North Woods Inn Cabbage Salad

For years now, my husband and I had a running joke about a small restaurant chain here in California called “Clearman’s North Woods Inn.” We’d never been there before and I’ve always wanted to go. Steve kept saying he’d take me and it just never happened. It became funny! This year, for our anniversary, guess where we went for dinner? :-)

North Woods Inn

North Woods Inn is one of those places where you can get a steak the size of your head, you throw peanut shells on the floor and the decor is something straight out of the early 40’s. The interior is full of dark wood, low lights and a dusty old stuffed bear in the lobby. Their marinated cabbage salad with blue cheese dressing however, is the stuff of legends!

A closely guarded secret, our waiter would say no more, other than there were a lot of ingredients and it took days to make. Hmmmm… Lucky for us, he did let one specific ingredient slip.

I was on my iPhone looking up recipes as soon as we were done eating. (Who is a foodie? Yeahhh…) None of the copy cat recipes mentioned the secret ingredient from our waiter. And trust me, there are a lot of copy cat recipes out there! Finally, we stumbled across a link to a recipe containing this mystery ingredient… BINGO!

I could hardly wait to get home, print the recipe and try it ourselves!

They say good things come to those who wait… and I waited four days for this salad!

North Woods Inn Cabbage Salad

Worth. Every. Minute.

The cabbage is tangy and sweet, all at the same time. It does take four days to marinade, so plan accordingly! Use red cabbage and a good quality olive oil for best results. Add the olive oil the last day because otherwise the oil protects the cabbage from the vinegar and will slow down the marinade process!

Here is what I found, straight from Jim in Montana, for the North Woods Inn Cabbage Salad Recipe!


1 head red cabbage
3/4 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp salt
1 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 and 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 extra large zip-lock bag
1/2 cup olive oil


Split the cabbage head in half. Cut out and remove the tough core of the cabbage — discard.
Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. The slicing disc on your food processor will help. Go back through the sliced cabbage and cut the longer parts into smaller pieces — discard thick/white parts. Place cabbage in a large zip-lock bag. You can use a large bowl if needful, but is harder to marinate that way — and takes up fridge space.

Mix together all of the other ingredients, except the oil. Pour into the cabbage and mix it up – purge the bag of air and then smush the bag to get the vinegar mixture all through the cabbage.
Twice a day (or more often) — for the next several days — smush the bag around and get the marinade all over the cabbage. The red cabbage will soften quite a bit and the marinade will become deep purple. The flavors will meld over the next few days and the cabbage will soften and seem to shrink. Continue to purge air from the bag as the cabbage softens and the air pockets collapse.

The day you plan to serve the salad, add the olive oil and smush it around. Try to give it at least an hour or more before serving.

Serve in a small bowl at the table so the juice does not turn other items red. Use a slotted spoon to drain well — or use the colander. If using the colander, save the liquid and put the excess cabbage and the liquid back into the bag for another time.

We served this delicious salad on top of lettuce wedges, with blue cheese dressing!

North Woods Inn Cabbage Salad Recipe

If you have ever been to North Woods Inn, this is a very close version of their delicious salad. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Till next time!

This Post Has 31 Comments
  1. We went to NWI last night and, as always, I was trying to figure out the cabbage salad. I was thinking that, possibly, they parboiled the cabbage but you just gave me the answer with marinating. That had NEVER occurred to me! I also was noticing how the oil coated the cabbage but it didn’t taste too oily. An old family friend would make his copycat of the cabbage salad and brag about it but it wasn’t even close. Of course, we would complement him and agree that it was “Just like NWI”…We lied! I cannot wait to try your version.

  2. Hello between this recipe and Jims I see the secret ingredient is balsamic vinegar. I made it and it’s amazing! You didn’t say what the waiter told you so I assumed it was the balsamic vinegar? Thanks for the tip!

  3. Someone asked about the NWI Blue Cheese Dressing. This is the best I’ve found, although I prefer using white pepper instead of the Hungarian Paprika to keep the color white: from

    Northwoods Inn Creamy Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

    Ingredients: Servings: 4-8
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 cup sour cream
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon sugar
    1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

    Directions: Prep Time: 15 mins Total Time: 15 mins
    Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
    2 Blend until smooth.
    3 Chill at least 3-4 hours to let flavors meld.
    4 Best served tossed onto chopped iceberg lettuce.

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