It’s omnipresent on local restaurant menus, is known by different names, and might just be our region’s signature dish: The cherry chicken salad. Today The Ticker goes for the green and uncovers some “debate” about the dish: just where did it originate…and what makes for an authentic version? While one camp claims that a true Cherry Chicken Salad starts with greens, others insist it’s a mayonnaise-based dish.
Local lore has it that Howard Schelde, a Traverse City pioneer of fine dining, originally brought the dish to town. “It was developed for the original North Peak menu in 1997,” says Barry Haven, President & CEO, Mission Management Services. “Often imitated, it is still the best and most popular in Traverse City and remains our top seller to this date.”
While North Peak Brewing Company offers both versions of the dish, their salad featuring grilled chicken breast sliced over greens with dried cherries, toasted pecans, red onions, gorgonzola and cherry vinaigrette is the clear favorite.
“We probably sell 300 a week,” says Dylan Cole, Executive Chef of North Peak and Kilkenny’s Irish Public House. “It’s such a favorite that we have regulars order it their own special way.”
New this summer, fresh off a $300,000 kitchen renovation, Kilkenny’s will offer its own version with fresh blueberry vinaigrette and crumbled goat cheese.
The Green Camp
TC’s Favorite at The Dish Café is a lettuce-based salad with chicken, dried cherries, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese and orange-ginger vinaigrette.
At Poppycock’s, order the Front Street – mixed greens, cherry jalapeno glazed chicken breast, dried cherries, toasted pecans and fresh goat cheese with lemon cherry vinaigrette.
Representing the Mayo Side
Grand Traverse Pie Company features their GT Chicken Salad, mixing their fresh chicken salad with grapes and Michigan dried cherries and serving it on a flakey croissant.
Biga Better Bagels spices theirs up a notch with tarragon and red wine vinegar and serves it on focaccia bread or a bagel.
Edson Farms Natural Foods seasons and bakes their chicken in-house before dressing it up with mayo, celery and cherries. Served by the pound in a wrap or on lettuce leaves, it – like all of their salads – is gluten-free.
Have It Both Ways
Cool Beans Café in the Grand Traverse Mall has two menu items that fit the bill; their spring salad mix features cherries and almonds, or you can get the chicken salad with cherries on a croissant.
The Kitchen off Woodmere Avenue offers their TC Favorite, a salad with chicken, walnuts and goat cheese served with cherry vinaigrette or their Up North Chicken, the traditional mayo chicken salad (staff says the TC Favorite is the hands down winner).
And for a final twist on the new classic, Mary’s Kitchen Port offers the Cherry Turkey Salad. “It’s a great high protein salad without carbs and is gluten-free,” says Kathy Baier. “Sold from our deli as a side salad, we make it fresh each morning and sell out almost every day, even in winter.”
Have a favorite or a point of view on the debate? Share your comments below!