Monday, July 11, 2011

Salad as entree, not side: Sweet Tomatoes

Sometimes I'm in the mood for a salad, but I can't think of a place where I can get a good one or not be tied to two or three options on a otherwise non-salad menu. A few times I actually turned to places like Old Country Buffet; I'd forgo the steam tables with cooked food and just hang out at the salad bar, mixing and matching my own vegetables and getting as much (or as little) as I wanted. Still, I did feel a little silly doing it.
Enter Sweet Tomatoes, also known as Souplantation in some areas—a buffet actually focused on the leafy green stuff. For about nine bucks, the place allows you to fill up unlimited plates of either pre-mixed salads or ones of your own creation, making salad the star of the show, rather than supporting cast.
On my first visit, I got two plates: one for the romaine lettuce I loaded up with tomatoes, chick peas, cauliflower, broccoli, chopped egg, butternut squash, and zucchini; and one for some of the different pre-made salads: an Asian chicken salad, a broccoli salad (sort of like my very merry broccoli salad), and tuna pasta salad. While I found the pre-made selections to be too heavy on dressing and somewhat too sweet overall, I was happy with the fresh veggies and add-ons in my own salad, as well as the dressings I tried. Obviously, at a place like Sweet Tomatoes there's a lot of control in what you create, so it's easy to come up with something to your liking.
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And the place doesn't just limit you to salad for your meal—there are soup selections, a few pastas and hot dishes, a dessert section, and more. While the choices aren't extensive, there are just enough to complement rather than overwhelm the meal. And for what it is, the quality isn't bad, either—the last time I went, I sampled some okay fettucini alfredo, a perfectly fluffy baked potato topped with bacon, cheese, scallions, and sour cream (add your own toppings, of course), a downright tasty curried lentil soup, and a warm, gooey chocolate brownie/muffin. No sense of missing out on anything here, and more than enough satisfaction to last until the next meal.

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