As temperatures soar, our appetites often crave lighter fare. A bounty from the garden comes in all the colors of the rainbow. (And maybe toss in some crumbled feta and crispy bacon, too.)
Where can we find the best salads locally? Here are some options.
Pick your bowl size and go to town
With a name like The Salad Box, there’s no doubt about the specialty at this new eatery on the block. But there’s more to the story. Recognizing a need for additional food options on the Murchison Road corridor, visionary Tonya McNeill is taking lemons and making lemonade.
After Walmart Neighborhood Market closed its store at Murchison Road and Pamalee Drive in 2018, “we were left with a food desert,” McNeill says. “And I feel strongly about offering healthy food choices.”
McNeill adds that the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced her belief that a salad restaurant was more important than ever to supplement the neighborhood’s Southern fried and fast-food fare. With experience in the food industry — she owns N’Zone 2 Go and NZone Social Venue off South Reilly Road — she sought a way to bring “the freshest possible product” to the Murchison Road community.
In the vacant shopping center, McNeill took over an end space formerly occupied by a Subway restaurant and turned it into The Salad Box this past April. And she didn’t stop there. A nearby outdoor space is reserved for food trucks from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. Truck owners must register with McNeill beforehand. Picnic tables encourage lingering.
Inside The Salad Box, remnants of the old Subway are still visible. The dining room is tidy and welcoming. Behind the clear partition up front, there are a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables — some culled from local farmers markets — as well as cheeses and protein choices, including tasty chicken and tuna salads. Top-name dressings in plastic packets are within easy reach.
Pick your bowl size from among children’s ($7.69), small ($11.69), medium ($13.19) or large ($14.69).
Pick your base from among iceberg lettuce, spinach, romaine or spring mix.
Now ask for so many toppings, your bowl runneth over. Truly, this is encouraged at The Salad Box. On a recent visit, we received exceptionally friendly service from Avery and Alvalon. They could not be nicer. And even though it was an odd time to have lunch at 3:45 p.m., the pickin’s were supremely fresh.
If you’d rather get your veggies in a wrap or croissant, that’s possible, too. As days get steamier, more customers are asking for the all-fruit salad, which may include everything from in-season berries to melons ($4.79).
More people are trying the food at The Salad Box — especially construction workers in the area who don’t want anything heavy. The staff is also working to lure Fayetteville State University students, faculty and staff members, who are a five-minute drive away.
Find The Salad Box at 3421 Murchison Road, Suite A, in Fayetteville. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and it’s closed on Sunday. For the latest specials, visit its Facebook page.
Word of mouth
Many folks in the ’Ville will tell you that Jason’s Deli has the best salad bar in town, hands down. The popular, family-owned franchise restaurant has long been known for its build-your-own salad, chock-full of wholesome choices from leafy greens to hummus to fruit-based desserts. Load up in one trip for the bargain price of $9.09.
Jason’s Deli is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at Freedom Town Center off Cliffdale Road in Fayetteville.
Chicken Salad Chick was one of the most anticipated openings of the year. Now clucking along in the nicely renovated, former Five Guys building on Raeford Road, the fast-growing chain restaurant delights the ladies who lunch, moms with school-age kids, and loads of others who are addicted to the scratch-made, all-white-meat chicken salad. We tried the supremely fresh Dixie Chick, the only version with tiny bits of onion, along with a side order of excellent broccoli salad. The buttercream frosted cookie was a sweet finishing touch. All washed down with ice-cold lemonade, all for about $12.
If you find yourself in downtown Clayton — and specifically on its charming Main Street — it’s hard to discover a better lunchtime deal than at Clayton Steakhouse.
For 10 bucks, enjoy as many trips as you like to the well-stocked salad bar. The house-made ranch dressing is positively drinkable. For a reasonable upcharge, add a “small ribeye,” shrimp or crabcake. The restaurant is about a 50-minute drive from downtown Fayetteville, barring heavy traffic or construction snafus. It is closed on Sunday and Monday.
The Signature Salad at Pierro’s Italian Bistro on Hay Street downtown is art on a plate — and equally delicious. Mixed field greens, baby spinach, romaine, sliced tomatoes, honey-glazed walnuts, cucumber, and wafer-thin slices of pear combine in a memorable dish that’s tossed in raspberry vinaigrette. Without additions of grilled chicken or shrimp, the salad is $10. We vote for adding salmon ($7.50 extra). And here’s an insider’s tip: Ask your server if you might have the salmon that’s been dipped in brown sugar and grilled. A refreshing glass of Riesling complements every morsel. A bit of a splurge, yes, but well worth it.