A Salad Story: Best Lettuce in Greenville

Not all salads are created equal.

This summer has been stupid-hot, and all I really felt like eating for the last few months is a light & tasty salad at every meal. Pretty simple craving to deal with, right? No, not at all.

There’s a lot of crap salads out there, sprinkled with disappointment and dressed in gross-ness, and I’ve eaten them all. This summer, I made it my mission to find & eat the best salads in all the land (Greenville, SC specifically) and now that October is here and those 100 degree days are hopefully over, I think I’m finally ready to share my top 10 list.

10. "Watermelon Salad" from Tupelo Honey: it includes sweet watermelon, spicy arugula with honey yogurt dressing, and it’s topped off with country ham crumbles and candied basil. Never in my wildest salad dreams would I have put those ingredients together, but it’s outstanding.

9. “Asian Salad” from Fresh to Order: All the things I like, presented in an elegant way- mixed greens, avocado, mandarin oranges, ginger, candied walnuts, and I usually I sub out the dressing for the apricot ginger vinaigrette.

8. “Pop’s Caesar Salad” from Luna Rosa: It’s gotta be the dressing. This simple classic (topped with grilled chicken, of course) has never been better, and it doesn’t hurt to chase it with a little gelato. Unfortunately, my top 10 gelato picks will have to wait for a future blog post.  

7. “The Toscana” from Caviar & Bananas: mixed greens + crispy prosciutto, + vanilla poached pears and a bunch of other gourmet ingredients tossed in a chianti vinaigrette = one gloriously flavorful meal that’s unlike any other.  

6. “Smoky Salad” from Sidewall Pizza. Don’t get me wrong, they have excellent pizza too, but their salads are phenomenal. The “Smoky” features roasted corn, broccoli, grape tomatoes, onion, candied walnuts, and a fantastic basil dressing. Oh, and order the small portion if you’ve got a fairly normal appetite. The large will feed a village!

5. If you’re picky like I am, and you love to do the whole build-your-own salad thing at restaurants, be sure to check out Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar. I know, I know, a burger joint for a salad? Trust me! The ingredient list is long, and has ALL the good stuff. My personal concoction includes romaine, red peppers, chick peas, kalamata olives, avocado, fresh mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken, and balsamic vinaigrette.

4. “Strawberry Chicken Salad” from Stax's: this one is practically a dessert. You’ll get strawberries, blueberries, caramelized Georgia pecans, and grilled chicken breast over a bed of mixed greens, and a really interesting merlot vinaigrette.

3. “Greek Salad w/ Shrimp” from Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe: this restaurant is making their way across the southeast, and my husband and I are HUGE fans. Ever since they opened in Greenville, we’ve eaten there at least once or twice a week. On paper, Taziki’s Greek salad sounds pretty standard I suppose, but in person - in your mouth - it’s by far the best Greek salad I’ve ever had. Top it with grilled shrimp, chicken, or salmon - you really can’t go wrong.

2. “The Baja” from Caviar & Bananas: romaine, cucumber, tomato, avocado, corn, cotija cheese, and something called “jicama” that I’d describe as a sweet ugly apple that grows in the ground, all mixed together with a chipotle lime vinaigrette and topped with citrus grilled shrimp.

1. “Summer Peach Salad” from Sidewall Pizza: this is a seasonal special that makes me long for summer, even though I hate summer. The salad is full of perfect southern peaches, candied pecans, red onion, cheese, and a lovely basil vinaigrette that’s so good you’ll probably do something embarrassing to clean your bowl when you’re finished.

Bonus round!

Here’s a few favorites from national chain restaurants you can get in just about any city in America.

“Quinoa Salad” from Zoe’s Kitchen - it’s crunchy, it’s healthy, it’s good. The end.

“Mango Chicken Salad” from On the Border: sometimes chain restaurants can really surprise you! This one has mango, beans, corn, jicama (it must be a trending food?), romaine, and grilled chicken.

“Green Goddess Salad” from Panera - another chain restaurant does it right! This one is definitely about the beautiful pale green dressing, and if I could get a bowl of it and a spoon, that’d be great.


Soup: A Personal Obession

I’m no foodie. In fact, I’m so picky about food, I’m often only able to find one item on a restaurant’s menu that I want to order. Soup, on the other hand, has been a lifelong love of mine, ever since I could operate the can opener. So I guess that makes me a soupie?

To me, there’s nothing better than a steaming bowl of flavors, something that takes awhile to eat and warms me from the inside out (although I don’t want to dismiss the amazing-ness of a nice chilled gazpacho in the summertime). I could survive on chicken tortilla, tomato bisque, miso, potato leek, French onion, white bean chili, she crab, beer cheese, butternut squash, corn chowder, wonton, classic chicken noodle...and the list goes on and on. I’m obsessed with soup, it’s my absolute favorite kind of food, as unimpressive as my foodie husband seems to think that is. You can keep your medium rare ribeye, your 25 pound lobster or whatever. I’ll have the soup with a side of soup, please!

I’ve been thinking about all the soups out there, and which ones are in my book the best of the best. For now, until I go on a soup tasting tour of the world (which would be awesome if someone wants to sponsor me!), I’ve limited my Best Soup list below to the Greenville, SC area.

#5 - Cauliflower and Gorgonzola Soup from The Green Room: It’s almost as thick as hummus, topped with curried raisins, and is a rich and flavorful soup that steals the show in a restaurant where that’s no easy thing to do.

# 4 - Fire Roasted Tomato Bisque from Babaziki Mediterranean Grill: chunky tomato soup, add a side of hummus and pita, plus a cool casual atmosphere to enjoy it in, and you’re all set. I always skip the feta cheese on top, but I’m sure some less picky people would enjoy that. I’ve got big problems with feta!

#3 - Chicken Pho from Pho Noodleville: not just for sick days! I always add extra lime juice to the broth (like ¼ cup or more, no joke), and use every last basil leaf on my plate of extras to perfect this Vietnamese favorite.

#2 - Posole from Tako Sushi: bring a handkerchief because this one will make you sweat. It’s the kind of spicy that sneaks up on you. A giant bowl of New Mexico hominy soup with pork comes with a huge platter of toppings that rival any taco bar to add in as you please. Don’t be shy, dump ALL of that sour cream in there and then ask for more!

#1 - Sopa de Pollo from Compadre’s: it’s the broth that gets me. Whatever’s in it, whatever those spices are that tint the clear stock slightly orange, they’re amazing. Perfectly pulled chicken, an abundance of cilantro, rice at the bottom, avocado at the top, onion and diced tomato floating in between, it all makes for one of the heartiest, most flavorful soups I’ve ever had.

Honorable mentions:

  • Tomato soup from Tupelo Honey - with a grilled cheese, of course!

  • Wonton soup from Oriental House - a bowl of liquid comfort

  • Southwest Chicken Soup from Chili's - a surprisingly good tortilla-style soup you can get in just about any city in the USA

  • Roasted Red Pepper and Gouda from Schlotsky’s

  • Autumn Squash Soup from Panera - even chain restaurants have tasty soups!