Forget Chicken, Odd But Delicious Meatball Salads Are Here To Shine

It's nothing new to spruce up a salad with chicken, shrimp, and other proteins. One choice that's less uncommonly seen, though, is topping your leafy concoction with saucy meatballs. Both foods have very different reputations; salad is generally nutritious, and meatballs aren't exactly known for their health benefits. Depending on who you ask, the combination is either an oxymoron or the best of both worlds.

If you look for a way to familiarize it with a past dining experience, the closest you'll probably get is a meatball sub. This, of course, is because it's also a dish in which savory meatballs and vegetables join forces. And because it's not well known, there's no one perfect way to make it.

For example, Food Network'sĀ Giada De Laurentiis likes to keep her meatball salad recipe minimal. She uses baby arugula for the greens, plus meatballs with marinara sauce, parmesan, olive oil, and lemon juice. Another more complex recipe calls for croutons, romaine, spinach, tomatoes, parmesan, red onions, cucumbers, olives, and pepperoncini alongside the meaty spheres. Though every meatball salad recipe is different, there's no clear consensus on whether or not it's a good combination.

The argument for (and against) meatball salad

It can be scary to try new things, but thanks to the internet, you can at least be aware of what to expect. When The Takeout's Maggie Hennessy brought their friend to a Chicago restaurant to first try meatball salad, she loved it so much she went as far as to say it was "genius," something Hennessy already knew. On the other hand, The Phoenix New Times' Chris Malloy felt skeptical about the dish. "Meatballs and salad should be like oil and water," Malloy concluded.

Reddit users have their own strong opinions about meatball salad. When one self-proclaimed Subway employee shared their disgust upon preparing one, one commenter felt it could be a good option for keto dieters, while another admitted they "loved" the salad. Another Redditor admitted to ordering one in the past, calling it a "mistake." On a similar Subway-centricĀ Reddit thread, a commenter said they "bet [a meatball salad] would be delicious."

Because meatball salads are gaining popularity, it's becoming more likely you'll find one on a menu. It's best to welcome the new addition and keep an open mind when forming an opinion.

How the unique dish originated

Sometimes, one man's oddity is another man's legacy. This is true of meatball salad in the case of John Campo, owner of Mart Anthony's in Chicago. As he recalls in an interview with The Takeout, his family frequently enjoyed meatballs in their salads during his upbringing. After years of working at Mart Anthony's with his father, they noticed others desired the same combination, and it was subsequently added to the menu.

Though Mart Anthony's isn't the only restaurant that offers meatball salad, Chicago might be the only place you can find it prominently. This is likely attributed to mass Italian immigration in the 19th century. By the 1920s, an impressive 60,000 Italians lived in the Windy City. Thomas Kleiner, the owner of another area eatery called Club Lucky, told The Takeout "[He doesn't know] that [he's] seen [meatball salad] on menus outside of Chicago."

However, that wouldn't be entirely correct. Although the fast food joint Portillo's Hot Dogs was created in Illinois, it brought meatball salads with it when it expanded into states such as Arizona and Texas. If meatball salad is not on a menu near you, it wouldn't be hard to request it, or even make it at home. You can even use this homemade Italian meatballs recipe for authenticity.