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Food & Drink

Seven Signs That Ordering Salad Won’t Make You Sad

Don’t settle for dull salads. Dallas restaurants are doing plenty to spice up their leafy greens.
By | |Photography by Kevin Hunter Marple
Salads
(Clockwise from Top): Salad with almonds and pistachios from José, Billy Can Can's take on Caesar, and Partenope's insalata del Vomero. Kevin Hunter Marple

If your eyes slide past the salad section of the menu on their way to the main courses, or if you think of leafy greens as a punishment for yesterday’s indulgence, it’s time to think again. This summer, Dallas chefs are putting thoughtful twists on the old-fashioned bowl of lettuce. 

All sorts of garnishes, proteins, herbs, and pickles are finding their ways into the greenery. And raw vegetable preparations from non-European traditions are easier to find than ever before. So, yes, believe it or not, we’re excited to go to some of our favorite restaurants—for the salad.

Although it’s known as a steak town, Dallas has a strong tradition in leafy greens. When the award-winning reference guide The Flavor Bible (2008) needed an expert voice to explain the secrets of salad success, it turned to Dallasite Sharon Hage. “Every salad should have elements of bitter, salt, heat, and texture,” Hage says in the book. “There always needs to be some crunch in a salad. Even if it is a delicate salad, you need to find a way to get a crunch in there.”

Now the next generation of local chefs is taking her advice. Judging from the exciting, eccentric, well-balanced bowls around Dallas, our city’s greenery has found its groove. Here are some of our favorite local tricks for salad superiority.

beans

Use Beans

Underrated, versatile players, they can provide texture, color, and filling bulk. Add roasted chickpeas for crunch or top field greens with creamy white beans and goat cheese, like in Partenope’s insalata del Vomero.

Partenope, 1903 Main St.

herbs

Call It By Any Other Name

We’re looking at you, Homewood, with your “Greens, Seeds, and Herbs,” an ever-changing mix finished off with tangy mustard vinaigrette. A salad so good they changed the name? You’d better believe it.

Homewood, 4002 Oak Lawn Ave.

almonds

Create Alternative Crunch

Croutons are fine, but some of Dallas’ best restaurants are thinking beyond bread with snappy substitutes like sunflower seeds and granola. At José, pistachios and almonds are salad staples.

José, 4931 W. Lovers Ln.

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Frisée All Day

This curly, crunchy, gently bitter green adds variety to any mix, but it’s still out of reach for many home shoppers, stocked only by high-end groceries. Solution? Order it any time you go out, especially to Gemma, where frisée salad is a mainstay when the veggie is in season.

Gemma, 2323 N. Henderson Ave., Ste. 109

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Pickle the Veggie

Salad pickles can check off multiple boxes simultaneously: tart flavor, gentle crunch, and the element of surprise. At Billy Can Can, for example, pickled red onions add sharpness to the seafood chopped salad.

Billy Can Can, 2386 Victory Park Ln.

anchovies

Caesar Like You Mean It

A good Caesar is a face-punch of flavor, with its dressing of bold lemon, garlic, and savory, salty anchovy. To give your taste buds the right kick, head to Zoli’s or CiboDivino. At Meridian, the vivid dressing is tossed with kohlrabi instead of romaine.

Zoli’s Pizza, 14910 Midway Rd., Addison

CiboDivino Marketplace, 1868 Sylvan Ave., Ste. D100

Meridian, 5650 Village Glen Dr.

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Spice is Nice

A good mustardy dressing can liven up greens, but for a truly sinus-opening bowl, you’d do well to leave European traditions behind. Thai and Lao papaya salads, served with tangy dressings and fresh chiles, are the perfect summertime refreshment. If you’ve never had one, start at Ka-Tip.

Ka-Tip Thai Street Food, 1011 S. Pearl Expwy., Ste. 190

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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