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Al-Ameer 12710 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn, 313-582-8185; 27346 Ford Rd., Dearborn Heights; 313-565-9600: This Lebanese fare isn't Americanized factory food. Instead, Al-Ameer stays true to the Lebanese table, offering fresh bread, serving no pork or liquor, and preparing food that's made to order, and not overwhelmed by spices and herbs. The menu can please vegetarians gaga for the "veggie galaba" or meat-eaters hungering for the boneless chicken breast that's char-broiled, sliced and finished in a lemon garlic sauce. Al-Ameer has more than a dozen salads, from the $2.95 cucumber-yogurt creation to the larger shawarma or spinach fattoushes ($13). Add feta or Syrian cheese for $1.75 more.
Aladdin Sweets & Café 11945 Conant St., Hamtramck; 313-891-8050: This is a small, neighborhood place where you'll eat on plastic plates and drink from polystyrene cups. But what Aladdin lacks in china and stainless steel it more than makes up for in flavor and authenticity. Even the menu's simplest choices, such as chick peas and spinach, show how humble ingredients come to life when expertly spiced. Even cheaper are the salads, which cost between $1.75 and $2.75, and other dishes, such as the excellent chicken tikka, come served upon a fresh salad. This small, lively spot is often lively on the weekends, in a kid-friendly sort of way. No alcohol.
Anita's Kitchen 22651 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-548-0680: Salads and veggie-intensive appetizers fill a good portion of the menu at this successful Ferndale Lebanese joint. As with most Mediterranean cuisines, Lebanese is considered to be a very balanced, healthy diet. If meat is your thing, you won't be disappointed. But the vegetarian selections are vast, and the salads are astounding creations; the chicken feta fattoush, for instance, is a salad loaded with vegetables and toasted pita chips then topped with savory chicken shawarma and tangy feta. (One regular has been known to order it several days in a row.) Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday; outdoor seating; child-friendly.
Atlanta Bread Company 19181 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe; 313-640-8200: Serving specialty salads, sandwiches, soups and baked goods, the salad choices include the "balsamic bleu salad" (field greens and romaine lettuce, blue cheese, walnuts, apples, tomato, red onion and dried cranberries with a balsamic vinaigrette). And for those who want a bit more protein, take a look at the "Chopstix chicken salad" (char-grilled chicken with mixed and romaine lettuce, Mandarin oranges, chow mein noodles, almonds and tomatoes with a sesame-ginger dressing).
Bucharest Grill inside the Park Bar, 2040 Park Ave. (enter off Elizabeth), Detroit; 313-965-3111: Who knew so many people wandering the neighborhood west of Foxtown had a hankering for Eastern European food? How else to explain the success of Bucharest Grill, a small counter setup in back of the Park Bar. For just a fistful of singles you can have affordable shawarma sandwiches and creative hot dogs. For the health-conscious, Bulgarian goat cheese replaces chicken on the veggie version of the shawarma — though some object to the use of mayo. Salads include a protein-packed pork-meatball salad, a house salad (cucumbers, tomato, onions and green pepper), and a chicken shawarma salad — with chicken, lettuce, tomato, pita chips, onions, cukes and peppers. Warning: Take your meal out to a seat in the Park and the bottles and taps of their formidable bar are sure to call your name.
Christine's Cuisine 729 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-584-3354: Christine's has a variety of pleasing salads, usually based on a foundation of lettuce and mixed greens, with a variety of fresh, house-made dressings. The Mediterranean salad has chopped tomatoes, cukes, red onion and house-baked potato chips (!). Add feta and it becomes the Athena salad, which a friend swears by with chicken added. The Southwestern-inspired black-bean salad mixes tomatoes, chopped onions, tortilla strips, sour cream and cilantro, with a salsa vinaigrette. Or go for the hearty chef's salad, with smoked Bavarian ham, smoked turkey, Swiss and American cheese, tomatoes, red onion and hard-boiled eggs. If you feel you need more protein, you can add (for a price) steak, chicken or shrimp to all salads, including the humbler Caesar.
