Depicted in Egyptian tomb paintings, enjoyed by the ancient Greeks and brought to the new world by Christopher Columbus himself, salad has been around the chopping block a time or two. Think of a salad as kind of a karma karma chameleon in the world of dining. Since May is National Salad Month and temperatures are on the rise, salads can be a body-conscious diner’s best friend. Salads just might hold the mythical key to getting your beach body back and we’re not talking bland or boring creations. Rabbit food? Hardly. Some of San Diego’s best salads are filling, flavorful and a fabulous item to order after checking out your rear view and committing to eating healthy in time for summer.
Known for their ever-inventive menu, Encinitas favorite Union Kitchen and Tap is constantly setting the creative bar. Resist the allure of Union’s bacon-dusted donuts and order the Roasted Beet Salad instead. A unique blend of sweet and savory, this dish combines vibrant beets, spicy fennel, mint, Maytag Blue cheese, pecan brittle and maple vinaigrette. Who knew a salad could satisfy your sweet tooth?
Seen on picnic tables nationwide, summertime’s superstar is undoubtedly the watermelon. Consider this diva fruit’s gourmet appearance on the menu at Uptown Tavern in Hillcrest. Taking advantage of the peak season for summer’s most popular fruit, the Watermelon Salad is filled with ripe watermelon, candied nuts, goat cheese, spinach, sesame seeds and drizzled with basil-honey vinaigrette. Turn this delectable side into an entrée fit for dinner by adding grilled chicken or salmon.
Boasting high volumes of beta carotene, Vitamin C and calcium, kale is considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It is also serves as a flavorful alternative to traditional iceberg or romaine. Head to North Park’s West Coast Tavern to try Mina’s Kale Salad. This sweet green is topped with toasted walnuts, feta cheese and tossed in an “East meets West” ponzu and avocado vinaigrette.
Spoiler alert. The roots of the Caesar salad might challenge what you thought you knew this summer. Named not for the Roman ruler, this steakhouse staple first appeared just south of the border in Tijuana, at Caesar Cardini’s restaurant Hotel Caesar’s. But you don’t need a passport for an authentic take on Cardini’s creation, simply head to The Steakhouse at Azul in La Jolla for Caesar’s "TJ" Hotel Salad. Tossed in a creamy anchovy parmesan dressing, this dish is available surf or turf style with a selection of ahi, shrimp and steak.
Still a tossup as to where to find the best San Diego salad? Stop into barleymash in the Gaslamp District for a Brick Oven Seared Tuna Salad. Dive into this medley of blackened tuna, kalamata olives, goat cheese, roasted tomatoes, red onions, locally grown fresh herbs and roasted tomato balsamic vinaigrette. Hearty and delicious, you may forget that it’s good for you.
Turn over a new leaf at Toscana Café and Wine Bar with the Hearts of Palm Salad. Tender hearts of palm are tossed with dried cranberries, ripe Roma tomatoes, Mandarin oranges and served on a bed of peppery arugula. Finished with creamy Brie and a drizzle of basil-balsamic vinaigrette dressing, this dish is the perfect bistro salad for summer.