WILL the real McCarthy salad please stand up?
For decades, the McCarthy has been a signature dish at the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills. But now there's a McCarthy on the menu at The Blvd., the 6-month-old restaurant in the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel a few blocks away.
Granted, they're not identical salads, but they could be siblings.
The Polo Lounge's McCarthy has three kinds of greens (iceberg, romaine and watercress), cheddar cheese, grilled chicken, bacon, egg, beet and tomatoes, all chopped and finished in a balsamic vinaigrette.
The Blvd.'s McCarthy features iceberg lettuce, turkey breast instead of chicken, turkey bacon instead of, you know, Swiss cheese and cheddar, scallions, canned beets instead of freshly roasted ones and a garnish of micro greens.
A key difference: The Blvd. serves the salad already tossed while the Polo Lounge tosses the salad tableside.
The Blvd. says its McCarthy has actually been a hotel specialty for more than a decade. "It's been on the Lobby Lounge menu since there's been a Lobby Lounge," says the hotel's director of marketing, Don Jones, referring to the former name of The Blvd. space. The Regent took over the hotel in 1992, but the salad existed long before then, he says. Exactly how long, he can't say.
The Polo Lounge says its McCarthy has been on the menu since 1948. It cost around a quarter back then. Now, it costs $22 at lunch, $23 at dinner and it's as popular as ever. "People come from far and wide specifically for that," hotel spokeswoman Wendy Schnee says.
But so do the fans of the Regent's $19 McCarthy, says Jones. When The Blvd. opened, he says, "they took the McCarthy salad off the menu. It wasn't two weeks later that we put it right back on. All the locals ... were in an uproar."
Schnee says the Polo Lounge named its salad after Neil McCarthy, a show-biz attorney who was a regular in the 1940s.
As for The Blvd.'s version, a hotel employee said the salad got its name from a nearby street. Another one said it's named after the hotel's original developer.
Good theories, both. But there's only one problem: Both the street and the developer are named McCarty, not McCarthy.
So how did both places end up with a McCarthy salad? Could it be that Hernando Courtright -- who bought the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1942, sold it in 1958, then became the majority owner in the Beverly Wilshire in 1961 -- took the salad with him?
Whatever the case, the Polo Lounge -- though apparently not flattered by the apparent imitation -- isn't bothered. "We're not worried about it particularly," Schnee says. "Ours is still superior."
* Dozens of area restaurants will join next Wednesday's Dine for America, a national fundraiser for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Proceeds will help hurricane victims and their families. For more information, go to www.dineforamerica.org.
* Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen in Anaheim has founded California Cares, a nonprofit to help members of the hospitality industry whose homes and or jobs were affected by Hurricane Katrina. For more information or to make a donation, go to www.californiacaresrelief.org.