The Ensalada del Mar @ Café Europa (GSO)
Ingredients: Blackened salmon or tuna with roasted peppers, onion, cucumber, new potatoes and hard-boiled eggs atop mixed greens with a choice of dressing
Pro tip: I go for the sushi-grade tuna, seared but rare, and skip the cucumbers. Wait staff will recommend a balsamic vinaigrette, which is thick and wonderful, but I prefer to take this one without dressing because the other accoutrements do a fine job binding the whole thing together. This has become the only thing I order at Café Europa.
Eggplant Panzanella @ Mozzarella Fellas (W-S)
Ingredients: Roasted eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, sweet basil, balsamic glaze
This vegetable medley with basil and balsamic glaze is a simple twist on a classic Italian dish.
Foule @ Jerusalem Market (GSO)
Ingredients: Chickpeas, fava beans, garlic, lemon juice, hot pepper, extra virgin olive oil
Jerusalem Market takes foule, a classic Middle Eastern comfort food, and repositions it as a refreshing cold salad. The beloved restaurant, with a flagship operation near Sedgefield and a newer downtown location, combines dips and salads on one menu. Most of the options are blended and feature healthy doses of lemon, garlic and olive oil, including hummus (made from chickpeas), tabbouleh (cracked wheat), baba ghanouj (eggplant) and new potatoes.
Fried Goat Cheese Salad @ Liberty Oak (GSO)
Ingredients: Sesame-crusted, lemon-infused herbed Goat Lady cheese rounds, organic greens, brandy-soaked dried cherries, walnuts, fresh herb vinaigrette
Liberty Oak’s lunch menu offers an array of options, but the Fried Goat Cheese Salad featuring rounds of local product from the renowned Goat Lady Dairy is only served at dinnertime. Strong on seafood, the restaurant provides grilled salmon and grilled tuna steak options all day. The Oriental Salad, also served all day, features grilled skewers of beef tenderloin or marinated tofu on sesame noodles and mixed greens with a fantastic vinaigrette made from basil, cilantro, mint and lime. While the combination of ingredients sounds brilliant, the salad’s name leaves something to be desired, and maybe someone should leave the owners a copy of Edward Said’s seminal 1978 work, Orientalism, which skewered stereotypical, essentializing and patronizing attitudes towards Asia and the Middle East.
Fried Rappahannock Oysters @ Willows Bistro (W-S)
Ingredients: Arugula, micro saltwort, pancetta, butternut squash and roasted seeds, charred croutons, pickled shallots, apple cider vinaigrette
You need not be an oyster enthusiast to fall in love with this dish. The bistro’s kitchen receives fresh North Carolina coast oysters every two days and, alongside slightly candied pancetta, sweet arugula balances their savory saltiness. This dish arrives pre-tossed with a simple apple cider vinaigrette. If you’re not feeling quite so adventurous, order your tuna medium rare on the Ahi Tuna & Pineapple Salad.
Fried Oyster Salad @ Bernardin’s (W-S)
Ingredients: Arugula, mascarpone, tomato & bacon pinenut vinaigrette
An Italian cream cheese accompanies these fried oysters on a bed of arugula, topped with a creative vinaigrette. Bernardin’s is more of a fancy dinner place than a quick lunch stop, and this salad pairs well with the restaurant’s personality.
Holly Grove Goat Cheese Salad @ the Iron Hen (GSO)
Ingredients: Crispy goat cheese, pickled beets, oven-roasted sweet potatoes, mixed greens and red-wine tarragon vinaigrette.
Iron Hen is a favorite among those looking for lighter or healthier fare, whether it’s the Gorilla Grains Granola bowl with soymilk and fresh blueberries or the vegan Whole Grain Hash with quinoa, black-eyed peas, braised greens, sweet potato and tofu. I’m partial to the Hopping John Cajun Shrimp for dinner or the smoked salmon omelet with green onions and goat cheese for breakfast.