Crust Pizza & Wine Bar 6622 Telegraph Rd., Bloomfield Plaza, Bloomfield Twp.; 248-855-5855; 2595 Rochester Rd., Rochester Hills; 248-844-8899: In addition to Crust's deft combinations of pizza and wine, they have a few salads to swear by, including fresh mozzarella salad, arugula salad, chopped chicken salad and, best of all, the Sonoma salad: grape tomatoes, dried apricots, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and toasted almonds over organic mesclun greens, enlivened with a green tea-pomegranate vinaigrette and fortified with a sturdy piece of freshly baked focaccia bread.
The Golden Fleece 525 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-962-7093: The octopus Greek salad ($9.95) is one of the reasons dining can be such a value: They put all the hard work into making it, and all you have to do is sit down and dig in. And the octopus salad takes hours to make. Prep cook Ali Ajafh says the octopus is boiled for four or five hours before the skin is removed. Then the meat is cut into small pieces and goes into a simple marinade of vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano, and soaks overnight, for at least six or seven hours. They serve it cold, setting the octopus in a simple Greek salad that's light on the feta.
Goldengate Café at the Innate Healing Arts Center, 18700 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-366-2247: Wednesday night is the busiest night at the Goldengate. That's because it's fire night, and because it's drumming night. A fire rages or smolders in the stone fireplace on the patio, while bring-your-own drummers hypnotize themselves and the neighbors with free-form wallops and throbs. The eatery serves a mostly vegan menu (which means salads that can brim with sprouts), with some dairy, but the majority of diners are omnivores seeking a healthy meal. They'll find a good one, and they won't find the holistic trip laid on in a preachy way.
Grand Trunk Pub 612 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-3043: Perhaps you thought this stubborn fixture in downtown Detroit was just a smoky little watering hole. You'd be pleasantly surprised by their menu, which ranges over soups, sandwiches and, of course, salads. The offerings include classic Caesar ($6.50, $8.50 with chicken), Southwest chicken (with cubed chicken tossed with black beans, corn, roasted red peppers and a special blend of spices, served on a bed of romaine and spinach with avocado and red onion, $8) and Finn (fire-grilled chicken breast, fresh mozzarella, Avalon croutons, mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, with sun-dried tomato-basil dressing, $8). But ground-beef lovers shouldn't miss the taco salad — ground beef or vegetarian burger, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, romaine, and served with tortilla chips topped with homemade guacamole, all for $8.50.
Harvard Grill 16624 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-882-9090: This small shop serves many things, but gets a brisk sell-through on its four salads. Yes, they have a Greek salad and a chef's salad, but their grilled chicken salad sounds delish: lettuce, raisins and walnuts, topped with sliced chicken breast and hard-boiled egg. (They recommend you top it with their house-made honey-mustard dressing.) Or, for the "kitchen sink" salad, try the cobb salad, with tossed greens, bacon bits, hard-boiled eggs, tomato, crumbled blue cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, cucumbers, a sliced grilled chicken breast and, though some might see it as heresy, black olives. Owner Mike Muer says it's so big it comes with a pair of tongs, so two diners can treat it as a mini-salad bar.
Inn Season Café 500 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak, 248-547-7916: Inn Season has a knack for taking vegetarian cuisine to a higher level. That holds true with its salad selection, which includes not only healthful organic baby greens, but a blue-cheese-and-walnut salad. For instance, the "Inn Season" salad has romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, red cabbage, marinated onions and more, topped with choice of low-fat cheese, soy cheese, sautéed tofu or avocado. The half-dozen dressings include not just balsamic vinaigrette, Caesar, Greek and thousand island, but honey-poppy seed and tahini, as well as lemon, olive oil and three choices of vinegar! And since the Inn Season staff has built relationship with local farmers and CSAs, and even shops fresh several mornings a week, you can be sure you're eating everything at the peak of its flavor and nutritional value.
Kruse and Muer on Main 327 S. Main St., Rochester; 248-652-9400: Their Martha's Vineyard salad, the favorite of many Kruse's employees, features red-leaf lettuce, pine nuts, blue cheese and purple onions topped with a raspberry-maple vinaigrette, with the option of adding grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp. The price ranges from $7.95 to $13.95. Kruse also has a fantastic salmon apricot salad, with grilled salmon, greens, cherries, chevron cheese and apricot ginger vinaigrette; prices range from $12.95 to $19.95.
