Summer and salads go hand in hand.
My favorite light and leafy lunch consists of crisp lettuce, bright red tomatoes, crunchy onions and creamy hunks of ripe avocado, but I don’t always have the time for all the washing, chopping and vinaigrette-whisking required to make it. So lately I’ve been on the lookout for local restaurants that serve healthy salads to go.
T. Loft is all about making clean eating convenient. The tea and juice bar with locations in Kansas City, Leawood and Lawrence makes its Basil Hummus salad ($8) by topping spinach with red peppers, diced cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, chicken and a dollop of protein-rich hummus. A light, lemony vinaigrette comes on the side, which keeps the spinach from getting soggy.
T. Loft, which plans to open a fourth location on the Country Club Plaza in September, also makes a healthy twist on the classic Cobb salad. The Kalifornia Cobb ($8) tops kale and spinach with diced turkey, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado and blue cheese crumbles. Honey mustard comes on the side of the satisfying meal, which packs 22 grams of protein, according to T. Loft’s menu.
Kale is also the star ingredient in Whole Foods’ Super Food Salad. The leafy greens are chopped into small shreds and mixed with napa cabbage, cashews, sunflower seeds, blueberries, edamame, grape tomatoes, red onions, carrots and acai berries. The slaw-like salad ($10.99 per pound) is dressed with a vinaigrette made with acai juice, apple cider vinegar and canola oil. It keeps its crunchy texture even after a day in the fridge.
Look for it in the refrigerated convenience food section at the Whole Foods stores in Overland Park and Olathe alongside other portable options such as a colorful spinach salad ($6.99) topped with dried cranberries and slices of mandarin oranges and red onions.
The Merc Co-Op, 901 Iowa St. in Lawrence, also makes a mean spinach salad ($4.99) with dried cranberries and red onion. The Merc’s version gets extra sweetness from candied walnuts and a honey-laced sherry vinaigrette. Crumbles of goat cheese add richness and tang.
The natural foods store stocks the salad in its newly renovated cafe, which also serves pre-made sandwiches, sushi, fresh juice and locally brewed kombucha on tap.
Those who can’t stomach spinach or kale should try the Knife & Fork salad at The Mixx ($8.99 for a mini or $10.99 for a full), which has locations downtown, on the Plaza and in Overland Park. The Knife & Fork salad is perfect for meat-and-potatoes lovers: Picture a mix of field greens topped with herb-roasted potatoes, roma tomatoes, Gorgonzola cheese and grilled-to-order slices of steak. The salad is best eaten while the steak is still hot, otherwise the delicate greens will wilt.
For picnic-perfect salads, place a carryout order at Spin Neapolitan Pizza, which serves its salads to go in paper boxes. The 8 Color salad ($5.25 for a half or $8.75 for a full) lives up to its name with green romaine, red cabbage, roasted grape tomatoes, radishes, celery, scallions, toasted pine nuts, Gorgonzola cheese and crunchy croutons. It comes with red wine vinaigrette or cucumber buttermilk dressing; ask for it on the side if you’re saving the salad for later.
Obsessed with bacon bits? Try Spin’s Chopped BLT salad ($5.25 for a half or $8.75 for a full), which gets lots of flavor from pancetta (think Italian bacon). The romaine lettuce salad also comes with tomatoes, scallions, croutons and Gorgonzola. Spin has locations in Kansas City, Lee’s Summit, Lenexa, Prairie Village, Overland Park and Olathe.
When I’m craving a big salad — the kind Elaine Benes described as “a salad, only bigger, with lots of stuff in it” in an episode of “Seinfeld” — I go to Twenty 20. The cafe at 2020 Baltimore Ave. #102 doesn’t skimp on the toppings in its Central Valley ($9), a big bed of romaine and spring greens loaded with black olives, cucumber, tomato, artichokes, carrots and pepperoncini. It comes in a handy plastic clamshell with a sealed cup of Italian vinaigrette — no chopping or whisking required.