Eat Your Vegetables

6 surprising Austin restaurants to find exciting summer salads

6 surprising Austin restaurants to find exciting summer salads

Quinoa and avocado salad at Snack Bar in Austin
Try the avocado quinoa salad at Snack Bar with grilled shrimp too. Photo by Cory Ryan
24 Diner in Austin
It may be known for comfort food, but 24 Diner has a nice selection of salads, all with locally sourced ingredients. 24 Diner/Facebook
Caprese salad at Cenote restaurant in Austin
Caprese salad at Cenote. Cenote/Facebook
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Dupuy_where to eat_may 2012_fresas
Try the Jerez salad — marinated chickpeas, greens, queso fresco and sherry vinaigrette — at Fresa's Chicken al Carbon. Courtesy of Fresas Chicken
FoodHeads restaurant in Austin
FoodHeads does as many good salads as sandwiches. Photo by ipiphooray
Green papaya and beef salad at Tam Deli in Austin
Tam Deli's Vietnamese green papaya salad. Courtesy photo
Quinoa and avocado salad at Snack Bar in Austin
24 Diner in Austin
Caprese salad at Cenote restaurant in Austin
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Dupuy_where to eat_may 2012_fresas
FoodHeads restaurant in Austin
Green papaya and beef salad at Tam Deli in Austin

When it's this hot outside, your usual lunchtime sandwich can weigh you down. So lighten up with a cool and creative salad instead. A satisfying salad can be surprisingly difficult to find; in many lunch spots, the salad offerings are little more than wilted lettuce and mealy tomatoes tossed with boring dressing.

But we found six reliable Austin restaurants with crisp and delicious salad options for lunchtime or anytime.

24 Diner
Though known for comfort food, 24 Diner offers several salad options made with locally sourced produce whenever possible. If you want a more substantial meal, order the pork belly salad with potatoes and green beans. Craving a more classic option? Choose the mixed green salad; the subtle sweetness of the pistachios and dried cranberries pairs beautifully with bitter radicchio. Or just order a side salad and save room for one of 24 Diner's famous milkshakes. 

Cenote
This coffee shop has earned a reputation for fine food as well as great coffee. In the afternoon, you'll find customers with laptops working through lunch. Besides hefty sandwiches, Cenote offers a hearty selection of reasonably priced salads. The mango fields salad is a mound of greens topped with ripe mango, seasonal fruit and sliced avocado dressed in a zingy cilantro-lime vinaigrette. Or try the Caprese made with tomatoes from Johnsons Backyard Garden.

FoodHeads
This charming cafe housed in a craftsman bungalow near UT is famous for its sandwiches, but the salad selection also deserves praise. Order a classic house salad topped with chicken, or try the popular tuna Nicoise. Our favorite, however, is the steak and arugula topped with avocado and blue cheese crumbles and served with a piece of garlicky cheese toast.

Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon
This drive-thru rotisserie chicken joint is a dream come true for anyone trying to eat healthy on the go. Besides whole chicken dinners, Fresa's offers sandwiches and salads for individuals. The Jerez salad — marinated chickpeas, greens, queso fresco in a sherry vinaigrette — is full of tangy flavors. Salads come in two sizes; for an extra $4 get that famous moist and smoky shredded chicken on top.

Snack Bar
Avoiding the tourists on South Congress in the sweltering heat can be exhausting. So find respite at Snack Bar. You can top any of the restaurant's salads with chicken or tofu, but the outstanding avocado quinoa salad is flavorful enough on its own. The bitter arugula complements a slice of sweet grilled pineapple, while the chilled red quinoa and cotija cheese adds a layer of texture. If you want protein, try it with grilled shrimp.

Tam Deli & Cafe
For a more novel choice that doesn't even incorporate leafy green vegetables, try Tam Deli's Vietnamese green papaya salad. Noodle-like shreds of papaya are tossed in nuoc cham — the lime, fish sauce and chile dressing that is a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. In this instance, the crunchy, unripe papaya acts more like cooling vegetable than sweet fruit. The salad is topped with a generous helping of the restaurant's house-made dried beef, flavored with star anise.