Short List: The house salad

The era of pale, wilting iceberg lettuce topped with a few slivers of yellow onion, two cucumber slices and a lonely tomato wedge all soused with stale commercial salad dressing is long over. These days, the house salad often involves a refined presentation of fresh, even locally grown, spring greens; crunchy, colorful vegetables; and a sweet-savory balance of dried fruits, aromatic toasted nuts and creamy, pungent cheese. Toss in a house-made dressing that never disguises or overpowers the garden goodness, and the house salad can raise the roof.

Harvest Restaurant
1059 S. Big Bend Blvd., Richmond Heights, 314.645.3522

You really can make a meal of the Harvest Spa Greens Salad, which teeters between green and grain salad, as the bed of baby greens boasts a generous portion of hearty, slightly chewy quinoa. A wee bit of thinly sliced red onion lends a sharpness that finds its counterpoint in fragrant toasted almonds and ruby-red dried cranberries. Cranberries do double duty in this mélange, for it’s the slightly sweet yet tart cranberry-verjus vinaigrette that unites this flavorful, carefully orchestrated composition. Five ingredients (plus the dressing) – Harvest turns simple into extraordinary.

Stellina Pasta Cafe
3342 Watson Road, St. Louis, 314.256.1600

The house salad at Stellina Pasta Cafe is another that you can easily call a meal. Every forkful is a palate adventure: red- and green-hued, buttery leaves; meaty garbanzos; sweet red beets; red onion; and nutty sunflower seeds. The assertive saltiness of briny kalamata olives and crumbled feta find balance from a slightly thick, tangy-sweet white balsamic dressing. For a salad that explodes with flavor, texture and color, Stellina’s is spot on.

6144 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314.727.6633
400 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, 314.367.4300
10935 Manchester Road, Kirkwood, 314.966.8080

Start with a sprightly blend of mild field greens. Sprinkle with juicy fresh veggies – red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes and red onion – for texture and eye appeal. Follow with some crunchy, notably fresh walnuts and crumbled, ripe Gorgonzola, and then anoint with a sun-dried tomato balsamic vinaigrette that bursts with pizazz. The house salad at Pi won’t disappoint, no matter which address you visit.