Summertime may be synonymous with barbecuing, but flipping burgers, steaks and bratwurst on an outdoor grill can require much motivation when the outside thermometer reads 90 degrees or higher.
And if maintaining a sleek beach body is an important part of the equation, such indulgences should probably be kept to a minimum.
Years ago, any suggestion of salads being a viable alternative to more hearty and time-honored summertime fare would have been scoffed by traditionalists. Today, though — and particularly for those of us fortunate to live in the heart of the Garden State — fewer folks condemn the idea of trading a bacon burger with the works for a healthy-yet-delectable salad.
Salads have always been akin to the healthiest meal options available, so what could go wrong, right? Plenty, if you don’t pay attention to what you’re actually eating.
Here are a few local establishments to consider that pride themselves on preparing some of the healthiest and best-tasting salads east of the Mississippi, and some other salads that qualify if the “healthiest and” part of the sentence is removed.
Ohana Juice Bar
The motivation behind creating Ohana about a year ago was to offer Hammonton residents more healthful eating options, so any efforts to find fattening fault with their salads would be fruitless.
“If you’ve ever been to Hammonton you know we’re well known for our delicious foods, but some of them, while delicious, might not be what you’d want to have every night and still maintain a healthy weight,” says Ohana Co-Founder Danielle Florence. “That’s really how Ohana got started.”
One of Ohana’s biggest sellers, says Florence, is the Kale Yeah salad, which includes kale, red bell peppers, avocado, dried cranberries and goat cheese crumbles.
“We marinate the kale in our house-made balsamic vinaigrette to soften it up a little bit and take away some of the bitter taste without compromising the nutrients that kale is packed with,” Florence says. “All our dressings are house made, and after marinating it we toss the salad in a lemon olive oil dressing. It’s delicious, and definitely one of our biggest sellers.”
Others that are popular include the Cucado, which Florence says is a cucumber-and-avocado salad, and the Zoodle Doodle, which is carmelized zucchini noodles with a lemon olive oil sauce tossed with avocados and halved cherry tomatoes. All Ohana salads come with the option of seared tuna or grilled chicken toppings.
Jalapenos & Salads
Right off the top, and before goading anyone in management in what has clearly become a successful and healthy-options-oriented operation, Jalapenos & Salads — with local locations in Margate and Egg Harbor Township — identifies the caloric content of all 14 salad options minus the dressings, and then adds the caloric content of all the dressings in another section of the menu.
That being said, the three biggest sellers, according to J&S Regional Manager Emily Spell, are all well within the healthy-calorie range one would want in order to stay fit. They include the Hawaiian Salad (323 calories, and featuring spring mix, cucumbers, strawberries, pineapples, apples, avocado, craisins and walnuts); the South of the Border (394 calories, with iceberg-romaine mix, a blend of cheeses, tomatoes, black and green olives, bean and corn mix); and the Spinach Salad (379 calories, with baby spinach, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, bacon bits, croutons and a chopped hard-boiled egg).
J&S also offers the “Make Your Own” salad, which, with the options of seven additional toppings beyond the standard spring mix, and with an edible taco bowl as an option, could make the Big Mac look like health food in terms of calories and fat content.
This is a store that recently opened in Galloway Township and is part of a franchise operation with a 30-plus-year history. The first one opened in Camden County with a business model that states: “providing fresh, made-to-order salads as an alternative food for consumers on the go.”
Like the Jalapeno & Salads conglomerate, its options include creating salads for a fixed price and a list of options, noting to the consumer that options can vary from 40 calories (essentially lettuce topped with vinegar) to more than 1,000 calories in a single serving.
The Bentley (mixed greens with baked ham, roasted turkey, chopped eggs, provolone, tortilla strips, croutons and Green Goddess dressing) is among its highest-caloric options on the pre-created menu, but anyone could easily double that 600-plus-calorie figure if they got creative at Saladworks.
Heart Beet Kitchen
Relatively new to Ocean City but well established at its flagship store near Cherry Hill, Heart Beet is another healthy-options establishment that makes poking fun at their salads difficult. In fact, there are only three on their menu and all are bursting with vitamins and minerals — the Ginger Miso, the Quinoa Caesar and the Heart of Palm.
“By far our most popular salad is the Quinoa Caesar, which features house-made croutons and a creamy cashew Caesar dressing, smoked chick peas, arugula and quinoa (a South American green related to spinach),” says Heart Beet’s Ashley Coyne.
Chickie’s & Pete’s
Why are they on this list? Are they not best known as a sports bar for their secret-recipe Crab fries? Yes, but it just so happens that Chickie’s & Pete’s also serves exceptional salads. The reason behind this may hinge on certain significant others tagging along to watch sporting events, yet drawing a line when it comes to chugging beers and scarfing down buffalo wings.
Among C&P’s salad offerings is its Signature Caesar, which features a house-made dressing, seasoned croutons, romaine hearts and Romano cheese. An alternative to the Signature Caesar is called the SPI (South Philly Italian), which is a Caesar salad topped with house-made marinara and meatballs, and billed as “just like Ma used to make.”
This intimate Atlantic Avenue A.C. gem is one that guests might need some patience to enjoy, as reservations are often required days, sometimes weeks, in advance. The food is so exceptional, though, that the wait is well worthwhile. The Cafe has become well known for tableside service with certain dishes, including a family-recipe Caesar salad dressing for a minimum of two patrons. This could qualify as a salad for which patrons must conjure up a guilt-free conscience, as the recipe is prepared with Parmigiana Reggiano, olive oil, diced garlic, pasteurized egg yolk, anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, dry mustard and black pepper.
Joel and Kari Rosen, Camden County residents who have a vacation home in Brigantine, are regular diners at Cafe 2825.
“Their Caesar salad is out of this world,” says Joel Rosen, “and you don’t find too many places that do that tableside preparation anymore.”