If you think restaurant salads are getting bigger, you’re not mistaken. They are.
These days, restaurant salads are bigger not just in size but in flavor, texture, number of ingredients and sheer creativity. New York Magazine, always on the lookout for the latest and greatest, recently waxed poetic about the beauty of the Big-Ass Salad.
Sacramento restaurants have jumped on the bandwagon, serving interesting takes on the Big-Ass Salad (henceforth to be referred to as BAS). Generally, a BAS includes everything but the kitchen sink: at least one protein (meat or seafood), a grain, a market basket of colorful produce, perhaps some cheese, a handful of nuts, something like croutons that crunches, an intriguing dressing and of course greens of some sort. It often comes in a massive vessel that clearly announces, “This salad is BIG.”
Betty, the hip wine bar and bottle shop in downtown Sacramento, is one of the city’s foremost practitioners of the BAS. Its Chopped Italian is essentially a deconstructed hoagie, with two lettuces (iceberg and romaine), marinated chickpeas, mozzarella, salami, red onion, Castelvetrano olives and peperoncini, all dressed with a red wine vinaigrette. Another big Betty salad, Il Cavolo Nero, features inky-dark dino kale tossed with quinoa, rainbow carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, avocado and roasted almonds in a tangy lemon-turmeric-ginger dressing.
“The Big Salads are flying out of the kitchen at Betty because they are entrée size, light on carbs, full of flavor and deeply satisfying,” says owner Colleen Fleming. While Betty also serves big deli-style sandwiches, the salads have found a constituency in diners looking to cut back on carbs, gluten or meat. “I think the enormous size of our salads helps satisfy people’s appetites and desire to eat something that doesn’t skimp on flavor,” Fleming adds.
A few blocks away, at the gluten-free restaurant Sibling by Pushkin’s, all the salads on the menu are BAS, says co-owner Olga Turner. When Sibling expanded its operating hours to include dinner this past spring, meal-sized salads joined the menu. The Peanut Ramen Steak Salad—slices of grilled steak served in a capacious bowl with Asian noodles, bok choy, arugula, carrots, onion, micro greens, mint, cilantro and roasted peanuts in a peanut dressing—hardly seems like a salad at all. Salad adjacent is more like it.
A salad with so many flavors and textures forces you to slow down when you’re eating, says Turner. “You can eat a sandwich and fries really fast,” she notes. “With a big salad, you’re going to be happy and leave full.” But not too full, she says: “A big salad is a lighter alternative to a steak and potato.”
Old-fashioned composed salads such as the Cobb, the Waldorf and the Chopped lend themselves to the BAS treatment. Cafe Bernardo’s version of the Chopped Salad is a plate sized mound of romaine lettuce, cut into small pieces and mixed with grilled chicken chunks, crisp bacon lardons, hard-cooked egg and avocado in a blue cheese vinaigrette. With each bite, you get something rich and tasty along with the greens.
In these inflationary times, the BAS is a definite win for the budget-minded. As everything else seems to be shrinking, the salad just keeps getting bigger and better.
BETTY WINE BAR
1103 T St.;
SIBLING BY PUSHKIN’S
1813 Capitol Ave.;