After a few weeks of being away from home and my regular eating habits, I start to crave vegetables in massive quantities. So it was that after I returned from Brazil, all I ate every day for lunch was salad. Luckily, even though American food has a terrible reputation for heaviness and saltiness and deep-fried-ed-ness, America does excel at salads.
I started at the new Walgreen’s on State Street. I give them six months before all they offer is Doritos and Cheetos and People magazine. But in the meantime, they have a large selection of lunch salads, and they’re super cheap too. My Southwestern Chicken salad was $5.10. (+/- a few cents. I forget exactly how much.) There were only 1.5 pieces of chicken in the salad, and the tortilla chips were a bit on the stale side, but the dressing was pretty awesome. If I were on a budget, I’d eat this salad more often.
On Tuesday, I hopped over to 7th on State at Macy’s. I am a sucker for their Shrimp Tostada salad and their pretzel bread. This is not a low-calorie salad, but it is pretty damn delicious. I normally try not to eat the bread or the fried tostada that forms the base of the salad. I focus on the greens, the shrimp, and the black beans (hidden under the lettuce). This is not a cheap salad — it generally comes in around $11 bucks — but it’s pretty darn good for the price.
My favorite salad of the week has to be the Chimi Chop Salad at Native Foods at 218 S Clark Street in the Chicago Loop. Another $11 salad. But no meat! Only veg. I don’t know if it’s the “warm shaved Native Peppered Seitan” (no idea what that is) or the dressing or what, but this is a damn good salad that I think about often in my spare time. I am not kidding.
Admittedly, on Friday I took a break from salad. I had a craving for some Indian food, so I went to the only place I could find in The Loop serving a curry. The place is called Curried and it kinda, well, sucks. Firstly, they screwed up my order. Secondly, if screwing up my order wasn’t bad enough, when I went up to the counter to deliver my gentle, “Hey um, so I don’t think this is mine,” the guy at the counter told me I must have made a mistake. Um, no. I didn’t make a mistake, you did. Jackass. And thirdly, while the saag paneer was nice, the chicken tikka felt like it must have come out of a box.
Despite Friday’s slip up, today, I was back on the salad. I caught up my colleague Mark — he back from London, me back from Brazil — over a Winter Cobb Salad at the Atwood Cafe in The Burnham Hotel. I used to stay at The Burnham all the time for work in the old days, back when I lived across the pond. I will always have a soft spot for the hotel and its restaurant. But with or without my faded memories, this was a very nice salad. Could have used a bit more dressing, but otherwise, quite nice. Pricey though. My portion of the bill came to $24, with tip and tax. I got a lot of ingredients though, for $24. But still…sigh.
The Verdict: If I had to rank the salads, I would say…
1. Native Foods, Chimi Chop
2. 7th on State, Shrimp Tostada
3. Atwood Cafe, Winter Cobb
4. Au Bon Pain, Mediterranean Salad
5. Walgreen’s Southwestern Salad
That’s roughly $58 on salad, plus the $11 I spent on curry for $69. Wowzers. And I wonder why I have no money.