When mealtime approaches this time of year and I ask myself what I'm craving, the immediate, elemental reply is "salad." Light, verdant salads are so quick and easy to fix at home, when you eat them out in the world, you want something with a little more finesse. Not too fussy or full of wild combinations, but a cooling plate of harmonious flavors that leave you sated but not glutted. Here are some of my favorites around town.
Fattoush at Byblos
It really doesn't sound like much: common romaine with tomato and cucumber in a garlicky dressing, enlivened with crunchy bits of toasted pita. In the hands of Byblos' capable kitchen, though, this salad is elevated to a study of subtle juxtapositions. Eyebrows inevitably rise in surprise when people first taste it, and among the many small plates of mezze brought to the table, it's typically the first to disappear. 10684 Alpharetta Highway, Roswell, 678-352-0321, www.byblos-atlanta.com.
Arugula salad at The Food Studio
Arugula, the tiramisu of salad greens, has become the victim of mass overexposure in the last decade. But The Food Studio has conceived a gem that makes its peppery appeal fresh again. Paired with house-smoked salmon, genuinely ripe slices of cantaloupe and walnuts and tossed in a lemony dressing, arugula becomes but one note in an unlikely but congruous chorus of flavors. 887 W. Marietta St. K-102, 404-815-6677, www.thefoodstudio.com.
Chopped salad at Maggiano's
Yes, Maggiano's is a cheesy chain, but I flat out love this salad. Everyone else can gorge on chicken parmesan and whopping bowls of pasta. I'll just take a big plate of this deft, zesty blend of chopped iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, scallions, avocado and prociutto-cum-bacon bits. Usually I skip the crowds and the wait and get this to go. 3368 Peachtree Road, 404-816-9650; 4400 Ashford Dunwoody Road, 770-804-3313, www.maggianos.com.
Red snapper sashimi salad at Taka
Before I feast on sushi at this quirky cafe with chef/owner Takao (Taka) Moriuchi at the helm, I always order this summery creation. New Zealand red snapper is arranged artfully on a plate with exactingly diced cucumber, grape tomatoes, scallions and daikon radish, all of which bathes in a gently citrusy lime wasabi. The salad's sunny disposition always gets me in the mood for Moriuchi's wacky Copacabana Roll with scallops and mango. 375 Pharr Road, 404-869-2802.
Summer salads at Souper Jenny
When the weather turns warm, Souperwoman Jenny Levison reduces her potage output and lays out a gorgeous spread of daily changing salads. Consider a recent selection: roasted asparagus with apricot, endive and crumbled blue; chicken salad with green grapes, cashews and fresh basil; marinated and baked tofu on a bed of cabbage; fresh fruit salad; and cucumber and sugar snap peas dressed in an orange, mint and toasted almond pesto. 'Nough said? No worries -- she's still got soup for the diehards. Plus, there's a lovely, newly paved patio on which to enjoy your lunch. 56 E. Andrews Drive, 404-239-9023.
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