$13 at Salata

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Where: Salata Medical Center, 6620 Fannin St., 713-797-0700.

What $13 gets you: A deceptively large salad, a soup and a couple of pieces of pesto French bread.

When we finally stopped into the new Salata in the Medical Center with a few coworkers, the place was totally empty. In the Med Center, this is usually not a good sign. We balked a moment at the prices - a salad without meat was $8. Immediately we started thinking about less expensive alternatives, but ended up staying. Those sitting on the curb outside with their salads seemed very pleased.

In retrospect, this place is a salad eater's dream (as far at the Medical Center goes, anyway). You get your choice of three types of lettuce, unlimited veggie toppings -- it's $2 extra for meat -- and bread. Compared to the by-the-ounce cafeterias all throughout the Medical Center, that $8 salad doesn't seem quite so steep anymore, although it is no comparison to bringing your own food.

On our visit, we felt obligated to pick nearly every topping in the case, which came to more than 20 toppings, as a silent screw-you to the $9 salads of the past from neighboring cafes (apparently, we like all the heavy veggies). We also picked up a cup of tomato basil soup ($2) and extra pesto bread.

When we got back to the office, we realized exactly how big of a salad we really got. This had to be at least twice the size of our normal salads, and the plastic container was packed so tightly, it was hard for us to toss with our dressing. So it became both a lunch and dinner salad, and boy, was it tasty. The tomato basil soup was a little on the bland end, but the bread was great.

Recommended? Yes. This might not be an everyday spot, but one meal stretching from lunch to dinner suddenly makes this a steal.

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