You’d think it wouldn’t be hard to find a decent restaurant salad in Calgary for less than $10. After all, there’s no necessity to add chicken or some other pricy protein to your greens.
But you’d be wrong. I’ve spent hours of online research, perusing local restaurant menus in search of imaginative salads at decent price points. And I’ve largely failed.
Salads in this city generally fall into two categories: uninspired and overpriced, sometimes both.
I recently purchased, for about $9, a takeout Greek salad at a Calgary market. This was your typical, tired Greek salad, lowlighted by insipid, orange, Roma tomatoes. Vine-ripened tomatoes, bursting with flavour, have been widely available for more than a decade. They can be used to enliven a Greek salad.
On the other hand, there’s the sprouting of national power-salad chains. Their bowls typically feature aspirational ingredients like mesclun, quinoa, roasted yam, pita chips, kale (of course) and a ginger sesame vinaigrette. Good stuff, I’m sure, but at, say, $15, a little outside my lunchtime budget.
Enough ranting. I finally found a salad, at Community Natural Foods, which satisfies my quest for interesting and affordable. The Veg Head is a lively mix of baby greens, cherry tomatoes, roasted chickpeas, red quinoa, pumpkin seeds, nutritional yeast and preserved lemon dressing. At $10.39, it’s just slightly above my $10 bar, though adding extra toppings can quickly increase the price.
My salad purchase marked the reopening of a reimagined cafe at Community Foods, following a long pandemic closure. But instead of loading my salad plate buffet style, I now have to order at an electronic kiosk, similar to the self-checkouts at grocery stores. Not sure how that will work on busy days with neophytes trying to figure out the system.
The food court continues the long-time health food store’s tradition of offering fine burgers, burritos, smoothies, pizzas and power bowls at affordable prices. Plus they know how to put together a salad.
Community Natural Foods
1304 10 Avenue SW and two other Calgary locations
Monday to Saturday 9 am-9 pm, Sunday 9 am-7 pm