Lunchtime Global 660 Woodward Ave., but enter on Congress Street, First National Building, Detroit; 313-963-4871: The house rules — everything from scratch and made in-house — have created loyal customers for this spot's six soups a day plus salads, quiche, panini and regular sandwiches. Nearly as quick as fast food but, as the owner says, you don't hate yourself afterward. And their selection of about eight salads will please just about anybody. Particularly filling is the Asian salad, which comes with moist strips of chicken breast, a mix of red and green lettuces, radicchio, romaine, carrots, mushrooms, celery, long slices of red pepper, all tossed (or accompanied as a side) with a tangy ginger dressing. They also offer a lot of deals on half-orders or soup and salad combos. Very friendly and efficient.
Mudgie's 1300 Porter St., Detroit; 313-961-2000: A pleasant 12-table lunch spot on the Corktown site formerly known as Eph McNally's. Exceptionally friendly waitstaff, with delicious house-made quality and solid local products. The 24 sandwich selections include every good thing you can think of, including design-your-own options. Though the bread could be better, the salads are loaded but still green. You can also get an ice cream float with rich premium vanilla from Calder's Dairy in Lincoln Park. One of our friends raves about the "Honey Bee" salad: Mudgie's own chicken fajita salad and sharp Cheddar cheese on a bed of romaine lettuce topped with Michigan-made organic, heirloom corn tortilla chips, served with side of fresh salsa and ranch dressing; it's $9 for a large, $7 for a small. Heck, many of the generous sandwiches are practically salads wrapped in bread, such as the "Ivey" — Mudgie's house-made, creamy spinach spread, on multi-grain bread topped with lettuce, tomato, locally grown sunflower sprouts, dill havarti, avocado and red onion, before being served open-faced.
Roast 1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-2500: Roast might not be the sort of place you expect to find great salads, with its emphasis on meats, but they do them just as well (and creatively) as their proteins. Their warm spinach salad (really, more of a warm app) pulls out all the stops, and is decidedly meaty. Using bacon fat and small, diced pieces of bacon, they heat in cooked trumpet mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, chicken stock, Dijon mustard and other seasonings, then drizzle the still-hot dressing over a bed of lettuce, softening it up and mixing the flavors. They then add a hard-boiled egg and a garnish of pig ear. Pig ears? Yes, but these are nothing like those doggie chew-toys you've seen. The delicacies are cooked in oil, confit-style, then deep-fried for good measure, creating delicious and unusual, all for $9.
Royal Kabob 3236 Caniff St., Hamtramck; 313-872-9454; $$: This Middle Eastern eatery can provide everything from an ambitious platter to a humble, wax-paper-wrapped falafel sandwich. Though it does a brisk take-out business, the interior is bright and commodious, offering room for large parties. What's more, their salads are ginormous, and just $6 for vegetarian choices (fattoush, tabbouleh, Greek and more) and about $8 for meat choices (including lamb or chicken shawarma, fattoush with chicken, spinach tawook).
Russell Street Deli 2465 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2900: This Eastern Market fixture has a healthy mix of salads, from the inexpensive house salad to grander tuna and chicken salads ($7.75) on up to "Bob's salad," which boasts corned beef, turkey and Swiss cheese on fresh lettuce and vegetables. Served with your choice of fresh house-made dressings.
Salad Creations 1043 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 313-963-5800; 18349 Hall Rd., Macomb Twp., 586-226-1000: Given Detroit's reputation as a meat-and-potatoes town, it's notable that a salad-themed chain has opened two new locations in the metro area, one of them in that bastion of the Coney dog: Downtown Detroit. Salad Creations lets patrons pick a fresh and fabulous salad off their featured menu, also giving customers the chance to mix and match greens, fruits and vegetables into their own concoctions, topped with a choice of homemade dressing. For a light healthful meal, featured salads include the chopped "Boca veggie" (romaine and iceberg lettuce, green pepper, red onion, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, corn, chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots and croutons) and the "gorgonzola and greens" (spring mix, creamy gorgonzola cheese, Mandarin oranges, artichoke hearts, sunflower seeds and croutons).
