I’ve eaten enough ragged romaine and stale croutons to know that what convinces me of a good Caesar salad is a thick and creamy dressing. It’s a lesson that I’ve kept in mind through much in my eating life—plenty of otherwise lackluster vegetables can be saved with a healthy splattering of fat.

This time of year, though, when summer turns out so many fresh vegetables, many restaurants scale back on elaborate sauces and let the produce punctuate all flavor. Sometimes that works, a la the tomato and goat cheese salad I tasted recently during a complimentary press dinner at Bourbon Steak: heirloom tomatoes plucked from its garden, marinated in extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar.

But other times, an expertly well-dressed salad, combined with interesting greens, elevates the entire dish.

When Blackbyrd Warehouse‘s wax bean salad first arrived at my table (albeit, ahem, before the beers), I was immediately reminded of my scary encounter with that disappointing green bean doppelganger, cactus, at El Centro D.F. But unlike that unfortunate meal, this real bean salad turned out to be quite pleasing.

Clinging to the beans was a new green for me (full disclosure: I work at Mount Pleasant Farmers Market)—baby kale. This kale, the size of a baby spinach leaf, with tender, slim stems and none of the defining curls or etches of full-grown kale, tasted pleasantly bitter. The yellow beans snapped to attention under pressure from my fork, showing signs of a well-cooked legume.

All this comes together under blanket of green goddess dressing. Every  millimeter of vegetable sports this glossy coating, reminding me that what’s on the outside—no matter what my kindergarten teacher taught me—sometimes actually matters.

Blackbyrd Warehouse, 2005 14th St Nw

Photo by Stefanie Gans