Photography by Isabella Castillo
Sure, the Stetson chopped salad is the Valley’s pre-eminent leafy entrée, with its tidy rows of air-dried corn, Israeli couscous, avocado, tomatoes, pepitas and currants all snuggled atop a bed of peppery arugula bathed in creamy basil buttermilk dressing. But plenty of other salads around town are developing a well-deserved cult following. Here are our best bets to depose the king.
Skinny Cobb at Flower Child
Among the cornucopia of made-to-order salads on Flower Child’s menu, the Skinny Cobb ($8.25) is a splendid choice, albeit one that bears little resemblance to the original bacon- and egg-laden Cobb. Flower Child’s version is a nourishing mix of romaine and arugula peppered with slivers of red cabbage, avocado hunks, cherry tomatoes, air-dried corn, pickled onions, delicate shreds of gorgonzola cheese and gloriously smoked almonds wrapped up in a white-wine-laced gorgonzola vinaigrette. And for you protein junkies: Complete your salad with natural chicken ($5), grass-fed steak ($6), sustainable salmon ($7) or organic non-GMO tofu ($4) and you’ll hardly miss the bacon.
Four Valley locations, iamaflowerchild.com
Brussels Sprouts Salad at Postino WineCafe
Raise your hand if your mom made you eat mushy frozen Brussels sprouts on more than one occasion. If so, you may have an aversion to the bitter, cabbage-like orbs, but it’s time to give them another chance. Anchored by tender baby kale, Postino’s Brussels Sprouts Salad ($11; add turkey, organic chicken or prosciutto, $3.50) is scattered with quartered al dente Brussels sprouts, chunks of fiery hot and perfectly toasted Marcona almonds and a drift of buttery Manchego cheese, then rounded out with a brilliant counterbalance of sweet dried cherries and fresh salty bacon bits. Blanketed with tart lemon-Manchego dressing, this head-turning salad gives the oft-maligned Brussels new street cred.
Six Valley locations, postinowinecafe.com
Toro Chopped Salad at Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar
For salad fans who enjoy a Latin flair, the Toro Chopped Salad ($16) might become your new favorite. While the salad is mixed rather than presented in narrow rows like many chopped salads, the ample bowl of mixed greens is studded with fresh roasted corn and edamame, plump cherry tomato halves, skinny strips of jicama-like chayote squash, a dusting of queso fresco and warm cubes of sweet, crispy pork belly. Dressed in honey-kissed sherry vinaigrette and topped with tortilla strips, this salad is filling all by itself, but give it a protein boost of achiote chicken ($8), churrasco steak ($10), aji shrimp ($10) or salmon ($10), and you’ve got yourself a gigante meal, amigo.
7575 E. Princess Dr., Scottsdale, 480-585-4848, scottsdaleprincess.com
Market Sunflower Salad at The Herb Box
If grilled chicken salads are front and center in your wheelhouse, check out The Herb Box Market Sunflower Salad ($15) for the win. Only available on the lunch menu until 4 p.m., the salad has a base of crisp frisée and romaine lettuce mixed with morsels of smoked bacon, a scattering of velvety goat cheese, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and a princely amount of sweet dried strawberries and blueberries. Deftly dressed in a pleasing balsamic vinaigrette, the Market Sunflower Salad hits all the right markers for a top-notch salad – it combines sweet, salty and tart elements with a captivating mix of ingredients and textures. And those bursting-with-flavor dried strawberries? Nectar of the gods.
Two Scottsdale locations, theherbbox.com
Inca Ensalada at Otro Café
Mexican restaurants aren’t usually known for their salads, but Otro Café has four playful and unusual offerings, including the standout Inca salad ($6-$12). Chef/owner Doug Robson loads the greens with a textural smorgasbord of sticky dried cranberries, crunchy pepitas, ripe avocado chunks, clingy quinoa, fresh sweet corn kernels and miniscule bits of red onion. He brightens the salad with a generous fistful of fresh mint and cilantro and then provides a lime wedge to finish. Lightly dressed in an herb vinaigrette with a hint of sweetness, the Inca pairs nicely with the garlicky grilled shrimp add-on ($5). Also onboard: a smattering of roasted yulu seeds from the Mexican bonete tree, packed with fiber and protein and reminiscent of sunflower seeds.
6035 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-266-0831, otrocafe.com