The surfrider salad: Nostalgia from an era that shouldn’t have died

Nick and I have fond memories of trips to Florida with our families. We both visited Siesta Key as kids and we always hoped to someday share our memories with our own kids. This year we were lucky enough to do just that and we traveled to Siesta Key with Lucy in November and February for family time in the sunshine state.

Nick and I met in October of 2016 and a month later, for my 30th birthday, he gave me a blue box tied with a ribbon. Inside was a “Don’t Hassle Me, I’m Local” t-shirt and a post-it note that said, “Take a vacation from your problems.” Nick had purchased plane tickets for us to Siesta Key in January. Since that first trip together, we’ve shared a lot of Siesta Key memories: Nick proposed on the beach, we drove 16 hours each way with Lucy (twice), and we survived a hurricane and COVID.

One of Nick’s fondest memories of the island includes eating at Javier Arana’s restaurant. First at the Surfrider, located in a hotel on the beach, and later at his namesake restaurant, Javier’s. Close your eyes and imagine the “World’s Most Interesting Man” from the Dos Equis ads and you’ve got a good idea of what Javier looks and sounds like. Sadly, Javier’s closed a few years ago. While I never had the opportunity to visit either restaurant, the Dugans still talk about Javier’s legendary Peruvian food. The beef empanadas, the signature salad, and the bananas foster are the dishes that they remember the most. The spicy and sweet chipotle dressing pairs perfectly with the beets, sunflower seeds, peas, carrots, and chickpeas. I can understand why the Dugans looked forward to it on every trip.

I have included our recipe for Javier’s signature salad and dressing below. I also make beef empanadas (aka pockets of joy) from the Modern Proper and you can find their recipe here. For a vegetarian meal, I make Cookie and Kate’s black bean soup to go with the salad.

Javier’s Signature Salad and Chipolte Dressing

*My Mother-in-law may have asked the servers at Javier’s for the recipe many times and (sort of) succeeded, so we consider the following ingredients and proportions to be accurate. This is not the healthiest recipe, but you are eating a salad, so I’d say it’s a win.


  • 1 tsp white sugar (I omit this sometimes. Add if it needs to be sweeter.)
  • 2-3 tbsps ketchup (I use lower sugar ketchup)
  • 1.5 cups canola oil (I use olive oil)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 small onion, cubed
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp chipotle pepper in adobo (You can find this in a can at the grocery store)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to taste

Add all of the above ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until it is dressing consistency. You can adjust the sugar / ketchup and chipotle pepper amounts depending on how sweet or hot you like it. I prefer it more hot than sweet.

For the salad, place chopped romaine (spring mix would also work), carrots, chickpeas, beets, sliced cherry tomatoes, peas, and toasted sunflower seeds on a plate and top with the chipotle dressing.

Xx, Libby

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