"I've been craving something green and delicious," wrote my friend in a message requesting salad recommendations. Despite my general penchant for green and delicious things, I found myself stumped after recommending my beloved standby, Local Foods (the vegan Caesar is life-changing; the market vegetable salad is less novel but no less delectable). Where were all the good salads in Houston hiding? After just a little exploration, a wealth of green and delicious salads unearthed themselves from local restaurants. Bookmark these for refreshing summer eats.
Grains and Greens salad from The Ivy & James: When you feel like a picnic but don't have the time or energy to actually pack a picnic, The Ivy & James is your one-stop shop for delicious, sustainably sourced dishes that can either be enjoyed in the restaurant or taken out to enjoy throughout Evelyn's Park in Bellaire. Arugula and fresh herbs dressed in olive oil combined with a five-grain salad offer a double dose of delicious greens with hearty staying power.
Thai crispy rice salad from Nobie's: The greens basis of this salad is entirely composed of vibrant swaths of herbs speckled with peanut bits, granules of crispy rice, small juicy shrimp and slices of watermelon radish. In lieu of croutons, there are flat shards of rice cooked until golden and delightfully crunchy. Showered in a chile-lime dressing, it's one of the many interesting small plates at Nobie's. Hurry in, though — the menu at Nobie's changes often and if you blink, you might miss this dish.
Ancient grains salad with chickpea croquettes from Common Bond: I'll admit that the draw of Common Bond is more along the lines of croissant! baguette! macaron! But the ancient grains salad with chickpea croquettes will have you chanting farro! kamut! valbreso feta! An abundance of chewy grains tossed with crunchy romaine and cucumbers, vibrant spinach and tomatoes, roasted sunflower seeds and crispy chickpea croquettes tossed in a sun-dried tomato ranch will have you craving salad faster than you can say kouign amann.
Kale and mango salad from Fusion Taco: The kale salad at Fusion Taco is irrationally good for a place that's named and known for its tacos. The thick, peanut-based vinaigrette is punchy and acidic, and roasted peanuts (a widely underrated salad topping) add rich flavor and satisfying crunch. For under $5 as a side, you get a generous mound of kale with uber-crunchy slices of watermelon radish and ribbons of carrot. Additional tacos are non-negotiable.
Asparagus and prosciutto from Cane Rosso: Cane Rosso isn't just for pizza — the summer menu features a ton of vegetable-based dishes such as asparagus and prosciutto, which features ribbons of asparagus with wispy sheets of prosciutto dressed in sesame, citrus, olive oil and a showering of Grana Padano. For a more traditional salad, try the heirloom tomato with cucumber, pickled veggies and herb crescenza or the arugula salad with goat cheese, pecans, shaved fennel and berries. Best if enjoyed on the patio with a frosty house cocktail.
Texas peach and duck salad from Coltivare: Eating refreshing things on patios never gets old, particularly if you're eating salad on Coltivare's gorgeous patio. It doesn't hurt that you can practically see where your salad was grown from where you sit. One of the seasonal salads this summer features Texas peaches, braised duck, chilies and hazelnuts on a bed of arugula. Rounding out the salad with a shared pizza and another vegetable makes for a perfect summer meal.
Burrata salad from Brasserie du Parc: Ooh burrata, the queen of cheeses. At Brasserie du Parc, the burrata salad comes with a ball of that inimitably creamy cheese on a bed of arugula with heirloom tomatoes, prosciutto, balsamic and olive oil. Enjoyed in the comfort of the glass-walled, light-filled cafe, the salad is best paired with one of the tender house crepes for a true feeling of dining in Paris.
Cucumber watermelon salad from Dish Society: Farm-to-table powerhouse Dish Society rolls out new seasonal items on the regular — this summer, catch the cucumber watermelon salad while summer's juiciest fruit is still in peak form. Chunks of watermelon and crunchy cucumber are tossed with a bright house citrus vinaigrette and topped with mint, basil, avocado, sunflower seeds and cotija cheese, all perked up by a zippy chile-lime salt.
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Tomato panzanella from Alice Blue: Panzanella is a salad with Tuscan roots that's typically composed of chunks of bread and tomatoes. It's often eaten in the summer in order to showcase summer tomatoes at their peak. At the newly reopened Alice Blue, the tomato panzanella salad gets upgraded with the addition of canteloupe, labneh (a super-strained yogurt that's extra-thick and luscious), fresno chilies and mint. For a more protein-forward twist, you can also opt for the heirloom bean salad with feta, pine nuts, pea shoots and roasted peppers.
The Kristalla from Osso & Kristalla: Even if you don't like kale, the Kristalla may convert you based on the pure beauty of the stiff purple-green kale leaves that form the base of this salad. Studded with just enough juicy apple slices, salty, crisp chunks of pancetta, roasty pine nuts, and creamy ricotta that hides at the base of the salad, the flavors meld together under the expert touch of a light, perfectly acidic preserved lemon dressing. Add a protein like chicken, beef, shrimp or salmon for $6 for a delicious and well-balanced summer meal.