Marshall V. King
Paul Cataldo isn’t sure why his father, Antonio, started adding mint to salads when they were growing up.
But Paul still does it at the restaurant called Antonio’s, 1105 Goshen Ave., Elkhart.
He adds it to the mix of romaine, head lettuce and an artisan greens blend to create the salad mix that is his own. And he serves about 120 pounds of lettuce a week.
That’s a lot of salad.
And Antonio’s is the winner of the search for the best salad you can buy in Elkhart County. Readers picked Sports Time Family Pub & Grill as their favorite.
The greens are put on a plate for hundreds if not thousands of side salads a week at Antonio’s. The big salads are only about 10 percent of total salad sales.
But when it’s in season, the eggplant arugula salad makes up about 70 percent of salad sales.
Eggplant is dredged, dipped in breadcrumbs and fried in butter. It’s layered with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and topped with arugula that also has a honey balsamic vinaigrette, mushrooms, red onions and black olives.
It’s a great salad. It has creativity and spark. It surprises people — even those who don’t like eggplant.
In addition, Antonio’s house dressing is a simple vinaigrette. But it’s simply very good. As new chef Don Newsom makes some new dressings, I’ll try them. But the house vinaigrette makes me happy.
The tomato salad doesn’t have lettuce and therefore wasn’t part of Salad Quest. (You have to draw the line somewhere.) But it shows how well the restaurant handles tomatoes and how flavorful they can be.
I picked it from the finalists of Constant Spring,Miles Lab and Kelly Jae’s Cafe. Readers also voted on them and the ones I gave 4 1/2 stars: Sports Time Family Pub & Grill, South Side Soda Shop, the Vine, Aunt Karen’s Cafe and Adam’s Bistro.
An overwhelming number of readers who voted for their favorite salad spot picked Sports Time as the winner.
Of the 438 votes, 185 were cast for Sports Time.
Of those, 76 were photocopies of the ballot from the newspaper that were then delivered to the Truth. One of those voters even turned me into a pirate as he or she cast the vote. Thanks. I look good with an eyepatch.
South Side Soda Shop was second with 98 votes and Constant Spring was third with 75.
Here are some other awards of note:
Best-named salad: The Big Sexy Salad at Sports Time, named by Teri Kreighbaum, is a big mix of fun ingredients. It’s edgy and memorable. But it’s a good salad, not just a gimmick.
Funkiest salad: The pad thai salad at Constant Spring probably got it into the finals of Salad Quest. The mix of radishes, chicken, peanuts and a tamarind dressing on greens is remarkable, and even more so with fish. It didn’t win, but it’s a funky set of flavors for someone with a sense of adventure.
Best marketing: Sports Time. Owner Christy Eldridge is a missionary for her salads and her restaurant. She lobbied me. She got customers to vote.
Best dressing: The sweet red wine vinaigrette at Legendary Grind is nice and the house dressing at Aunt Karen’s Cafe is too. The white poppy seed dressing at Lucchese’s was great. But I’d go with the peanut butter dressing at Adam’s Bistro/Unique Blend.
Best fish: The mahi mahi put on the salads at The Vine is handled well, cooked right and has a lot of flavor.
Best steak: The steak on salads at Miles Lab. It’s a steak place. It was a finalist in Steak Quest and Salad Quest. And the steak tips put on the greens cause mouth watering.
Best nuts: The pecans put on the Jae’s salad at Kelly Jae’s are gold. They’re a bit spicy and darkened nicely. With pears and blue cheese, they make the salad great. Kelly Jae’s makes a great array of salads.
Best spinach salad: I liked the spinach salad at South Side Soda Shop. And the bacon dressing with it is scary good.
Funniest salad quote I heard on Salad Quest: “It’s just leaves,” said Harrison Harte, who joined me to eat at 523 Tap & Grill as he ate soup.
Best lunch spot for salads: I’d make it a tie between The Vine and Sports Time. Both have a nice range of salads at good prices that will make just about any salad lover happy.
Picking the best salad in Elkhart County is difficult.
Picking the best salad restaurant is too.
No one will pity me for trying.
Whether you agree with me, at least you know where Elkhart County’s great salads are now.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Salad Quest ratings
Kelly Jae’s Cafe
4 1/2 stars
Sports Time Family Pub & Grill
Aunt Karen’s Cafe
South Side Soda Shop
Christiana Creek Country Club
Old Style Deli
3 1/2 stars
Bent Oak Golf Club
Dutch Maid Bakery
2 1/2 stars
Two food-related events are planned for this weekend.
Quality Wine & Ale Supply is having a Learn to Homebrew Day event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2.
The shop is having the event at 108 S. Elkhart Ave. for the third year. Information: 574-295-9975.
Rise Up Farms is having a Dia de Los Muertos celebration from 3:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2.
The event will have food, music and kids activities. Admission is free. Information: 574-312-9261
Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.