Stop the Cobb-sanity

A blog about business and economics.
July 16 2012 1:13 PM

Stop the Cobb-sanity

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I am a huge fan of the DC/NYC salad chain Chop't. It has many virtues. It's tasty. It has a location right by my office. It has a location right by my apartment. The service is speedy. Detailed nutritional information is posted online. And in addition to the make-your-own-salad options and the roster of perennial favorites, every few months they switch up their three "Chop't Seasonals" offerings that rely partially on fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. All great stuff.

Except for one problem: their unaccountable obsession with calling things cobb for no reason at all.

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The classics are pretty sensible. You've got the Santa Fe, the Mexican Caesar, the Caesar, the Modern Greek, the Fall Classic, the Palm Beach Shrimp, the Grilled Asian, the Vegetarian Powerhouse, the Monterey*, the Steakhouse, and the Chop't Po'boy. Then comes the Cobb—grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, egg, blue cheese, and tomato with lettuce. That's what a cobb salad is. But they also offer a Harvest Cobb—chicken, apples, walnuts, beets, and goat cheese. And a Kebab Cobb—chicken, feta, onions, peppers, and pita chips.

Now you're starting to wonder. The only ingredient these salads have in common with a cobb is chicken. And yet the Monterey has chicken without being a Monterey Cobb. And since when does cobb mean chicken?

But in the seasonals it's really gotten out of control. For months now they've been offering seasonal salads that just seem to have a superfluous cobb thrown in for no reason. This time around we've got the Tabago Jerk Cobb (jerk chicken, jicama, pickled onions, and carrots) and the Chesapeake Bay Cobb (Chesapeake Bay chicken, cheddar, corn, peppers, and oyster crackers). Why not just the Tobago Jerk and the Chesapeake Bay? After all, it's a salad chain. We get that they're selling salads. Most egregious of all is the Local Farmstand Cobb. This consists of local heirloom tomatoes, local goat cheese, cucumber, and croutons with an artisan lettuce with basil, mint, and chive. That has nothing whatsoever in common with a traditional cobb salad. Nothing. At all. This kind of profligate naming carries no information. If anything it's misleading. The traditional cobb salad is a very fat-and-calorie intensive meal. Chop't's version clocks in at 670 calories undressed—the highest count of anything on the menu. By contrast, the Farmstand Cobb and the Tobago Jerk Cobb are extremely austere at 260 and 250 calories apiece. The madness has to stop.

Correction, July 16, 2012: This post originally misspelled the name of the Monterey salad.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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