Ensaladas Days

Written by Gwen Ashley Walters Category: Three Bites Issue: May 2015
Group Mid-Level
Character count 2500

Take the fat out of your fiesta with these south-of-the-border salads.

Joyride Taco House
5202 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-274-8226;
302 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 480-632-8226, joyridetacohouse.com
Eat your way through our salute to Mexican cuisine (page 84), and somewhere near the halfway point – after countless tacos and tortas – your body will crave something less filling, less starchy. The good news: You don’t have to give up dynamic flavors to get a healthy infusion of greens and vegetables.  Joyride’s ensalada fila ($10.50; pictured here) is a riff on the “original” chopped salad – the Cobb. Pretty rows of crisp jicama, orange segments, cherry tomatoes, avocado, fresh corn and crunchy dried peas sit atop chopped kale and creamed pintos. It’s a marvelous mix of textures tied together with a dreamy quince dressing. Filling without being heavy, consider it an earnest counterpoint to the almighty chimichanga.

Milagro Grill
4280 E.
Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-773-5844, milagrogrillaz.com
Owner Reed Johnson, grandson of the Macayo’s founders, builds his hearty chopped salad ($8.50) in a slanted bowl, making the salad appear slighter than it is. Rows of diced tomato, mango, egg whites, smoky jalapeño-cured bacon and golden raisins macerated in sherry vinegar cover a mound of chopped romaine and iceberg. Fanned avocado slices sit on top and the dressing – a chunky mix of cucumber, buttermilk, mayo, lime and cilantro, served on the side – is thick and creamy. And delicious.

Blanco Tacos + Tequila
6166 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-305-6692;
2502 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-429-8000,
The most petite of the three salads on this page, Blanco’s Mexican chop ($8) isn’t presented in traditional rows. Instead, Chef Peder Bondhus tosses mixed field greens with roasted corn, black beans and diced tomatoes before coating the whole thing in buttermilk ranch dressing spiked with tomato and jalapeño house salsa. Topped with fried tortilla strips, a dab of sour cream and guacamole, along with a healthy dusting of tangy cotija cheese, the salad can be enhanced in the sustenance department by adding grilled chicken ($2) or skirt steak ($4).