Thursday, 04 January 2018 10:10

New Year, New You: It’s time to eat some salad

Written by  Nick Macksood
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New Hotel Mertens Salad Lyonnaise. New Hotel Mertens Salad Lyonnaise. Phil Artz

Well, it’s January. It’s a new year. We’ve all white-knuckled our way through the first full year of our 45th President, and perhaps our self-care routines have lapsed a little? I know mine have! So let’s eat right. 

Personally, greens are the very last thing that I’m thinking about December through February, but my girlfriend is adamant that the verdant, leafy stuff has all kinds of important vitamins and nutrients that keep your body and mind in good form. Personally, I’d rather sneak some kale into a winter pasta with Italian sausage, or some casserole or soup — something to warm my bones! Regardless, I decided to expand my horizons and venture out on a one-day tour of salads from around Grand Rapids.

Here’s my experience, some from rookie establishments and some old favorites, but there’s a lot of ground left uncovered here. If you’re looking to get healthy in the New Year, get out and make your own list, you masochists.


New Hotel Mertens 

35 Oakes St. SW, Grand Rapids

NHM is one of Grand Rapids’ latest establishments, and it’s just all right. Don’t feel like you have to spend too much time here … ugh, who am I kidding? It’s GORGEOUS in here and you’re going to love it. I guess it will never be my own private French bistro.

I had the Salad Lyonnaise, because Lyon is, apparently, the gastronomic capital of France. (Eat your heart out, Paris.) This one has some bitter greens tossed with a BLiS sherry dressing — a nice winter flavor — tossed with warm lardons and toasted garlic. Then, they throw a poached egg and croutons on top! I’ll be back.


The Littlebird

95 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids

This is my first time at Littlebird, and there are some really awesome sounding dishes here. Kimchi hash browns? Eggs In Purgatory? And a full English breakfast? That’s pretty neat, even if baked beans are, in my opinion, a weird breakfast food.

Salad-wise, I tried the simple Torn Lettuce, as I was also filling up on the Pork Katsu breakfast sandwich. The salad was very light, as you might expect with the simple combination of garden greens, radish, carrot and balsamic vinaigrette. No ingredients overpowered the other. In fact, it feels like I consumed negative calories. 

I really wanted to try the Cauliflower Kale Caesar with sardines (there’s potato chips and gouda on there!), but I just couldn’t quite justify it with a breaded pork sandwich also on my plate.


Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop

1133 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

I’ve actually never been to Uncle Cheetah’s, either. I used to think the idea of a soup restaurant was bizarre, but boy was I wrong about that. 

All the soups sound great, but I went with a half Wayward Son salad. This one is an organic mixed green salad with roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes — two of the best winter veggies — and toasted pumpkin seeds.

There’s an agua faba ancho dressing and I had to ask what that was. I’m told it’s made with the thick liquid that comes from soaking legumes in water for a while. It’s great!


Terra GR

1429 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids

On the way to Terra, I Googled, “Can you eat too much lettuce?” It turns out, you really can’t. I stumbled on this vegan blog where somebody was concerned that their constant cravings for lettuce would harm their body. The consensus was that as long as you save some room to consume some form of protein/fat, you can eat virtually all the lettuce you want. I’m enjoying these salads, but I am glad that my body doesn’t constantly crave lettuce.

Terra’s doing a winter kale salad, the first time the robust green has appeared in front of me today. It’s all local: the kale, the roasted delicata squash, the pumpkin seeds and the cherry vinaigrette. This is a hearty salad — it feels warm and filling (because of the fiber). Plus, I’m told the squash, especially its skin, is super high in nutrients.

On top of that, I’m finding I want to try more of Terra’s salads, despite my green fatigue. There’s a miso kale salad, a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and a real rustic-sounding apple and cheddar salad.


The Chop House

190 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

I used to work at The Chop House. In fact, I was the one making the salads there at one point, so I know all about these. They’re classic salads: The Wedge, Grilled Hearts of Romaine, Caesar, etc. I also know all of the dressings are made in-house and that many of them taste so good because there’s stuff like brandy in there. They don’t mess around at the Chop House. 

But, I just can’t eat any more salad today. For better or worse, in 2018 I’ll be looking at the salad options a little differently from last year.

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