In Portland, it's easy to find big-ass food. Six days' worth of calories shoved between two loaves of cheesy garlic bread. Brain-sized meatballs. Bacon-wrapped bacon, double-fried. Portions that would topple the Flintstones' car—and kill their pet dinosaurs.
Now that Valentine's Day has come and gone, leaving edible luxury and excess calories in its wake, let's consider volume, not weight. Sure, it's the season for turnips, not tulips, but that shouldn't mean passing on anything vegetal until summer solstice. Where are some of Portland's best big salads?
You know, a salad that would make Elaine Benes proud: an abundance of lettuce as base, along with crisp vegetables (tomatoes should not resemble snowballs), cheese, nuts and some sort of protein. Dressing on the side, please: A salad drowning in it is disgusting (and counterproductive).
After all, doesn't love mean never having to say, "Honey, maybe you should try the next size up?"
PETITE PROVENCE DIVISION
4834 SE Division St., 233-1121, and other locations, provence-portland.com.
French women don't get fat. As I wait 25 minutes for my salmon salad ($11.95) to emerge from the kitchen, I develop my theory why: They harvest the lettuce while you clutch at your napkin in dire, pleading American hunger, looking longingly at the nearby bar that serves excellent nachos. When my salad finally arrives, however, I am ecstatic to discover (and quickly devour) a Wiffle bat-sized piece of salmon atop a huge bed of greens, along with perfectly cooked lentils and a tasty but somewhat incongruous raspberry vinaigrette tucked alongside. It's a great deal—if you're patient.
1630 SE Bybee Blvd., 736-0174; 2811 E Burnside St., 236-6045, and many other locations, pizzicatopizza.com.
I'd been tipped to Pizzicato's varied salad selections—everything from an arugula pear to a Chinese chopped, and went for the Greek salad. When I called ahead to order it, I was told a small could feed one or two, and a medium could handle three or four. I know my capacity; I got the medium ($8.25) for myself. This was the only salad I got to go, and was glad to be massacring it in the privacy of my own kitchen: The salad is crammed with excellent feta and olives, but its lettuce isn't chopped into even remotely bite-sized portions.
KENNY & ZUKE'S DELICATESSEN
1038 SW Stark St., 222-3354; kennyandzukes.com.
Is the big salad an East or West Coast craving? Who knows, but K&Z's offers a salad billed as "The Big Salad." So can it bring the big? Yes and no. Yes in that it comes in a big bowl. Yes in that the accommodating server lets me swap the bagel crisps for avocado. Yes with a lox add-on feathered across the top. Yes in price, too, for what I got: $11.45. Sure, the lox is done perfectly and the salad is crisp, but I got fuller elsewhere.
RED ONION THAI CUISINE
1123 NW 23rd Ave., 208-2634.
Seeking salad surprises, I ventured to this Northwest staple for Thai salad with shrimp ($10). The mixed greens, still-warm hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts, red onion and raw, white mushrooms are artfully presented, with a delicious bowl of peanut sauce on the side, but it's not something I'd get again. Bor-ing. How did I go here and not get something with fragrant, hot noodles or one of the excellent options off the Northern Thai specials menu? I sought a menu sleeper—and got a misorder. My bad.
7912 SE 13th Ave., 477-8985, jadeportland.com.
I'm physically incapable of ordering anything but the spicy green papaya salad ($9) at Jade Teahouse. Shame, because so much looks delicious, including the enormous grilled tofu salad (large $7), bricklike pieces of tofu stacked atop a mess of fresh greens. But the papaya salad—a julienned pile of carrots, tart papaya, tomatoes, shrimp and green beans—continually mesmerizes me. Also: It comes with sweet rice. How do you know your salad is big? When it gets its own side dish.
1713 NE 15th Ave., 228-0048, blpdx.com.
Who knows salads better than vegans? Yet I was surprised to see just three on all-vegan Blossoming Lotus' lunch menu, with only one more added at dinner time. The roasted beet and curried cashew salad ($9) came prettily presented on a plate, the beets slick with sweetness but not overpowering, and cashew sour cream more delicious than the dairyfied version. If you're really hungry, though, do what I did: Get the generous sides of avocado ($2) and tofu ($3), but ask them to add them to the salad so your table isn't clogged with plates like mine. Because I looked like a really big pig—ahem—over-enthusiastic herbivore.
ST. HONORÉ BAKERY
2335 NW Thurman St., 445-4342; 315 1st St., Lake Oswego, 445-1379; sainthonorebakery.com.
I eye my Niçoise salad ($10.25) with delight. It looks like a big salad should—big hunk of tuna, non-mealy tomatoes, a scoop of Yukon gold potatoes, brilliant green haricots vert, a thorough base of greens. When it arrives, the bowl appears small, but that's only an optical illusion. As I'm plowing through this delicious and pleasantly filling lunch, I'm wondering if it's being continually refilled somehow and I'm part of a psychology experiment. St. Honoré, you salad minx. Who knew?