Friday, January 10, 2014

A Visit to Salata at Vintage Park

Any photos shown in this posting were taken by me using my Samsung Galaxy S3.  Any logos appearing in my photos are used under the FAIR USE clause of international copyright law.  Any quotes from their website have been cited. Contest is Government by laws of the United States of America, the State of Texas, Harris County and the City of Houston.  

After my recent burger post, I had a couple of other folks say to me "Isn't January supposed to be the month that everyone wants to diet and eat Healthy?"  Well, yeah, that is true.  And thankfully I have just such a place I can recommend you:  the Houston-based chain known as Salata: The Next Generation Salad Bar.  Usually the words "salad bar" conjure a 1980s image of a buffet with lots of fruits and veggies, along with dressings and toppings, that sometimes were very poorly maintained and at times did not always have what you wanted.  Salata is not that kind of Salad Bar.  Think if it more as someone took the concept of Freebirds World Burrito, and instead of making a big ol' burrito full of all kinds of different stuff, they could make you a salad or a wrap full of all kinds of different stuff, with the meat and other contents skewing healthier, lower fat, gluten free and kept very fresh.  Sound good?  I was skeptical, but after talking with a couple of colleagues and family members who raved about the place, I decided to give it a go, especially since there is a location near Lone Star College University Park in the Vintage Park Center.  This company started off with just one location in the Houston Downtown Tunnels and now is all over Houston, and boasts locations in San Antonio, Dallas (SPIT!) and Southern California now.  Such credentials and endorsement from folks I trust meant I had to check them out.

Per their website:
The initial idea for Salata came to owner/franchisor, Berge Simonian back in early 2003, when he noticed an increased demand for salads as sales continue to climb for the salad tossing section of a Houston downtown tunnel restaurant he had owned and operated since 1994. After extensive research and development, he, along with his business partner & brother-in-law Tony Kyoumjian, developed the Salata signature dressings, sauces and soups, and opened the first Salata location in Oct. 2005. Come, experience and enjoy Salata for yourself, and create your own unique salad or salad wrap by choosing from a variety of fresh lettuces, a large selection of fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, cheeses and more, an array of our tasty signature dressings and the option to top them with a great selection of chicken, seafood and more. Today, the health conscious public demands healthy eating alternatives, and our mission at Salata is to fill that need. 
Protein Choices at Vintage Park the day I visited
Sounds like a great concept and now I'm hungry.  When you first come into Salata, you go through a line up much like Freebird's or Bullrito's and work with their menu.  They will ask you if you want a salad or a wrap and then you start building from there.  Your main protein choices are chicken (choice of Herb Marinated Grilled, Pesto, Buffalo Chicken, Spicy Chipotle, Asian BBQ) and Seafood (choice of Herb Marinated or Spicy Shrimp, Baked Salmon, imitation Krabmeat, or Seafood mix).  Occasionally they have smoked turkey, as the did during the Holiday period from Thanksgiving through New Year's. You then have your choice of of lettuce, unlimited selection of veggies, fruits, nuts and cheeses, tossed with one of our signature dressings--served in a bowl for a salad or all rolled up in a tasty tortilla for a wrap.  There are multiple flavours of tortillas:  Southwest, Cool Cucumber, Thai Ginger, Wheat and Texas BBQ. If you get a salad, it's served with bread and if you get a wrap, it's served with pita chips.  They have a good choice of iced teas, sodas and bottled beverages.  They also do carry some wine and beer, but not a lot.  And if you're a soup fan, they have a couple of great freshly made soups every day.

I went with a Thai Ginger tortilla, smoked turkey, and a mixture of various greens, cucumbers, croutons, dried cranberries, cheeses and spicy ranch dressing, with the tortilla heated.  When it was done, they sliced it in half and served it on a metal plate, looking quite good and actually quite tightly wrapped.  I have to congratulate them on how that is done--I can be all thumbs trying to wrap a burrito, and seeing as these folks are professionals, I'll leave it to them.  I will say that the veggies on the bar looked very fresh--nothing looked to have been there longer than just that day--and they tasted fresh as well.  I did not run into any limp, wrinkly, starting to turn or unfresh veggies or meats anywhere in my wrap.  This is not something I could have said about a former chain of Salad and Soup Bars that used to be all over Houston in the 1980s and 1990s, which I will not name.  I liked the ginger twang in the special tortilla.  I liked the chewiness of the dried cranberries.  I really liked the smokey and moist texture of the smoked turkey, and it makes me wish it were on the menu all year round.  Nice job Salata, you proved this skeptic wrong.

Report Card for Salata at Vintage Park: 
     Smoked Turkey Wrap: A
     Speed: A-
     Friendliness: A-

     Dining Area: A
     Prep Line/Kitchen: A
     Men's Room: B+ (water on floor)
Atmosphere (Like Freebirds and an 80s Salad Bar had a Baby): B

Overall Grade: A-

January is traditionally the month that a lot of us make extra efforts to eat healthy, go on a diet and lose weight.  I have a $20.00 gift card for Salata that will be sent to the comment on this post that gives what I deem to be the best recipe for your own wrap.  If you are a regular at Salata, this contest is for you.  Contest wraps up on January 25th at Midnight Houston Time (Central), with the prize to be mailed to the winner by the end of the month.  Post your wrap recipe in the comments section.  Spam comments or comments that are not recipes for wraps will not be counted or considered.

Salata has multiple locations all over Houston.
I went to the one at
Vintage Park
130 Vintage Park Blvd
Houston, Texas 77070
(281) 826-0166

Hours of operation:
Mon-Sat: 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm

Eat Happy, Y'all!!!

Salata on Urbanspoon

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