Yes, there is life beyond Fresh Choice. In our region, in fact, there are almost too many salad choices, as I discovered while researching this story. I (obviously) couldn’t get to them all. But here are four worth a try, all under $10.
FARMER’S MARKET: $7.50 regular/$9.50 large
Pronto, 1501 16th St.
A new discovery: Pronto serves delicious, inventive salads. The Farmer’s Market is a winner for a bunch of reasons: It’s got nice big slices of roasted chicken, lots of avocado, fresh corn, goat cheese and dates, plus a creamy tarragon dressing. It’s a dazzling mix. But the thing that really sends this salad over the moon are the fantastically fat cornbread croutons, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It’s an unusual taste treat you’re not likely to find elsewhere.
DOLLAR-WISE TIP: Pronto’s smaller-size salads—yes, the cheaper ones—will probably fill you up. The bowls are deep.
A LITTLE OF THIS AND A LITTLE OF THAT: $7.99 regular/ $6.99 half
Opa! Opa!, 5644 J St.
Powered by garlic, oregano, mint, fresh lemon juice and olive oil—it’s Greek, after all—this fun and flavorful sampler features four light, lovely, cool summer salads: tabouli; orzo pasta (with tomatoes, artichokes and kalamata olives); horiatiki (which the Opa folks call Summer in Athens), a traditional Mediterranean mix of fresh tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, onions and feta; and the Chickie Mama salad, with chickpeas, olives, onions, tomato, chopped mint and other spices. All were fresh and tasty, but I think the Chickie Mama may be my new favorite.
DOLLAR-WISE TIP: Fork out the extra 99 cents for a side order of lightly grilled pita bread. It’s worth it.
Buckhorn Grill, 1801 L St.
It’s the crispy Roadhouse onions—thin, lightly battered and piled high—that lift this salad through the roof. The sweet, lightly toasted walnuts and honey-basil vinaigrette also add to the fun, salty/sweet flavor profile. It’s a big salad, with plentiful, fresh mixed greens, crunchy string beans, fresh tomatoes and blue cheese crumbles. One of my girlfriends says she regularly craves the Roadhouse. I can see why. (Meat eaters, note: You can add grilled chicken for $2.50, salmon or tri-tip for $3).
DOLLAR-WISE TIP: Mad about Buckhorn’s tri-tip? Order the $9.99 Caesar Pleaser: tri-tip with Caesar salad and bread.
SALAD SAMPLER: $8.95
Ettore’s European Bakery & Restaurant, 2376 Fair Oaks Blvd.
A potpourri of pretty salads is on display daily at Ettore’s, making choices tough. Thank you, salad sampler. This time, my trio was a bow-tie pasta salad with chunks of zucchini, broccoli, artichokes, black olives and cherry tomatoes in a wonderful cilantro-lime dressing; a colorful veggie salad with spinach, carrots, broccoli, tomato, radicchio and Parmesan, tossed in a red wine dressing; and a terrific chicken salad with an Asian twist, featuring mandarin slices, red grapes and toasted sliced almonds.
DOLLAR-WISE TIP: Ask for a taste-test before you commit. I did, and the Ettore’s staff was happy to oblige.