Steve's Backroom 24317 Jefferson Ave., St. Clair Shores; 586-774-9337: The Backroom's fattoosh is the real deal, and their most popular salad: A blend of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, parsley and toasted pita chips tossed with lemon juice, oil, garlic and spices. Price range from $6.25 to $8.25; for chicken add an additional $3.50. "Backroom Chicken Salad," another popular dish, is a large bowl of mixed greens, tomatoes, peppers, onions and cucumbers topped with sliced grilled chicken breast, toasted almonds and dried cranberries. It's tossed with the house dressing: lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.
Supino Pizzeria 2457 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-7879: Sure, Supino is rightfully celebrated for its handcrafted pizzas. But it also has excellent pasta dishes and quite good salads too. Given Supino's quest for culinary excellence, they use only fresh ingredients — greens, cukes, tomatoes, red peppers — and have some very good house-made dressings as well, including a red wine vinaigrette, a lemon-basil citronette.
Town Tavern 116 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-544-7300: Royal Oak's stylish bistro has quite a setting: mohair booths, bentwood chairs and art deco wire breadbaskets, among other period-suggesting accoutrements. But they don't fall down on the food, either. Their most popular entrée salad, the pulled chicken salad, features a sweet, tangy mix of greens, sliced almonds and port-wine-soaked cranberries topped with hand-pulled, oven-roasted chicken breast. It is dressed with Michigan maple syrup and mustard vinaigrette, all for $12 at lunch ($14 at dinner).
Union Street 4145 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-831-3965: Whoever said salad doesn't constitute a proper meal has clearly never eaten at Union Street. With the dramatic presentation of the enormous tortilla-crowned taco salad and the char-grilled certified Black Angus beef in the balsamic steak salad, there are plenty of entrée-sized options. On the lighter side, the baked pistachio salmon salad is a summery seafood twist on your basic bowl of lettuce, featuring pistachio-crusted salmon with asparagus, tomato wedges, mozzarella, and honey mustard over mixed greens. They'll call for doggie bags, and none costs more than $12.95.
The Whitney 4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-5700: Given the opulent setting, it's no surprise that the Whitney does things in a big way. But, given how loaded the restaurant's salads are, they're pretty darn affordable. At lunch, the organic mixed greens are just $6, and the house-made Caesar with a hard-boiled egg goes for $8. At dinner, the salads get more complex, filled out with brie, feta or tree fruit (Honeycrisp apples, satsumas, Forelli pears, toasted pecans and more in a roasted shallot vinaigrette for $11). But chef Dan Maurer reserves his highest praise for a salad of roasted red and golden beets, mixed greens, haricot vert, goat cheese and crispy herbed potatoes, all in a pancetta-truffle vinaigrette. Maurer humbly says, "It's probably one of the better things I've ever made — or the world has ever eaten."
Woodbridge Pub 5169 Trumbull St., Detroit; 313-833-2701: A perennially popular choice, one employee affectionately says the lentil salad ($7) "tastes like a garden." This entrée creation is an ideal garden escape from the bustle of Midtown on a hot day, pairing black lentils with plum tomato, dill, feta cheese and vinaigrette over heirloom greens. Just remember to pick out your favorite summer jams on the jukebox before you order!
Woodward Avenue Brewers 22646 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3696: When the WAB promises a "big bowl" salad, they're not kidding around. Served with chicken, chow mein noodles, mandarin orange slices, peanuts and an array of fresh veggies, the Asian salad ($8.95) is meal enough for two. WAB staff recommends pairing it with the house-made Asian dressing and one of their craft beers. The sweet and spicy pale ale complements the Asian flavors, or ask for the German-style hefeweizen wheat with an orange slice for a citrusy combination.
Yotsuba Japanese Restaurant and Bar 7365 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield, 248-737-8282: From appetizers to entrée sets to noodles dishes, Yotsuba's Japanese fare usually delights, but some keep coming for the asparagus and avocado salad, topped with a tangle of finely shredded carrot and white turnip strands. It's hard to miss with these two main ingredients, but what makes this dish is the carrot dressing: peachy-colored, thick and one of the best salad dressings you'll likely have. Needless to add, the salad, like everything else, is lovely to look at, with colors that complement each other as well as the tastes do. There is no tossed salad in Japanese cuisine; the word is "arranged."
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