When your salad has its own Facebook page, that’s when you know you’ve made a culinary impact; and Chef Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House in Old Scottsdale is living proof of it.
After years of chefs — both locally and nationally — replicating and recreating his Original Chopped Salad, Kantak jokingly created a Facebook page for it, immediately following a chat with a friend, on Facebook. Since then, Citizen Public House no longer lists the ingredients of the salad on the menu; instead, the restaurant displays the web address for the salad’s Facebook page.
The Original Chopped Salad is considered just that, original and unique. When Peter Kasperski, the owner of Cowboy Ciao, decided the salad needed a fresh look and taste, Kantak took on the challenge. Inspired by a fennel soup with sweet dried corn and salmon, Kantak “liked the combination and herbatiousness of the soup,” and redeveloped it into the salad it is today.
After just two weeks on the menu, Cowbow Ciao sold more than 100 salads a day, and it continues to be the top seller at Citizen Public House.
The Original Chopped Salad has a seemingly abnormal combination of ingredients, including corn, salmon, couscous, asiago, pepitas, tomatoes, currants and arugula. Patrons can then drizzle the salad with buttermilk pesto dressing.
“When you first tell people what’s in it, it doesn’t really sound very good,” Kantak says. “But once they have it, it becomes magical to people. People go bananas for it.”
Kantak says it’s the combination of flavor and texture that keeps diners coming back for more, or intrigued enough to try it for the first time.
“I think it’s the combination of how everything is so different,” Kantak says, “but it comes together really beautifully, especially with the colors.”
This is why Kantak advises for your next salad to be adventurous and try different things. For instance, instead of croutons, Kantak substitutes potato chips.
“You can have a salad with two ingredients in it, and it can taste great; and then there’s the Original Chopped Salad that has a lot of elements into it,” Kantak says. “I think it’s the way things harmonize with one another. Don’t be afraid to try everything, and just think outside the box.”
For those looking to whip up a simple salad for lunch or a pre-dinner treat, Kantak recommends combining tomatoes, a little bit of red onion, basil, balsamic extra virgin olive oil, salt and cracked pepper.
But what makes a great salad are fresh ingredients, Kantak says, which can be found at various farmer’s markets around the Valley.
“Definitely the Scottsdale Farmer’s Market and the farmer’s market downtown,” Kantak says. “I really like to go to the market at the Chinese Cultural Center; they have stuff you just aren’t going to find in a grocery store.”
Kantak’s favorite salad? His own Mirliton Chopped Salad, which combines chayote, snow pea greens, grape tomato, cucumber-onion salad, heirloom popcorn, grilled halloumi cheese and parsley-garlic dressing.
“People are surprised by the heirloom popcorn,” Kantak says. “The Greek grilled cheese is grilled and has a nice smokiness; and the cucumbers are light, refreshing and summery.”
Try the Original Chopped Salad or The Mirliton Chopped Salad, both found on the Citizen Public House menu.
If You Go: Citizen Public House
7111 E. 5th Ave, Ste. E, Scottsdale