When one is aiming to lose a few, one often turns to light, fresh, healthy salads. When one is not so much aiming as ambling casually around the admission that one might need to lose a few, one opts for big, fat, funky, junky salads.

These are those.

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WatercourseDickens

Named the Dickens—as in, I assume, “what the”—WaterCourse’s answer to oft-disparaged rabbit food is

039_DONNIE_DARKO

evil sci-fi bunny food

(assuming Frank were a vegan, which granted doesn’t seem likely). It starts off innocuously enough with a blend of romaine & green leaf sprinkled with cannellini & cubed butternut squash & accompanied by a side of maple-dijon dressing. But then it makes you do bad things with deep-fried spears of seitan (seitan! seitan!) & huge onion rings. It really is an intriguing mix of contrasts, crisp-fresh with blatantly greasy, salty with earthy-sweet.

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The Crushery’s schtick centers on Crusherycroutons

croutons,

which are chewy, not crunchy, housemade from tricked-out panini-pressed bagels; the above, for instance, are pesto-provolone. As for the salad they come on,

Crushery#13

the #13 combines a super-scoop of tuna salad—nice & simple with celery & not too damn much mayo—with spinach, red onion, sliced cukes & black olives, plus a chive-ranch dressing that’s pleasantly milky rather than dippy, if a bit too salty.

The same dresses the #14, composed of roasted red peppers & eggplant, artichoke hearts, provolone, more black olives & sufficiently pungent garlic-truffle croutons.

Crushery#14

There are 5 other signature salads, but you can also concoct your own with everything from chorizo to sauerkraut, corned beef to cream cheese, pickles to cherry peppers; dress it with the housemade likes of Ancho 1000 Island or wasabi dressing; & “crush it,” to use the shop lingo, with, say, horseradish-cheddar or caramelized onion–gorgonzola or bacon-brie croutons. No matter which you go with, though, it’ll guaranteed be big enough that you could glue all the pieces together to make a double-decker sandwich.

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In & of itself, the Highland Garden Cafe’s lunchtime salad of grilled beef tenderloin on mixed greens with avocado, fresh mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, cukes & blue cheese dressing would be relatively healthy from a low-carb perspective if it were satisfying.

HGCsteaksalad

But since it really isn’t, being rather bland, you wind up snarfing half your pal’s exquisite pan-seared tilapia with smoked bay scallops, new potatoes & squash in lemon-caper-butter sauce, at once rich & piquant, too. At that point you might as well top it all off with caramel bread pudding.

HGChalibut

In all fairness, the description of said salad on the current menu differs from that of the one I ordered a few weeks ago, listing horseradish–sour cream dressing plus an actual chunk of stilton in lieu of blue cheese dressing. Maybe the chef has since decided it lacked luster too. Anyway, my bad in part for opting (grudgingly, in grim carb-counting mode) for the least interesting-sounding salad of the bunch; compare for instance to jicama, pink grapefruit & avocado salad with cumin-honey dressing, chicken, papaya & avocado on greens with papaya-lime-honey-buttermilk dressing, or roasted rainbow trout on warm spinach with ricotta salata, dates, pinenuts, roasted red peppers, croutons & balsamic vinaigrette (a dressing I mostly doze off in but which is probably appropriate here, so long as the vinegar’s quality).

Besides, that absolutely charmante, sun-dappled garden patio setting could make the grayest-skinned schlub feel lithe & elegant. It’s like a vibe diet.