When the heat index rises, and life just isn't livable without air conditioning, eating hot meals (or worse, preparing hot meals) can suck the life right out of you. In New Orleans, during these scorching summer months, grabbing a bowl of gumbo or munching on a platter of fried seafood is the furthest from my mind. I seek out all things cool, and since woman can't survive on sno-balls alone, I turn to crisp, cool salads.
When I was young, eating a salad meant I was on a diet, which tends to color my salad experience in a negative light. Since moving to the Deep South and barely surviving the sweat-filled summers, I have found a new appreciation for this chilled, leafy meal, and our city's incredible chefs have made the transition that much more delicious.
Just try to resist the wedge salad at Turkey and the Wolf in the Lower Garden District. Folks have been raving about this restaurant since it opened—and with good reason. Chef and owner Mason Hereford knocks it out of the park by making many items in-house, embracing local ingredients, and adding a little lagniappe to every dish. In the case of the Wedge, a chunk of fresh, iceberg lettuce is draped in chunky bleu cheese dressing, paired with split grape or cherry tomatoes, and sprinkled with crisp bacon bits, fresh dill, and (that little something extra) everything bagel seasoning.
Because it just doesn't seem like summer without BBQ, why not head over to Central City BBQ for a smokin' salad? A huge plate is piled with chopped romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, house-made croutons, and your choice of smoked chicken, pulled pork, turkey, chopped brisket, or even burnt ends. Top it all off with your choice of dressing (I'm an undying fan of bleu cheese) and dive right in. Who says BBQ can't be cool?
Though it isn't really a salad per se, it certainly presents as one. When you order the fresh ricotta and stone fruit from Bearcat Café, just off Freret Street, you'll be served a large plate with a dreamy, creamy pile of fresh ricotta in the center, surrounded by arugula, almonds, cherry tomatoes, and stone fruit like cherries or sliced peaches. It's simply summer on a plate.
Certainly, a spot like the Rivershack Tavern on River Road screams for an order of meat pies or a large, juicy burger, but they also have a few fabulous salads you might want to try for a change. One of the most interesting options is dubbed “Get the Gaff,” which includes a large hunk of grilled tuna (cooked “just the way you like it”) served atop your choice of a Caesar or house salad.
Houston's on St. Charles Avenue can be a tad on the pricey side, but they happen to have a salad well-worth the extra ducats. Their version of a club is $18, but for that you get mixed greens topped with crispy fried chicken, tomato, lots of avocado, chopped hard-boiled egg, and smokehouse bacon. Naturally, you'll want to smother all of that quite liberally with house-made ranch dressing . . . am I right?