In January, it feels like everyone is ready for a fresh start. We might make New Year’s resolutions about food: wanting to cook more, wanting to eat more healthfully, wanting to drink less, and such.
For me, my usual orders are tacos, chicken wings, sushi, cheeseburgers, cocktails, pasta, and chicken sandwiches. Notice how salads aren’t on my usual list. I know I should eat more salads, but I much prefer to pay $5 for a package of spinach that haunts me all week from my fridge until I muster enough energy to throw some cucumbers and dressing on it and call it salad.
Enough of the sad salads this new year. If I’m going to eat salad, it had better be a great salad, not just good for you. I’m talking flavors, textures, and some pizzazz. I tried lots of salads around town, and here’s my list of five scrumptious salads for when we have a hankering for greens.
Baxter’s Salad | Baxter’s American Grille
Even though I am a sucker for the gooey butter cake and Italian beef sandwich at Baxter’s, I enjoyed the Baxter’s salad ($12). Made with baby mixed greens, smoked Gouda, chopped tomatoes, candied walnuts, sliced apples, thin red onion, shredded carrots, and a champagne vinaigrette, this salad was excellent. There were lots of greens and a very generous heap of salad toppings. Lightly dressed, the salad was good, but the best part was the plentiful toppings: the smoky Gouda, the candied nuts, and crisp apple slices. A bite with both apple and cheese was superb: cold crisp fruit and creamy smoked Gouda was a combination that made my mouth so very happy. Oftentimes, salads don’t have enough extras to make eating the greens worth it, but Baxter’s knows how to salad.
The salad has options for added protein (chicken, shrimp, or salmon) for an additional cost. You can enjoy the salad at the restaurant or call to order it to go.
Baxter’s American Grille
100 Trade Center Drive
M-F 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sa 3 to 9 p.m.
Su 3 to 8 p.m.
Lemon Garlic Salad | The Bread Company
Salads are great takeout food especially for those who are not comfortable dining in right now. I called my order in, and my Bread Co lunch was ready in a flash. The lemon garlic salad ($6.50) came with mixed greens, red onions, capers, sliced tomato, and a side cup of lemon garlic dressing. The salad was a fresh, savory salad that had me dragging the greens through any pool of the lemon garlic dressing I could find. The salty capers were fantastic additions to the flavors in the dressing. The lemon tang and the garlic gusto in the dressing were just delish. The red onion was sliced so delicately thin giving a subtlety to the onion’s flavor. There was a ton of mixed greens packed into the pan, especially for this salad being the most budget friendly in the list.
You can add protein to this salad for an additional cost, and the options include chicken, turkey, and tuna salad. This salad was a fast, delicious option for lunch that could be enjoyed at the restaurant or picked up after calling the order in.
The Bread Company
706 S Goodwin
M 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
T-F 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sa 3 p.m. until close
Strawberry Chicken Salad | Farren’s Pub
This salad at Farren’s was banging. The strawberry chicken salad ($12) came with chicken on mixed greens with grapes, sliced strawberries, walnuts, Parmesan, and strawberry vinaigrette with two crackers on the side. I upgraded from grilled chicken to fried chicken for no additional cost, and there were options to sub chicken for steak for $2 or scallops for $8. Culture Editor Julie loves the grilled scallop version of this salad.
The humongous salad had so much fried chicken on top — and fried chicken on a salad is my kind of salad. The crispy, battered chicken was cut into strips and had a satisfying crunch and saltiness. The chicken was warm which was a great temp contrast to the rest of the salad. The poppyseed dressing was sweet, fruity, and so tasty. Any bite with chicken, a sliced strawberry, and greens with the vinaigrette was absolutely amazing. I loved this salad, and I will definitely be getting this again. Order it at the restaurant or get it to go.
Farren’s Pub and Eatery
117 N Walnut St
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Seven Saints Salad | Seven Saints
I ordered the namesake salad at Seven Saints ($10.99) which had seasoned tri-tip sirloin, diced fresh jalapeños, and toasted cashews tossed in lime juice and sesame oil. The salad was topped with a lot of warm steak with a great char and some fatty bites that were so, so good. The steak was clearly cooked to order, and I loved that it was cut into truly bite-sized pieces, just the right size to enjoy. The cashews gave a solid crunch, and the dressing had a light sesame flavor and a nice brightness from the lime.
This salad was well dressed; every green was tossed and coated in the dressing by the kitchen, and that made every bite of the salad damn delicious. The little jalapeños had some heat, and they tasted garden fresh and not too spicy. The nuttiness of the cashews, the flavorful steak, and the peppery dressing make this salad so scrumptious. You can order it at the restaurant or put in an online order.
32 E Chester St
Su+M 11 a.m. to midnight
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Yum Nuau Salad | Sticky Rice
This yum nuau salad ($14) is incredible and has been a favorite of mine for awhile. I’ve written about it here and here. The salad has marinated beef with cucumbers, red onions, jalapeños, carrots, tomatoes, cilantro, lettuce, and lime juice mixed in a combination of sauces and topped with crushed peanuts.
The yum nuau was a saucy salad with so much dressing, and all of the iceberg lettuce was soaked with the flavors of the dressing. The spice level can be adjusted from no spice to mild (3/10), medium (6/10), hot (10/10), Thai hot (15/10), or Lao hot (20/10). I prefer to order mine medium spice level. The medium left a lingering spiciness on my tongue but wasn’t overwhelming. The beef bites were sliced small, and the beef had a developed sweet and savory flavor. The carrot sticks and tomato chunks tossed in the dressing were just so yummy, and I could eat bowls and bowls of this salad. Eat at the Thai restaurant in Downtown Champaign or put in an online order for pick up.
415 N Neil St
M 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
W-Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su noon to 8 p.m.