed with powdery breadcrumbs instead of croutons doesn't work either. Interesting, but not in a good way.
Roots: A very normal Caesar whose dressing could be improved by adding some lemon juice or Worcestershire. Other than that, it's just a decent salad, but at the best price of any in this survey, only $6.25. And it's only $3.50 during happy hour (which includes 9-11p Fri and Sat).
Wildwood: Pairing Wildwood and Lovely Hula Hands shows how originality in the right hands can make something truly great, while in the wrong hands can make it an utter failure. Wildwood is in that former camp. The salad gets its tanginess from fresh capers and cornichons, both of which work to supplant the lemon or Worcestershire. The dressing is good with a nice garlic accent, there's long strands of parmesan, and they even include adeptly-poached chicken. A very good salad as is. Then someone had the brilliant idea to put their wonderful clay-oven bread on top, something akin to both naan and focaccia, and the salad transcended the typical Caesar to something sublime.
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