Marshall V. King
Dining A La King
There’s a lot to be said for eating a salad as you look out over a bright green golf course.
There’s also a lot to be said for a salad that has more flavor than I do talent in hitting a little dimpled golf ball.
Two golf courses in Elkhart have restaurants open to the public. But because they’re on golf courses that have members, they don’t always get the same consideration from the general public.
But Christiana Creek Country Club and Bent Oak Golf Club both have restaurants open to the public.
Christiana Creek is open to the public at lunch and Bent Oak at lunch and dinner.
The restaurants don’t have the feel of a bustling casual dining chain. And the clientele can tend to be older than some other restaurants. But these aren’t bad things.
And they offer menus that have steaks, chicken and seafood. And last week, I went there for the salads.
Chef Brian Steinway at Christiana Creek works hard to offer good quality and be a bit inventive. “I really like to focus on flavor,” he said.
Christiana Creek, 116 W. Bristol St., is also known as the Elks in Elkhart. It’s been there for a long time. And Steinway is making food to offer to members or the general public for a reasonable price.
At $15.95, the Surf ‘N’ Turf Cobb Salad is one of the most expensive salads I’ve seen on the search for the best salad you can buy in Elkhart County. But it does have jumbo lump crab meat and beef tenderloin on a bed of greens with other Cobb salad fixings. And it’s a tasty salad, particularly with the feta dressing made in-house.
The Asian chop salad has a nice mix of grilled chicken and a bunch of crunchy vegetables and nuts with a ginger soy vinaigrette for $11.95.
I got a broiled salmon salad to take home and even later the salmon had plenty of flavor and indicated it’d been handled well and cooked properly.
I liked the salads. I liked talking with Steinway, a good chef and genuinely nice guy. He’s gearing up for Elkhart Dining Days starting Oct. 4 and that’s a good chance to sample his food at dinner.
What kept these salads from being finalists? The balance was just off. Green onions made the flavor a little pungent on two of them and the surf ‘n’ turf needed more greens. I almost couldn’t believe it, but I wanted more bunny food in the salad under a pile of great toppings. And the dressings didn’t have quite as much pop as some of the other entrants in Salad Quest.
They’re solid salads. But not quite at the level of the finalists. (Four out of five stars)
Bent Oak, 3610 Bent Oak Trail, has a bright dining room overlooking the golf course on the south side of Elkhart.
And the menu has a dozen salads. All for $8.25 or less.
The most popular is the California Grilled Chicken Salad, according to Andrea Shanholt, who makes most of the salads.
That salad is $6.95 with grilled chicken over iceberg lettuce with candied pecans, craisins, red onion, tomato and bleu cheese crumbles.
I didn’t order it. Maybe I should have. But I ventured out to the blackened tuna and blackened salmon salads ($8.25 each).
The avocado ranch dressing that came with the salmon salad was nice. The hot bacon dressing with the tuna salad probably canceled out the health value but all the dressings come on the side.
I was happy to have a small piece of lean fish on each salad. They weren’t perfectly cooked. They could have been a bit more tender and moist — or cooked a bit less. But I’m guessing that most of the diners at Bent Oak don’t want tuna or salmon that’s medium or medium-rare.
My biggest complaint about the salads was the amount of shredded cheese put on the salads. It just threw off the balance and overwhelmed the other ingredients.
But I was impressed with the range of salads and if I wanted a less-than-healthy salad I’d go back and order the cajun chicken salad that came with battered chicken on top for $8.25 — with that hot bacon dressing.
These are good but not great salads, but the price is right. (Three out of five stars)
Salad Quest is winding down. I plan on eating at two more places and telling you about them in the next week or two. And then I’ll pick a winner while you vote on your favorite.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
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.