A salad may not seem like a main attraction at a steakhouse, but in my book, you can judge a steakhouse's merit as much on its salads as its steaks.
The perfectly prepared wedge salad with plenty of tangy blue cheese is a pleasant pairing with a peppery prime rib; a chopped salad chock-full of crunchy vegetables is an ideal offset for a ribeye ringed with expertly rendered fat. Keep your creamed spinach and baked potatoes—give me a good steakhouse salad as a side any day.
The Monday Night Salad at the Palm is a steakhouse salad non plus ultra. One of the old menu items retained when the Palm underwent a recent renovation (of both its dishes and decor—though don't fret, the signature caricatures on the walls are still intact), the chopped salad speaks to the steakhouse's history with a vintage look and flavor that's still relevant today.
Legend has it the salad received its name when the kitchen threw together all the ingredients left over on a Monday night after a particularly busy weekend. That story explains the roughly diced red bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic cloves, radishes, iceberg lettuce and anchovy fillets that make up the rather unusual presentation.
Heaping portions of anchovies and garlic in salads were de rigeur in the 1960s, when French influences in American cooking were all the rage. Wedge salads and steak Diane, too, were at the peak of their popularity during this time. And though the Palm opened its original location in New York City in 1926, it's the swinging, Rat Pack and Mad Men–era 1960s that are most reflected in the Houston location's aesthetic, with its cherry red semi-circle booths and martini-mad bar scene—even if our location opened in 1978.
My dining companion teased me for ordering such an old-fashioned dish during a recent dinner at the Palm, but was quickly silenced after trying it. The blend of cool, crispy vegetables with soft, briny anchovies and the tart but silky vinaigrette makes the Monday Night Salad a timeless standard. And, as expected, it was an ideal companion to my char-crusted ribeye steak. I barely even touched the creamed spinach.
The Palm, 6100 Westheimer Rd., 713-977-2544, thepalm.com