The Incredibly Popular Salad Created by Billings Baseball Pioneer
As a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, I have to remind myself to eat a salad once in a while. Usually more in the summertime, when a crisp, cool salad seems to hit the spot on a hot day. Caesar salads are good, taco salad is great, and we make a lot of tomato and cucumber salad at my house in the summer. When I order a salad as an entre, I usually pick a Cobb salad.
Little did I know, the Cobb salad was invented by a man from Billings named Bob Cobb. Yes, the same guy responsible for Cobb Field, now Dehler Park. His story is pretty fascinating and I can't believe I've never connected the dots before.
Bob Cobb started his restaurant legacy in the early 1920s in Billings.
While I couldn't locate the name of Cobbs' original Billings restaurant, Lauren Hunley, Community Historian at the Western Heritage Center, told me it was likely located Downtown. The Center currently has a display honoring Bob Cobb and his contributions to both the salad world and local baseball.
Bob left Billings to find his fame and fortune in Hollywood, CA.
The placard at the Western Heritage Center says that Cobb left Billings and headed for Hollywood to open his first Brown Derby Restaurant in 1926. This was the golden age of Hollywood, and his restaurant quickly became a popular spot for silver screen stars of the day.
I wish restaurants still came in wacky shapes.
The round, dome-shaped Brown Derby restaurant certainly looked the part. As the restaurant exploded in popularity, Bob became friends with a number of his regulars, who just happened to include stars like Bing Crosby, Barbara Stanwyck, and Cecil B. DeMille. Those friends would later become investors in Bob's baseball dream for Billings. Bob returned to the Magic City in 1947 to start a Pioneer League team, now known as the Mustangs.
So, what about the salad?
Legend says that after a busy night in 1937 at the Brown Derby near Hollywood and Vine, Bob Cobb raided the kitchen to make himself a salad. Grabbing leftover ingredients from the kitchen (lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, tomato, chives, avocado and bacon), Cobb chopped it all together and thought his creation was pretty darn delicious. He allegedly told his friend Sid Grauman (of Gruaman's Chinese Theater fame) about the creation and Sid ordered it the next day. The rest is history.
Next time you order a Cobb salad, or attend a Mustang's game, thank Billings' own Bob Cobb.