Salad City

It can be a struggle to find a good salad in a town so fanatical for Tex-Mex. And barbecue. And burgers. But we know they're out there somewhere. It's still early enough in January that you might not have broken all of your New Year's resolutions... So where do you go to pick up a good salad?

Our go-to to-go place is none other than Mission Burrito, where we just can't quit that Que Mas salad. For Yankees, youngsters, and non-natives, "que mas" means "what more," and the salad is truly a rainbow of ingredients -- greens, potato, corn, roasted red peppers, jicama, tortilla strips, cheese and the meat of your choice. Hearty, healthy, and gooood. Especially with the Cilantro Ranch dressing. Which makes it decidedly less healthy. Hmpf.

You prolly already know that salads are a highlight at Barnaby's -- but also be aware that there's nothing "diet" about them. Standards like the Chinese Chicken, Cobb, and California are huge, often spilling their wares off the plate and onto the table below. Yes, toppings are generous, and the dressings are thick. You might consider, instead, Ruggles Green, but these salads, too, are overdressed as if it's a rule. The Wild Salmon Salad with queso fresco is the menu's highlight, but will set you back a hefty $14 at lunch.

For a more upscale salad, we're semi-obsessed with the smoked salmon salad at the new Canopy on Montrose: mixed greens tossed with asparagus, haricot verts, fennel, red onion, tomatoes, egg white and a dijon vinaigrette. Backstreet Café always wins the award for best Cobb around town: chicken, avocado, bleu cheese, hardboiled egg, bacon, tomato, watercress and butter lettuce with a red pepper vinaigrette.

Most people love the Big Salad (romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, carrots, mushrooms, avocado and feta) at Paulie's, but we prefer the conventional Spinach (add shrimp for $3). Chatter's in the Heights updates the traditional Greek with a fantastic Mediterranean Salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, feta, kalamata olives and stuffed grape leaves). Give it a try.

On the ethnic side, Asia Market has a super-rad green papaya salad, a tangy Thai staple that you just can't find at many restaurants stateside. This version is wonderfully flavorful and s-s-s-spicy. Get it with the tiny dried shrimp... and don't forget to order a side of sticky rice to go with it. Turquoise Grill offers a Shepherd's Salad, a traditional Turkish delight that's delicate, refreshing, and nothing whatsoever like a Shepherd's Pie. The salad is a combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, parsley and mint, all chopped fine and lightly dressed with a simple mix of lemon juice and olive oil. Guadalajara's Caribbean Chicken salad is another favorite: mixed greens, grilled chicken, corn tortilla strips, pineapple and mango. And Goode Company Taqueria offers a great Grilled Chicken Salad, too, with tomato, avocado, corn, black beans, jicama and cheese.

If nothing on our list tickles your fancy, head to Bowl, where you can design your own salad from more than 200 toppings. Salads are neither too big nor too small, contain fresh ingredients, and arrive promptly. This place is perfect for those of us that like a full train wreck of "stuff" in our greens: fruit, veggies, nuts, proteins and cheese.

What's your go-to salad?

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ruthie Johnson
Contact: Ruthie Johnson