The term “salad” is thrown around quite liberally in the South — fruit salad, potato salad, macaroni salad. All delicious in their own right, but maybe not the fresh, verdant salad our doctors urge us to dive into.
Sure, it’s hard to beat fried chicken and a side of one of the above, but sometimes the summer heat puts you in the mood for a real deal salad, one filled with the many vegetables and fruits that are bursting with flavor this time of year. Loaded with ingredients like peaches, heirloom tomatoes, beets — and often (blessedly) copious amounts of cheese — these salads will have you forgetting that you even ordered a bowl of greens.
At The Grocery, chef Kevin Johnson offers guests an arugula-based salad featuring roasted beets, summer berries, spiced pecans, and Point Reyes blue cheese. Those looking for a more loosely defined “salad” can test out the roasted peaches dish, which combines the juicy fruit with tasso ham, pecan granola, and goat cheese.
You’ll also find peaches at Melfi’s where they are part of a simple, delicious burrata and prosciutto dish that’s finished with a drizzle of honey and basil.
82 Queen offers a salad with burrata, but theirs is fried and served with vine-ripe summer tomatoes. The salad is dressed with olive oil and balsamic syrup and is served with a grilled baguette meant for scooping up every last bit of ooey gooey cheese.
Next door at Husk, sweet and salty flavors define the salad using Vertical Roots lettuces — South Carolina peaches and blueberries, glazed beets, and candied benne provide the sweet, while spiced pecans and ricotta salata add an element of earthiness.
For lunch, check out the Park Cafe’s summer vegetable salad, which is filled with zucchini, squash, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and kale before it’s tossed in a feta herb vinaigrette.
Basic Kitchen offers several vegetable-rich dishes like their sweet potato noodle-based “rainbow bowl” or their sesame kale, chickpea, and grilled broccoli “basic bowl.” For something with a little more protein, try the Vietnamese steak salad, which combines little gem lettuce, seasonal peas, bean sprouts, cucumber, and bright herbs like mint and basil.
Over at The Harbinger Bakery and Cafe, their salad selection is so fresh the options change daily, meaning you will just have to stop in and build a plate of your own. Look out for uber fresh recent offerings like a strawberry chioggia beet salad made with spiced pecans, arugula, local strawberries, local chioggia beets, and rosemary; heirloom tomato and fennel salad with local yellow and rainbow tomato, local fennel, mint, basil, white beans, and EVOO; and a summer squash salad with local Okinawa sweet potato, summer squash, heirloom tomato, marinated onions, and basil.
The menu at Sorghum & Salt rotates with the seasons, and right now the restaurant is offering a colorful panzanella number featuring Rosebank Farm green tomatoes, Spade & Clover purple daikon, Kurios Farms cucumbers, South Carolina summer squash, and house-made focaccia.
Butcher & Bee is also preparing heirloom summer squash, but theirs is grilled and served with a garlicky, herbaceous chermoula sauce, plus hazelnut muhammara and sheep’s milk feta.
Parcel 32‘s smash burger is a must, but start out with the Lowcountry lettuces, which combine bright peaches and blueberries with Clemson blue cheese, giving the salad a little bite.
And if you haven’t quite had your fill of fresh peaches, wander down to The Macintosh, where you’ll find an offering that combines them with blue cheese, spiced pecan, and scallions before it’s dressed in a Banyuls vinaigrette.
FIG puts a spin on the classic Caesar using chicory, a woody, herbaceous plant of the dandelion family, plus a brioche crouton and hardy French cheese mimolette.
Red Bibb lettuce is on the menu at Westside neighborhood eatery Purlieu, where locals go for French inspired bistro-bites and the famed P237 burger. But back to the Bibb, which is dressed in an aged sherry vinaigrette and layered with local peaches, crispy prosciutto, crunchy pine nuts, and creamy ricotta, forming a dish that is so much more than just a salad.
Last but not least, settle in with a flight of Vin Pétillant on Spring Street at Josephine Wine Bar, where executive chef Shaun Connolly offers an impressive list of small plates like foie gras mousse parfait and potted rabbit rillette. His Vertical Roots butter lettuce salad also strays from the norm through the use of pickled avocado and preserved lemon, which join jicama and watermelon radish before everything is lightly tossed in a buttermilk dressing that complements the dish’s punch of acidity.