But if you’re looking for a lighter lunch, try the Holly Grove Goat Cheese Salad, with its crispy orbs of goat cheese, or the Sliced Pear Salad with blue cheese, caramelized pecans and bacon. There’s a separate smoked salmon salad option with dill, cucumber, radish, peppered bacon and mixed greens as well as a salad plate with red delicious chicken salad, fresh fruit and house-made farmer’s cheese. If none of those strikes you, consider the Buffalo Chicken Salad or the Baby Spinach Salad (with chicken skewers, marinated cukes, roasted red peppers and feta) at sister restaurant Four Flocks & Larder.
Peaceful Valley @ Sticks & Stones (GSO)
Ingredients: Organic greens, sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, toasted pumpkin & flax seeds with a roasted shallot & herb vinaigrette.
This Lindley Park pizza place is known for its array of delicious options, including three specialty salads. The combination of mushrooms, chèvre and honeyed walnuts in the Dance All Night makes for a delicious snack, but it’s hard to beat the vegetable medley in the Peaceful Valley. Keep an eye out for specials, and enjoy and entree-sized salad on the restaurant’s patio.
Spring Superfood Salad @ Traveled Farmer (GSO)
Ingredients: Baby spring lettuce, quinoa, asparagus, almonds, strawberries and ginger-carrot vinaigrette
The Spring Superfood Salad, best enjoyed on the patio on a lazy afternoon after the lunch rush, makes a charming first impression through a balanced interplay of crunch — a layer of almond slices and quinoa on top — and loamy asparagus at the foundation. The asparagus is cooked to perfection, soft but firm, and served room temperature. Thin slices of strawberry — advertised as North Carolina raised — do their part to liven the ensemble, while fresh baby lettuce lightly doused in vinaigrette complete this nutrient-packed, gluten-free salad.
The Spring Superfood Salad isn’t terribly filling, but it’s affordable enough that you can easily augment it with a small plate. I went with a Scotch egg, which if you think about it, is like adding a protein to a vegetarian salad for an upcharge. And the Massey Creek egg comes on a bed of baby kale, with radish slices and carrot slivers, so it’s like getting more salad. The soft yolk pairs perfectly with the fried mixture of bread crumbs and the Giacamo’s sausage encasing the egg.
Strawberry Salad @ Tessa Farm to Fork (GSO)
Ingredients: Field greens, asparagus, goat cheese, avocado, pecan and strawberry vinaigrette
I’m pretty certain this is the same salad that head chef Caleb Smallwood brought into the office in Mason jars when he was an intern at Triad City Beat. He was conducting market research for a salad-to-go concept before he landed at Tessa — I still have the fork because he never retrieved it. That salad was a revelation — it was zesty, fresh and surprisingly filling. Whether I’m right to link Smallwood’s experiment with this menu item, the combination of ingredients — most notably goat cheese, avocado and pecan — in the Strawberry Salad has my attention.
Strawberry Salad @ Blue Denim (GSO)
Ingredients: Strawberries, goat cheese, spiced pecans, and red onion over kale and spinach, with a balsamic vinaigrette
The symbiotic relationship between strawberries and balsamic vinegar mixes it up beautifully with dark greens and goat cheese. It’s tough not to eat the spiced pecans before diving in. The chopped salad — trendy! — would do when the berries are out of season.
Tropical Chicken @ Village Juice Co. (W-S)
Ingredients: Organic Romaine and spinach, chicken, seasonal fruit (mango or peaches), pistachio, organic cilantro and pistachio-dusted goat cheese medallions with cilantro-lime ginger or sriracha dressing
Village Juice Co. is known for its locally sourced organic ingredients, which is most likely why every bite of this salad is delicious. The combination of the cilantro-ginger and the sweetness of mango paired with the goat cheese made for a truly enjoyable experience. The restaurant offers a variety of other health-conscious and trendy items as well, including smoothie bowls.