At this warmer time of year, I’ll bet you’re craving sitting indoors, dining on a rich beef stew chock-full of hearty root vegetables. Uh, no.
More likely, your fancy turns to salad on a beautiful patio. “It’s hot out. People don’t necessarily want to have a hot entrée,” says Natasha Batiste, director of operations at the Gallery Café (Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby Street), during a phone chat.
So ditch the rib-sticking main, order a helping of greens, and eat it on the café’s gem of a patio overlooking Robson Square. The menu has three or four daily salads as well as four salad bowls. Go for the California Cobb, with grilled chicken breast, romaine and mixed greens, a boiled egg, pancetta, crumbled Asiago, tomato, and avocado and a balsamic vinaigrette.
Great for texture and colour is another salad with rare ahi tuna, a crunchy slaw, romaine and mixed greens, hemp hearts, and a dressing of ginger, soy, sesame oil, cilantro, and rice vinegar.
The two other salad regulars are a shrimp Louie with a boiled egg, raw veggies, and house-made Thousand Island dressing, and one with French lentils, quinoa, roasted veggies, chèvre, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Add a side of live music on the patio on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (from June 17 onward), and you have quite the meal.
Cardero’s (1583 Coal Harbour Quay) makes it clear that one of its salads means business, calling it the “Big Salad”. It’s got mesclun greens, baby Gem lettuce, fingerling potatoes, beets marinated in red-wine vinegar, green beans, cucumber, grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, Kalamata olives, and a boiled egg. “It’s a treasure chest of vegetables,” says executive chef Jason Kleinfeld by phone. You can add grilled salmon, prawns, scallops, or seared tuna if you want to increase the protein.
Kleinfeld has also just created a colourful Island Tuna salad with sesame-crusted albacore tuna, mango, quinoa, feta, macadamia nuts, and a honey-lime vinaigrette. And don’t forget the best ingredient: a spectacular patio by the sparkling waters of Coal Harbour.
The Boathouse (various locations) boasts patios with unbeatable water views. Snag a seat on the patio of the English Bay location (1795 Beach Avenue) and dig into a Seafood Chop Chop Salad with grilled salmon, scallops, shrimp, mixed wild greens, fried capers, and a mustard-seed vinaigrette. “Everything is so fresh in that salad. And the seafood is made fresh to order,” says general manager Liz Naccarato in a phone interview.
For those who don’t like seafood, Naccarato recommends a salad with grilled chicken breast, mixed greens, Okanagan goat cheese, crispy wonton skins, a lemon-lime vinaigrette, and a salsa of mango, cilantro, and red onion. It’s a zingy, refreshing choice, she says.
Want more salad-and-patio action? Check out Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar (601 West Cordova Street; 602 West Broadway), where executive chef Cory Chapman especially likes the coconut-poached chicken salad. “It’s my go-to when I want something fresh and light,” he explains during a phone chat. Besides shredded chicken poached in coconut water, it includes snap peas, red and yellow peppers, mango, cashews, Asian noodles, and a sesame-soy dressing, all plated in a crispy wonton bowl.
Chapman says a hunger buster is the Thai beef salad. You get grilled medium-rare sirloin chunks, avocado, mango, sui choy, capellini, and spicy Thai dressing. There’s also the power salad with kale, quinoa, avocado, pistachio, pumpkin seeds, cranberry, goat cheese, and maple dressing.
If you’re the sort that takes every menu item as an invitation to customize, you’ll be a fan of “create your own salad”, available daily until 4 p.m. at Hub Restaurant and Lounge (102–1165 Mainland Street). You get to pick your greens, type of cheese, three fruits or veggies, two toppers like croutons, a specialty item (mmm… bacon), and dressing (such as blood-orange vinaigrette or blue cheese). There are also protein add-ons like tofu and blackened salmon.
By phone, general manager Gavin Taylor says Hub wanted to offer an improvement on the salad bars at supermarkets. “It’s a fun way to have a salad. And you get to sit in a restaurant environment and not have to go to a grocery-store buffet.” Better yet, request a seat on the patio and check out the Yaletown action as you munch on your greens.