Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Top 10 Salads

This salad features corned beef, fingerling potatoes and Maytag blue cheese.
This salad features corned beef, fingerling potatoes and Maytag blue cheese.
Photo by Molly Dunn

Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners have been announced, but in many cases, picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we're rounding up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories during the next several months. Bon appétit!

Among my friends and family, I am known as the salad queen. Almost every time I cook at home or go out to eat, I either make a salad or order one. To me, salads feature the freshest ingredients, and since I change my mind about what to eat as often as Katy Perry changes her hair color, a salad gives me a variety of foods to enjoy in one big bowl or plate.

While some see salads as merely bunches of lettuce with croutons and Ranch dressing, and maybe some cheese and shredded carrots, they are mistaken; salads are so much more than that. Kale, arugula, Bibb and Romaine, spinach, spring mix and everything else in between make one heck of a salad base. Toss in a variety of toppings to make whichever flavor you desire -- Mexican, Asian, Greek -- or use what's in season to make a fresh summer salad or comforting winter dish.

Just about every restaurant in Houston offers a salad, but we have scoured the city for the best ones and offer ten you shouldn't miss.

10. Parrilla Salad at El Tiempo Cantina

While the typical taco salads stuffed in a fried tortilla bowl are awesome (and so not diet-friendly if you eat the bowl), the Parrilla Salad at El Tiempo Cantina satisfies all your Tex-Mex cravings -- no chip bowl needed. El Tiempo's ensalada comes with just one typical Tex-Mex topping, avocado, and the rest you'd expect to find on a seasonal summer salad in an American-cuisine restaurant. Tender slices of avocado are paired with smooth mango, crunchy jicama, juicy mandarins and sweet praline pecans, all of which sit atop a bed of mixed greens tossed in not only a citrus cilantro dressing, but also a mole sauce. Add grilled fajita chicken or spicy shrimp and you'll feel as though you're sitting in Mexico. Add a margarita and your meal is complete. What makes this salad so special is the mole sauce, though; it ties everything together in structure and flavor.

Pita chips pair nicely with a salad made at Salata.
Pita chips pair nicely with a salad made at Salata.
Photo by Molly Dunn

9. Salad Bar at Salata

Although Salata is a chain, there's no denying that its salad bar is incredible. With four types of greens to choose from (Salata mix is the best) and what seems like an endless selection of vegetables, cheeses, fruits and proteins, you cn probably make as many salads as you can make drink combinations at Sonic. Feeling Greek? Toss in feta cheese, olives, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, chicken and a lemon or herb vinaigrette, then add a side of pita chips for the finishing touch. Or how about a fresh summery fruit salad any time of year with strawberries, grapes, walnuts, blue cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado and mango dressing? You may screw up your salad by adding something that just doesn't go with the rest of your toppings, but a little experimentation never hurt anybody.

8. Black Pepper Shrimp Salad at Dry Creek Cafe

Out of all the Creeks, Dry Creek Cafe offers the best variety of well-crafted and executed salads. While the Asian Beef Salad is unique and the Goat Cheese Salad is similar to a cheese plate with leafy greens, the Black Pepper Shrimp Salad is your best bet. It's the last one on the menu and will sway your decision the second you begin to read its ingredients: mango, avocado, feta cheese, diced red onions and tomatoes. Choose either the honey mustard dressing or the raspberry vinaigrette for the perfect amount of creamy sweetness to complement the sweet mango, tangy feta cheese and spicy black pepper shrimp. It always feels like spring time when you're sitting on the patio, people-watching and enjoying this light, refreshing salad ... with a bottle of wine, of course.

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