Community Spotlight: Drew Rodriguez and the Caesar Salad

Drew Rodriguez has been a staple of Wicker Park before there was Wicker Park Bocce Club (American Bocce Company’s origin story). Once you’ve met him and are introduced to his wit, warmth and laugh, you are sure to want to share more time with him. And then you’ll notice he is always out and about. He volunteers his time with 826CHI, stands behind the bar at both Hot Chocolate and the Map Room, and generally gets out of his apartment and into the world. He is a man of taste and experience, an idea man with follow through, and he’s becoming quite the bocce player. But this Community Spotlight isn’t about the man, this is about his Caesar Salad Project.


Drew Rodriguez in his element: bocce, mai tai, tiki shirt.

My understanding of his project was limited to this: Drew and his lovely lady Lauryn have traditions, rituals and habits just like any other couple that’s been together for at least a year or two (or ten). One of your traditions is caesar salad Thursday and within this particular tradition Drew began to explore the limits of the form and chronicle his explorations on Instagram. However, I knew there was more to it and I knew that more people needed to know about his high risk, high reward endeavors. Here’s what Drew had to say:

Lauryn and I are big fans of the Caesar salad at Lucia’s on North Ave, and most bocce nights, I pick one up for her for dinner. If I’ve got the time and inspiration, though, I’ll sometimes make the salad myself instead. And that usually leaves me with plenty of leftover romaine and chicken and dressing to play around with for the next day or two.
So, a few months ago, I reclaimed my Instagram account from some other Andrew Rodriguez who used my email to sign up, and my first post happened to be a picture of a Caesar using potato chips instead of croutons. Instagram notified everyone asking “Want to see Drew’s first post?,” as if I had posted something really special. And the responses were kind of funny, online and off. Since then, about a third of my posts have been of Caesar salads I’ve made.
I think at this point its fair to call it a project, and I’ve got some fun ideas for more salads coming down the line. I learned how to cook in the early 2000s, when New American cuisine was all about recreating things like meatloaf or pot pie or fried chicken as upscale, and that still kind of resonates with me. (To be fair though, I’m also poking fun at it with this Caesar stuff). Caesar salads make a great template for playing around. They’re simple, just a few ingredients, and have a well-defined flavor. So you can substitute things out, change the way you prepare an ingredient, mess with proportions, but you still have to have some “Caesar Salad”ness going on. My next couple ideas are exploring the limits of that. A cocktail, an amuse bouche. I’ve been reading a bit on the history of the salad (Birthplace: Tijuana, probably), and that might influence some of the upcoming posts too.

@thedrewrodriguez ‘s first post on Instagram was this caesar salad.

Now, if you’re like me, then your interest was piqued not just by his ability and willingness to explore the caesar in a way that is both jubilant and tongue-in-cheek (possible epigraph for Drew), but also the impostors that had claimed an Instagram account via his email address. What other malfeasance has this benevolent man suffered due to his somewhat common name? Mail fraud? False insurance claims? Tax stuff? (I don’t understand taxes.) I wanted to get to the bottom of this and here’s what Drew had to say:

I’m not sure how many ARs have used my email as theirs, but I’d say its more than a dozen, with 2 or 3  main culprits. I think sometimes it’s the correspondent who just types in the wrong email, but I’ve gotten so many for some Andrews that it can’t be a mistake. Among the more random emails, I’ve gotten legal notices, job offers, letters from therapists, a business contract, and I’ve been signed up for tons of junk. One of the first emails I got though, was from an Andrew’s mom, Cathy, asking if he was alright, asking him to call. She hadn’t heard from him in weeks. I replied that I wasn’t her son, but that I hoped he was okay. She pops up on Facebook “people you may know” once in a while.
Probably the same Andrew was a theology student in Portland a few years back, and has since moved around a bit. I’ve been invited to dinner parties on his behalf, get religious stuff here and there, and his friends have sent me pictures of themselves on vacation.
Another Andrew was either a high school football player, or the parent of a high school football player. I used to get 2 or 3 emails a week from teachers and coaches, and my requests to be removed from the email lists never worked out. He’s either graduated or dropped out. Those emails have stopped.
Which Andrew signed up for Instagram, I don’t know. He had posted a couple pics, and had maybe 20 followers or so. But I deleted his posts. Some of his friends are still following me, and have liked posts. Also funny is that some of my friends were following him (and maybe wondering what the fuck I was posting) before I reclaimed my profile.
It was at an early spring bocce day at Parsons (heavy rain, everyone hanging out in the prefab waiting area thing), some other folks were talking about things posted on Instagram, and got to convincing me to start an account (How had I gone so long without?!). I downloaded the app, tried to sign up, and was told that I already had an account. So I did a password change request, reset everything, and named it @thedrewrodriguez, since, you know, I’m the real one.
And there you have it. Wait, wait, wait just one second. I’ve (purposefully) buried the lede. Drew’s efforts and explorations led to the idea of an Emoji Caesar Salad. It became his white whale and two months ago, he captured it. I’m going to share it below. Brace yourself.

The single greatest post on Instagram ever?

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