Salads might be simple ingredients prepared simply, but they can be so much more than that. A salad must have more vegetables than grains, but from there the ingredient possibilities are endless.
That includes meat, especially in Kansas City.
“We are a meat and potatoes town to begin with,” says Jenny Vergara of Feast Magazine. “So what better way to eat your vegetables than to put a little steak with it?”
But even with the wide variety of fresh ingredients available this summer, a salad still comes down to its flavor. Here are the Central Standard’s Food Critics’ recommendations for the best salads in the metro area.
- Char Bar — Roots and fruits salad. It’s hard not to order burnt ends and fries at Char Bar, but this is a hearty salad with roasted beets, parsnips, onions, goat cheese, oranges, pistachios, crispy brussels sprouts and blackberry wine vinaigrette.
- The Russell — Roasted root vegetable salad with wild greens, roasted sweet potatoes, beets, arugula, pistachios, goat cheese and thyme molasses vinaigrette. I also like the steak and greens salad, which is chimichurri tossed greens with grilled vegetables, goat cheese and grilled steak; and the Russell’s green pear salad, with pears, field greens, seasonal fresh cheese, dried cherries, candied walnuts and bourbon pear vinaigrette.
- North Italia — The seasonal salad at North Italia always hits the spot. Right now, it’s made of kale, roasted cauliflower, clementine, date, avocado, farro, golden raisins, quinoa, goat cheese, almond and a sherry vinaigrette.
- Black Dirt — Roasted carrot salad with avocado, orange, cilantro, olive oil, lime, coriander and piment d’espelette.
- Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room — Carrot salad. Corvino just put its carrot and avocado salad, which also has habanero and mint, back on the menu.
- Happy Gillis Cafe and Hangout — Farmers’ salad, which chef Abbey-Jo Eans puts together with whatever is fresh from their farmers. But Happy Gillis always has several salads on its menu; right now there's also an arugula salad with ricotta, spring peas, asparagus and preserved lemon dressing.
- Lidia’s — Caesar salad. Lidia's is exceptional. I love the croutons and dressing.
- Rye Plaza — Hangar steak salad. This is grilled strips of steak with blue cheese, red peppers, fingerling potatoes and balsamic vinaigrette. The Leawood location is serving its hangar steak with a classic wedge salad.
- Hogshead — Beet and burrata salad with arugula, swiss chard, pistachio granola and lemon-tahini dressing. The crunch of the granola plays nicely with the beets. There's also a new salmon salad with kale, brussels sprouts, honey crisp apples, peppadew peppers, spiced pepitas, goat cheese and avocado vin.
- Gram & Dun — Grilled romaine, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, house-smoked bacon, blue cheese and cider mustard vinaigrette. I love the smokey grilled flavor of the lettuce, and bacon and blue cheese together is such a classic pairing.
- True Food Kitchen— The cucumber side salad, made with slices of tiny pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced red onions and sunflower seeds, is so good I could eat a whole bowl of it. I'm also a fan of the Good Earth Cobb Salad, with organic kale, avocado, organic tomato, asparagus, watermelon radish, garbanzo beans, dried sweet corn, gorgonzola and cashew poblano ranch. And I like the organic Tulsa kale salad, where kale leaves are dressed with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil and tossed with grana padano, cheese and breadcrumbs.
- Caffetteria Modern Cafe and Marketplace — The Hollywood bowl, made with non-GMO tofu, quinoa, spicy sauteed eggplant, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, charred red bell peppers, local organic sunflower shoots, olive oil and sea salt, served with a Thai ginger coconut curry sauce. Chef Jo Marie Scaglia’s Caffetteria has some of my favorite salads in the city, but I die to eat this one.
- Room 39 — Steak salad. Only available on the lunch menu, this entree salad features slices of grilled butcher’s tenderloin, arugula, beets, pistachio, Wiebe cheese and red wine vinaigrette.
- Mildred’s Coffeehouse — Spinach and apricot salad with flat leaf spinach, hickory smoked bacon, sunflower seeds, dried apricots, green onion and parmesan cheese tossed in Mildred's signature bleu cheese dressing. It’s all about the blue cheese dressing.
- Afterword Tavern & Shelves — The garden salad here is super simple, with cucumber, tomato, radish, parmesan and ranch dressing. You can substitute chicken that will hit the spot if you just need a quick bite.
- Parker at The Fontaine Hotel— The Parker power bowl is a fun grain bowl that passes for a salad in my book. It has avocado, parker tempeh, pomegranate, sprouted quinoa, poached egg, citrus segments and baby kale with citrus-coriander dressing.
- French Market — This spinach salad is delicious, with blueberry, strawberry, asparagus, goat cheese, pecans and champagne vinaigrette.
- Whole Foods Salad and Hot Bar in Brookside — Salad bars are not as prominent as they used to be, but they are still found at places like Whole Foods. These work well for me because I can make my own salad using ingredients and dressings I like, and I can even add roasted vegetables.
- The Mixx — The Garden of Eden salad has Granny Smith apples, candied pecans, gorgonzola, greens and a champagne vinaigrette.
- Crushed Red — The South of the Border salad with avocado, tomato, roasted corn, cheddar cheese and tortilla strips with field greens and chipotle ranch dressing.
- Jasper’s Italian Restaurant — Caprese salad is one of my favorites because of its simplistic flavor, and the heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella take Jasper’s homemade version to another level.
- Summit Grill — The fried chicken salad is salad greens with bacon, cheddar and jack cheese, tomatoes and slices of fried chicken breast assembled in a pyramid. I also like the blackened faroe island salmon salad, with avocado, bacon, corn salsa, tomatoes, watermelon radishes and huge chipotle chips. Both of these salads are beautiful in structure and color.
- Houlihan’s — The Tuscan white bean salad didn't sound appetizing at first, but I ordered it with tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons and I’m glad I did. The salad is a layered or stacked side salad with mixed greens, leaves of fresh basil, white beans and diced tomatoes with drops of balsamic vinaigrette and goat cheese, served with thin toasted slices of Italian bread.
- Twisted Fresh — The spicy thai chicken salad has grilled all natural chicken and spicy Thai slaw with cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, pico de gallo and sriracha honey aioli. What’s great about Twisted Fresh is you can order any wrap sandwich without the wrap and it’s then a salad or quinoa bowl.
Rylie Koester is an intern for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at @RylieKoester.