by Kara Kimbrough
Nothing says summer like the subtle snap, crunch and burst of fresh flavor encapsulated in a crispy salad filled with greens, chopped vegetables, tart (or spicy or sweet) dressing and, if desired, a coating of sliced meats and cheeses. When the urge for a light meal emerges, it’s good to know many restaurants are still offering a full lineup of salads for pick-up or delivery, as well as the opportunity to dine in whenever possible. Some restaurants like Salad Station, with locations in several Mississippi cities, are dedicated almost solely to the art of creating temptingly-delicious, creative salads to serve as a full meal or healthy side dish.
This time of year, more often than not I turn to a refreshing salad when dining out. However, that doesn’t mean I always desire a light meal. My favorite salads contain elements of heavier entrees courtesy of meat, seafood and chicken toppings reminiscent of main entrees. Here is a sample of some of my favorite salad offerings around the state.
1. My fondness for Rooster’s fried chicken tenders has already been shared. There’s no way to accurately describe the tender, lightly-fried tenders; you simply have to try them yourself. When I’m in the mood for a salad, I can still get my Rooster’s chicken fix courtesy of the Jackson restaurant’s fried chicken salad ($10.75). Crispy chicken is served on a bed of mixed lettuce along with Roma tomatoes, cheese, carrots, pickles, olives and onions. With a side of Comeback dressing, it’s the perfect antidote to a hot summer day.
2. Walker’s Drive-In is a close second in presenting a meal-worthy salad. The Jackson landmark is known for its fish and steaks but does an admirable job of presenting cool and creative salads when a lighter meal is in order. One of my favorites is Walker’s Cajun fried chicken salad ($7.50). It’s a delectable mix of greens and chopped vegetables served with honey Dijon dressing and cornbread dressing.
3. Further south, Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi has been delighting diners for nearly 60 years in one of the state’s oldest buildings. There is no scarcity of broiled or grilled seafood on the menu, but every now and then, the desire for a salad emerges. Mary Mahoney’s doesn’t disappoint, serving up sumptuous salads with its customary flair. One of my favorites is simply known as seafood salad ($18, pictured right). It’s a bountiful serving of shrimp and crab meat on a bed of greens, boiled eggs, chopped vegetables served with the restaurant’s homemade dressings.
4. Delis usually produce a more-than-satisfactory lineup of salads, and McAlister’s is no exception. One of my go-to lunches is McAlister’s Savannah chopped salad ($8.95). It’s served in a large bowl filled with mixed greens, grilled chicken, dried cranberries, Gorgonzola, honey roasted almonds, tomatoes and cucumbers. A side of sherry shallot dressing is the perfect topping for this light - yet filling - meal.
5. It’s hard to pick a favorite salad spot, but Amerigo comes close to gaining the honor. It's primarily because they combine pasta with salad in one bowl. Amerigo’s bow tie pasta Caesar ($12) includes homemade pasta, grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, pesto and balsamic vinaigrette over Caesar salad. Pasta, pesto, chicken, and salad… it really doesn’t get much better than this filling dish.
6. I’m more than a little sad that Hattiesburg’s Purple Parrot Café is closing on August 1 after 33 years as one of the top spots for fine dining. I’m melancholy for many reasons, one of which is that I’ll no longer be able to enjoy the restaurant’s famous sensation salad. It sounds simple: a spring mix topped with Romano and bleu cheeses. However, the white wine vinaigrette is what makes the salad a standout. To send what I previously labeled as “Hattiesburg’s Grande dame” out in style, restaurateur Robert St. John is opening the restaurant for five nights – July 28 through August 1 – to allow loyal fans one last chance to enjoy their favorite spot. For reservations, call 601-264-0656.