There are chopped salads, and at Cafe la Maude, the Lebanese-French jewel box tucked on Fourth Street in Northern Liberties, there's the house's De Maison chopped salad - another level of the game.
In her version, Beirut-bred chef Natalie Richan finely hand-chops the greens to order (seasonally, some come from the nearby urban gardens of Hood Rich Farms), makes the cap of creamy, olive oil-rich hummus daily, and adds a side of tender, marinated chicken spiced the way her Lebanese grandmother spiced it, with a lemony kick of sumac.
There are subtle touches - the lush, not crumbly, Bulgarian feta that blends easily with the dressing; imported, lightly pickled wild cucumber, for a vinegary note. The menu offers other temptations - a lovely ground-lamb kafta wrap, foul moudamas (hummus, fava beans, and scrambled eggs), and French-accented brunch plates.
But this bright, balanced, crisp, fresh mound of chopped salad is what the regulars go for day after day. Richan sells close to 150 a week, and has recently doubled the family cafe's seating to 45.
- Rick Nichols
De Maison Salad, $10.50, Cafe la Maude, 816 N. 4th St., 267-318-7869, cafelamaude.com