When Restaurant Recipes Change

Homemade, not-quite CPK salads

June 30, 2023

Updated August 23, 2023

We’ve all been there, we go to a restaurant, expecting, even anticipating a specific dish only to find it is gone or currently not in season. It’s disappointing, our whole expectation of the meal needs to be re-thought, and we hope that one day the dish we crave returns to the menu.

But what do you do when a dish you know and love – especially at a chain restaurant – is changed? This is what happened to us on a couple of recent trips to California Pizza Kitchen.

More than just a visual redesign

Let’s step back a moment – when we looked at CPK’s new menu we realized that it was more than just a re-design of the look and feel. For the first time, pizzas did not dominate the menu and were outnumbered by mains, pastas, and sandwiches. We noticed that some of our favorite pizzas were no longer offered but others – like the Wild Mushroom – remained.

However, what was more disappointing, and we only discovered this after we ordered, was that two of our favorite salads – the Italian Chopped Salad and the Thai Crunch Salad – had been changed, and unfortunately, not for the better.

Restaurants, just like everything else, must adapt and change as diners’ tastes change. Recipes must be updated. Unfortunately the changes aren’t to our liking so what are we to do?

Bring it in-house

We discovered that the only way to enjoy the salads that we know and love is to make them ourselves in our own kitchen.

Italian Chopped Salad

My sister started experimenting to see if she could replicate CPK’s Italian Chopped Salad. The basic salad is simple enough:

  • Shredded lettuce (romaine or iceberg or a mix of both)
  • Shredded mozzarella
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Julienned salami
  • Roasted chicken breast (CPK uses turkey breast, we use rotisserie chicken breast)
  • Chopped fresh tomatoes
  • Optional: Chopped fresh herbs – basil, Italian parsley

The key to the salad that really brings it together is the dressing. My sister discovered that rather than making her own, Swiss Inn Dressing was the perfect solution. Unfortunately this Hawaii-made dressing can only be bought locally (although we discovered it is shelf-stable until opened).

Not-quite Italian Chopped Salad
Not-quite Italian Chopped Salad

Thai Crunch Salad

To recreate the Thai Crunch Salad, we didn’t even have to guess. The recipe is readily available online and in the California Pizza Kitchen Family Cookbook. Recreating this salad is more work than the Italian Chopped Salad, requiring a number of separate components for the final dish. But at the end of the day, if it means we can enjoy the salad we love, it’s worth the effort.

Not-quite Thai Crunch Salad
Not-quite Thai Crunch Salad

All good things come to an end

As we mourn the salads we once loved we may find solace in the fact we have a solution and it lies in our kitchen. There are worse things that can happen in life, we just have to learn to adapt.

Update: August 2023

Well, apparently we weren’t the only ones who hated the new Italian Chopped Salad. In an email sent by CPK, due to customer demand, the original Italian Chopped Salad is back. Yay! Power to the people!

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