Top 5 "Big Salads" to Try in Houston*

*First, let me be clear that in selecting the items on this list, I was operating under the Elaine Benes definition of a "big salad." As you Seinfeld fans might remember, Jerry initially said that a "big salad" contains "big lettuce, big carrots, tomatoes like volleyballs," but in another episode, Elaine actually provides some clarification. "It's a salad, only bigger, with lots of stuff in it," explains Elaine to a grumpy waitress at Reggie's, which unlike the fearless foursome's regular haunt, Monk's, does not usually vend "big salads." Well, Elaine, you weren't very precise about the composition of your beloved "big salad," but here are five in Houston that I think would qualify:

5. Fajita Taco Salad (El Real). Okay, so maybe this isn't exactly what Elaine has in mind when she speaks of her love for the "big salad." But that's because, I am convinced, she lives in New York, not in Texas, where everyone knows that if you take away the tortilla and add more lettuce to a Tex-Mex dish, you basically have a salad. H-town offers many respectable taco salads, but El Real gets extra points for using fajita beef and offering fragrant dressings such as jalapeño lime and cilantro ranch.

4. Summer Harvest Salad (Local Foods). In the past, I've tended to favor the carbohydrate-oriented menu items at Local Foods, such as the sandwiches on those amazing Slow Dough pretzel rolls. The mixture of baby lettuce, goat cheese, assorted vegetables (whatever's at the farmers' market), sprouts, salsa verde, sunflower seeds plus the option to add shrimp or chicken makes the Summer Harvest Salad a winning combination that will have you asking, "What's bread?"

3. The Chopped Bleu (Zelko Bistro). The large size, of course. If forced to describe the Chopped Bleu in two words, I might say "crunch" and "cream." Juicy apples, pecans and red onions provide the former, while a liberal toss of bleu cheese takes care of the latter. Add some bacon and romaine and suddenly you have a salad that rivals your entrée. The only thing that could possibly improve this salad would be a grilled lobster tail garnish. Just sayin', Jamie.

2. The Montrose (Bowl Cafe). "More than just a salad!" may be Bowl Cafe's slogan, but you won't want more than a salad if you order the Montrose, a collection of strawberries, blueberries, pears, apples, walnuts, jack cheese, tomatoes, avocado and mixed greens. Oh, and blackberries! Can't forget those since otherwise the Montrose, a veritable fruitbasket in a bowl, would definitely not satisfy your daily Vitamin C requirements. Not.

1. Cobb Salad (Barnaby's Cafe). Barnaby's regularly receives accolades for its large-and-in-charge salads and while the Chinese Chicken salad and the Lebanese Chicken Fattoush salad seem to be crowd favorites, my favorite is the Cobb. The fact that in the classic Cobb offered by Barnaby's, the proteins (crumbled hard-boiled eggs, bacon, chicken) balance the vegetables (chopped greens, scallions, red onions) and there's some cheese to bind it all together makes this salad eat like a meal. And the best part of eating a salad for your dinner? Better justification for eating one of Barnaby's brownies for dessert.

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Joanna O'Leary