I work Downtown Houston, and every so often when I’m too tired/lazy/hung-over to pack a lunch, I resort to venturing into the underground tunnel system to forage for sustenance. Downtown Houston is connected by miles and miles of tunnels filled with restaurants, dentists, small shops and power walkers avoiding the Houston heat. Due to proximity, I more often than not end up at the One Allen Center Food Court. While one of the nicer food courts in the tunnels, the options are, well, food court-ish. The options are great if you’re a college freshman (Chick-fil-a, Jimmy Johns, Murphy’s Deli) and can be a phenomenal fix for a post Turtle Races hangover (RIP Yumi Dumi Noodle Hut) but if you want to be healthy you really only have two options: Snap Kitchen–over priced, microwaved food–and Salata.
Claiming to be “the next generation of salad bars,” Salata takes on a similar restaurant model like that of Chipotle or eT Craft Burgers & Beer. It has a simple menu (either a large/small salad or wrap) with fixed prices. You go down the line pointing to lettuce, veggies, protein, and dressing that you want….And that ladies and gentlemen is the “next generation of salad bars”–where someone holds the salad tongs for you.
If you can beat the line, Salata is by far the best choice in One Allen Center. I went today at 11:00am and there were already 14 people in line. Any time between 11:30-12:30am, that line is a black hole, snakes around the whole food court, and can be easily 30 people deep. Like I said, Salata contains the healthiest lunch items. The line proves it. You’ve been warned.
I’ve been to Salata countless times, and tbh, always struggle with creating a tasty, cohesive salad. There’s just too many options! I always kind of go in with a plan like “oh I want this to be Mexican themed or Mediterranean themed.” But then after waiting for 15 minutes in line, I get in there and I’m like a squirrel and start pointing to everything that looks good (which is a lot) and I end up with some crazy spinach/black bean/almond/jalapeno/carrot/radish/tofu/falafel combo. Which is gooooood, but not great.
Given my repeatedly proven inability to exercise salad toppings restraint, I decided to try one of Salata’s summertime fruit salad suggestions. I crafted a “sweet and spicy” salad, starting off with a bed of Salata mixed greens, and then adding pineapple, red onion, green peppers, jalapenos, pumpkin seeds, mango, chipotle ranch dressing. Variations: added tomato, cilantro and exchanged grilled chicken for tofu.
I actually really love the tofu at Salata. It’s firm. It’s got good texture. It easily complements the other flavors in the dish and makes the meal quite filling. My one beef with Salata (lolz bc I’m a vegetarian) is that they have all the proportions wrong. I love lettuce as much as the next person–but there has got to be a good ratio between lettuce and toppings. I’m constantly asking for an addition scoop of toppings (I swear they use teaspoons or something). In this “sweet and spicy” salad, I loved it because it was actually quite spicy due to the jalapeños/chipotle dressing but I could have used double the amounts of fruit. They are super stingy on the veggie toppings but give giant spoons of dressing and multiple scoops of protein. If you’re not careful, Salata can get unhealthy pretty fast.
- Berry-balsamic salad: spinach, strawberries, cranberries, almonds, feta, blueberries, balsamic vinaigrette and grilled chicken
- Mediterranean salad: kale, cucumber, radish, feta, chick peas, water melon, lemon vinaigrette and falafel
- Spicy and sweet salad: salata mix, pineapple, red onion, green pepper, jalapeno, pumpkin seeds, mango, chipotle ranch and grilled chicken