As George Castanza once flailed his arms about, "You had to order the big salad?" The answer is simply yes. Jerry Seinfeld may say, for a laugh, that it has to have, "Big lettuce, big carrots, tomatoes like volleyballs." Although, finding a fantastic, affordable big salad that can be your new best friend for post cheat-day or for lunch/dinner every day is the big feat.
A recent trip home to my hippie, surfer hometown of Santa Cruz, California, brought to light this exact item that Miami is missing. My first dining stop was to Dharma's, a vegetarian-friendly restaurant for the gardener's salad ($9.95) with miso honey dressing. (Side note: I always make a conscious effort to not say "miso horny" and I always fail). It has always been my ultimate perfect salad. And has caused my mother to say, "If only you were as excited about a man, as you are about this salad." There's something about this blend of lettuces, carrots, cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, sunflower sprouts and seeds with the creamy and sweet dressing that perks me right up. At the neighboring and eye-roll inducing, small California chain Cafe Gratitude you can get a similar salad by ordering the affirmation, "I am Fulfilled" but it is not the same and leaves a void.
While naming the ten best comfort foods in Miami with cheese, gooey and fried monstrosities might come easy, when it comes to big salads I am at a bit of a loss.
Sure, I can tell you where to get a great conch salad, a tasty tuna salad, a fluffy falafel salad, an extravagant Brazilian sausage and prawn salad for $14.95 and even a mini salad, but a great, big salad is hard to come by.
Many high-end restaurants seem to have fancy, complex salads but nothing I'd eat regularly. Low-end restaurants seem to all have browned bagged lettuce. And in the middle it is a lack of quality ingredients and unimaginative creations. Harry's Pizzeria is a bit of an exception to that rule, but I want bigger and unsharable.
Yes, I can build my own at the Whole Food salad bar, but I can't be trusted when my creations get weighed, I've never been able to go under $12 when I am in charge of the tongs. Local chain Giardino Gourmet Salads is a good in-between with set options and build-your-own while they toss, but $12.95 for a "grande" is steep.
My favorite local healthful restaurant is Mi Vida, with that marvelous beet tartare. Perhaps I should try their Big Salad that is described as having "sprouts, arugula, avocado, flax seeds, and anything else in our fridge! Served with a ginger and shallots vinaigrette." The price tag on this delightful sounding blend is $12.
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Ideally, a big salad should hit beneath the $10 mark to make it my go-to. Go-Go Fresh Food Cafe offers that with the majority of their fresh and innovative big salad, but they are an exception and you have to brave parking and torn up Alton Road.
Until the construction is complete, I am still in search of the perfect big salad.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst