Best Healthy Fast Food (2006)

Giardino Gourmet Salads

Healthy fast food is an oxymoron. When describing those who frequent unhealthy fast-food restaurants regularly, you can take away the oxy. Eating is pleasure, so what's the rush? Yes, you have a point -- lunch hour lasts only so long. And sometimes you just do not have time to linger over dinner. But if you are going to go the dumb fast-food route, you might as well do it smartly by heading to Giardino Gourmet Salads. It's a little place with seating for only about two dozen, but that's because Giardino specializes in the speediest of dining options -- take-out. Take-out salads, mostly, which are prepared faster than you can say Big Mac. There are 31 predesigned combinations based on a variety of lettuce greens, from a simple caesar spiked with bacon, to seafood salad with lemon-dill dressing, to Asian salad with tahini-curry dressing. Do-it-yourself types can customize their own salads. Choose from traditional fixings like tomatoes, cucumbers, and grated carrots, to more unusual garnishes such as Japanese seaweed flakes, shredded coconut, and baby corn. Countless such toppings line the counter along with more than 30 housemade dressings and 18 types of croutons, which means the number of potential creations one can concoct is nearly infinite -- slightly more than infinite should you decide to roll your salad into a sandwich (there are rice paper wraps and flour tortillas to do so; take that, Subway!). Middle Eastern selections like tabbouleh and hummus are also on hand, as are better-than-to-be-expected desserts -- especially the frothy fruit mousses. A giant greens-based salad is $9, medium-size is $7, and a generously portioned small version is $5. Eat your heart out at KFC, or treat it gently at Giardino.


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