Energize your palate with Pad Thai’s tangy cucumber salad—a crispy mix of texture and flavor that captures the intrigue of Thai cuisine. Shredded cucumbers, red onions, bell peppers, and roasted peanuts and cilantro rally in fresh lime juice for a sweet and savory interplay. Your taste buds will be charmed—Thai-style. Pad Thai Restaurant, 501 N. Beneva Road, Sarasota (941) 365-7799.
Chef Al Massa (who made the scene in New Orleans) adds a Big Easy zing to Michael’s On East’s lunch menu with his fried oyster salad. This robust indulgence pairs Apalachicola oysters with spinach, Stilton blue cheese, walnuts, apple-rosemary vinaigrette and home-cured bacon—lovingly bathed in a pear bourbon slurry for a week. Laissez les bons temps rouler! Michael’s On East, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota (941) 366-0007.
What’s the secret to Ruth’s Chris’ chop salad? Chef Charles Hugue gives the credit to the crispy fried onions. And those onions would like to thank the julienned iceberg lettuce, fresh spinach and radicchio, chopped green olives, bacon, blue cheese crumbles and delicate lemon-basil dressing for taking part in this winning recipe. Ruth’s Chris Steak House, 6700 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 924-9442.
Bijou Café’s Moroccan salad has been a menu magnet since the restaurant opened in 1986. It’ll probably be there in 2086, too. Proprietor J.P. Knaggs tried to substitute it once, but he got “flak from our regulars” and put it back. Good thing: This Mediterranean mix of sweet dates, almonds, apples and tangy slices of citrus makes ordinary salads seem…well, ordinary. Bijou Café, 1287 First St., Sarasota (941) 366-8111.
Salad Niçoise hails from Nice—and it’s been nicely recreated at C’est La Vie, a place to bathe in French accents and the sun-splashed colors of Provence. This hearty salad shows savoir-faire in mixing seasonal greens and tossed tuna, potatoes, olives, hard-boiled eggs and anchovies. Pair it with a crusty baguette and a crisp white wine. C’est la vie, indeed. C’est La Vie, 1553 Main St., Sarasota (941) 906-9575.
Chef Alfredo Lozca’s Shanghai chili chicken salad at Pattigeorge’s packs a one-two punch of sweet and sour. Lozca places tender chicken strips on fresh romaine, adds a dressing of spicy chili and peanut butter sauce, then tops it all off with crunchy fried wontons. You’ll come away with rosy cheeks and a happy tummy. Pattigeorge’s, 4120 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key (941) 383-5111.
Hail Caesar—Caesar salad, that is. Chef Doug Hitchings of Crab & Fin stays close to the classic. His flavorful combo of fresh romaine, Parmesan cheese, egg yolk, anchovies, croutons and garlic is best savored on the outdoor patio. Add a flute of chilled champagne and it’s worthy of an emperor. Crab & Fin, 420 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota (941) 388-3964.
The Waldorf salad is a been-there-ate-that affair, but Euphemia Haye chef and owner Raymond Arpke transforms it. Sweet pear slices on beds of frisée lettuce. Sprinklings of garlic and shallots. Toppings of candied pecans and gorgonzola crumbles. And a fennel vinaigrette (the creation of chef de cuisine Mark Kecksteim) to linger on your palate when the last slice of pear is only a sweet memory. Euphemia Haye, 5540 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key (941) 383-3633.
“Ono” is Hawaiian for delicious, and that’s just what the Maui Wowie tiger shrimp salad is at Roy’s Restaurant. Executive chef Ryan Kelly’s substantial, Hawaiian-fusion salad stars grilled shrimp, which he pairs with fresh avocado, feta cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes and Bibb lettuce, drizzled with a caper-lime vinaigrette that inspires hau`oli (happiness). Aloha! Roy’s Restaurant, 2001 Siesta Drive, Sarasota (941) 952-0109.
Mediterraneo’s sparklingly fresh finocchi salad, made with shaved fennel, orange segments, walnuts, capers and crumbled gorgonzola in a brisk champagne vinaigrette, pays homage to the luscious licorice flavor of fennel. A refreshing palate cleanser, it’s perfect served between or after richly flavored courses. Mediterraneo, 1970 Main St., Sarasota (941) 365-4122.
Our 10 Best lists are not ranked in order of numerical preference.