During Sarasota's long, hot summers, few dishes are more satisfying than a cool, crisp salad. Start with leafy greens at peak freshness, toss them with chopped vegetables and fruits and an irresistible dressing, then gild the lily with crumbles of cheese, crunchy nuts, seafood, beans, a poached egg or even a bit of meat, and you've got yourself the perfect late-summer hunger slayer. Here are 18 salads that get the job done right now.
(Given the closures related to the Covid-19 pandemic, we recommend calling ahead to make sure the restaurants listed below are open.)
1553 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 906-9575; 8527 Cooper Creek Blvd., University Park, (941) 355-2323; cestlaviesarasota.com
This alluring daytime delicacy features a bed of greens decked out with a cornucopia of savory toppings: crumbles of bacon, crispy potato discs, shards of hard cheese, sweet onions and a delicate poached egg. Goes great with a basket of the restaurant's addictive bread.
5758 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 923-1232, isanthairestaurant.com
Whether you order it spicy or mild, this blend of green papaya, chilis, palm sugar, tomatoes, long beans, lime juice and roasted peanuts will wake up your taste buds. Perfect for a lunch meal, or as a shared platter before a Thai dinner feast.
6606 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 248-2020; 7228 55th Ave. E., Bradenton, (941) 727-8988; 5585 Palmer Crossing Circle, Sarasota, (941) 923-6061; 351 N. Cattlemen Road, Sarasota, (941) 378-0077; 1900 Hillview St., Sarasota, (941) 953-2929; geckosgrill.com
During Southwest Florida's fall-to-spring growing period, much of the produce served at the area's many Gecko's locations comes from Honeyside Farms, a Parrish operation that earned an organic certification last year. To make its popular "Siesta salad," Gecko's tosses those local greens with feta, Craisins, pecans, tomato, bacon, onion and a Greek vinaigrette.
1578 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 955-2683, phocalisarasota.com
You'll find this big, satisfying salad on the back pages of the massive Pho Cali menu, among the restaurant's other specialty items. To make it, the kitchen combines lotus stems, shrimp, pork, shredded Vietnamese pickles, roasted peanuts and crispy shallots that add just the right amount of crunch.
1576 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 296-1042, lilasrq.com
You'd expect Lila, where vegetables are the star, to offer a killer salad, and they do. The restaurant puts a vegan twist on a classic Caesar by combining romaine, "feta" made from almonds, "Parmesan" made from sunflowers and croutons with a dressing free of animal products. Dress it up with tofu, almond falafel or (if you're not full-time vegan) some chicken breast.
1990 Main St., #112, Sarasota, (941) 953-2900, maderestaurant.com
We take every opportunity we can to eat the fried chicken at Made, and if it comes on a salad, all the better. Part of its new limited menu, offered since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, this salad pairs Made's beautiful fried bird with greens, a grilled corn salsa, black beans and other Tex-Mex touches, plus a pimento buttermilk dressing.
2801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 413-5685, leafandlentil.com
The vegan eatery Leaf & Lentil calls this the "Everything Salad" for a reason: To make it, you can include pretty much any vegetables you like. The restaurant starts with your typical raw salad ingredients, then throws in slices of roasted vegetables like zucchini and squash or whatever else is fresh, and then mixes the results with an excellent turmeric vinaigrette.
400 N. Lemon Ave., Sarasota, (941) 906-1400; 8215 Lakewood Ranch Main St., Lakewood Ranch, (941) 907-0648; 4832 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; station400.com
Station 400's basic Cobb comes with all the traditional fixings: greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, blue cheese and bacon. But we can't help asking for the blue crab upgrade. The briny, delicate steamed seafood tastes great when dunked in the restaurant's garlic dressing. Adds a new dimension to a longtime classic.
4413 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 923-2742, tasteofasiasarasota.com
Larb gai is one of the signature dishes of Laos, and it's also one of the signature dishes at Taste of Asia, which has been a popular Sarasota destination for more than a decade. The salad is assertive and herbaceous. The greens come flavored with mint, scallions, cilantro, lime juice, sprouts, sticky rice and chicken that is finely ground and then sautéed.
801 Tamiami Trail S., Nokomis, (941) 412-4334, cafeevergreen.net
Café Evergreen designs its meals with health and wellness in mind, but that doesn't mean the restaurant skimps on flavor. The restaurant's Tex-Mex Santa Fe Salad combines greens, roasted corn, black beans and pico de gallo, plus avocado wedges, a smattering of corn chips and a Mexican ranch dressing drizzled all over.
465 John Ringling Blvd., #200, Sarasota, (941) 296-0301; 800 Broadway St., Longboat Key, (941) 259-4600; dineshore.com
Not for the faint of heart, this massive salad is shaped like a thick tower, with layers of lettuce, tomato, avocado and crumbled hard-boiled eggs and bacon beneath a crown of lobster, shrimp and crab. A multi-course feast all by itself. (Pictured at top.)
3688 Webber Street, Sarasota, (941) 217-5635, bushidosushisrq.com
If you haven't checked out the newish Japanese spot Bushido Izayaki, this salad might be the excuse you need to place an order. It's made with strips of crisp apples, shrimp, clams and imitation crab and topped with fish eggs and a plum sauce.
4816 14th St. W., Bradenton, (941) 751-4733, allgreek.menu
At All Greek, you'll learn that traditional Greek salads don't include lettuce, but fear not. That just means more chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and green peppers, plus a generous handful of Kalamata olives, and all of it comes doused with olive oil and red wine vinegar and dusted with salt and oregano. Add some spit-roasted meat for an extra $3.99.
12306 46th Ave. W., Bradenton, (941) 794-1243, starfishcompany.com
Star Fish Co. may mostly win raves for its fresh-off-the-boat seafood, but an unheralded star of the menu is its salad, which mixes the traditional fixings, plus pecans, with an Italian vinaigrette. It can be upgraded with chicken, shrimp or grouper.
1341 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 957-0700, clasicosrq.com
Downtown Sarasota's Clásico recently got a new look, a new chef, a new menu and even a couple new owners. We love the Burrata Heirloom Salad, which is centered around ultra-creamy globes of burrata cheese dressed with shredded mint and basil, sliced tomatoes, seasonal fruits and a tomato emulsion vinaigrette.
25 N. Boulevard of the Presidents, Sarasota, (941) 388-2619, blukouzina.com
Beans are often give short shrift, but at St. Armands Circle's Blu Kouzina, they're a featured ingredient in this terrific salad. The restaurant takes three different types of beans and coats them with olive oil and lemon juice and tosses them with plenty of dill and sliced onions. Like all the dishes at Blu Kouzina, the salad showcases how bringing together a limited number of perfect ingredients can create something special.
516 Burns Court, Sarasota, (941) 951-6936, owensfishcamp.com
You'd expect the Southern food experts at Owen's to prepare quality fried green tomatoes, and they do. Those tart, lightly battered discs are served on top of a mix of greens and crispy shards of ham, plus goat cheese, with a drizzle of buttermilk dressing on top. Can be ordered small or large, depending on whether you want it as a kickoff to a big meal or a small entrée all on its own.
411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, (941) 388-3987, columbiarestaurant.com
This beloved salad has been hitting St. Armands Circle tables for decades, and will likely keep appearing for decades into the future. Made with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, olives, sliced ham, two types of cheese and plenty of Worcestershire sauce and a garlic dressing, it's a perennial favorite.
Judi Gallagher and Allison Forsyth contributed reporting to this story.