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Fall affords fresh look at salad bars

Fall is here, which means ’tis the season for rich, heavy food. But I for one don’t want to look heavier come spring, hence I try to work in a few salads among those hearty stews and braised dishes. Salad bars are a good way to get your salad fix, so consider popping by one of these.

Dean & Deluca (6903 Phillips Place Court; 201 S. Tryon St.; 7804 Rea Road) doesn’t have a self-serve salad bar, but just say the word and a white-smocked attendant will artfully arrange any number of 30-plus ingredients in a white cardboard box. Feel free to create your own salad, or go with one of the composed salads on the menu. The Cobb salad with a hunk of buttery salmon is a particularly fine choice.

You might not think of going to a hotel for a salad bar, but Trade Restaurant & Bar (132 E. Trade St.) at The Omni Hotel in uptown has one of the better ones. While it doesn’t have as many choices as other salad bars, what it does have (grilled steak and chicken) is of high quality. The atmosphere is also pretty sweet.

A number of Harris Teeter locations have salad bars, but the one at the Morrocroft store (6701 Morrison Blvd.) in south Charlotte might be the best. I suggest stopping by the salad bar on the way to work, as there’s hardly anyone around. If you go around lunch or dinner, you’ll creep along in a slow-moving line as you wait to fill your box with kale, tuna salad, fresh mango and grilled veggies. After all, while it’s permissible (albeit not advisable) to weave in and around cars in Morrocroft’s uber busy parking lot, cutting in and out of the salad bar line is just bad form.

Earth Fare (721 Governor Morrison St.; 12235 North Community House Road; 14021 Boren St., Huntersville) and Whole Foods (6610 Fairview Road) are two more grocery stores to visit for salad fixes. What’s nice about them is the salad and hot bars are the same price, allowing for even greater creativity. At Whole Foods there was a really nice chicken fajita blend on the hot bar that would go great with the romaine, corn, kidney beans, pico de gallo and olives from the salad bar. The number of choices on the salad bar at Earth Fare weren’t as many as Whole Foods – though Earth Fare’s bar is cheaper per pound. Still, Earth Fare’s baked swordfish, pesto chicken or pulled pork pairs satisfyingly with the salad bar’s spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots.

Ruby Tuesday (8905 Red Oak Blvd.; 7401 East Independence Blvd.; 12330 Johnston Road) has been around since 1972, and the inside of the restaurant kinda has a 1990s feel (though I suppose salads may be one of the few things that never really go out of style). In terms of the quality of ingredients, Ruby’s all-you-can-eat salad bar is very much up-to-date. Look for mesclun, romaine and spinach; some lovely Roma tomatoes; zucchini and green peppers; pasta, fruit and veggie salads. While they aren’t on the salad bar, a Ruby Tuesday server brings around fluffy little cheddar herb biscuits that are a perfect salad accompaniment.

If you have a close relationship with a child who’s 10 or younger, then chances are you’ve been to Chuck E. Cheese (7701 Pineville-Matthews Road; 5612 Albemarle Road; 7970 Lyles Lane NW). But before you start rending your romaine because I included the buck-toothed mouse in this story, hear me out. Despite the crush of screaming children, Chuck E. is worth mentioning because it has a better-than-average salad bar. And consider paying a couple of extra bucks to get some grilled chicken for your salad; you’ll be given enough to cover two trips to the all-you-can-eat bar.

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