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SPECIAL TOPICS: Taco TuesdayDisneylandMenudo

Monday, June 05, 2006

Salad Wars

This entry focuses on Mexican-oriented salads from various fast food joints and will be updated from time to time:

Baja Fresh

Chipotle Glazed Charbroiled Chicken Salad
Price: $6.45
Baja Fresh Chipotle Glazed Charbroiled Chicken Salad

Official description: "Warm chicken tenders, romaine lettuce, chipotle glaze, roasted corn, poblano and red peppers, grilled pineapple, sliced avocado, anejo cheese and cilantro. Served with a savory flauta filled with cheese, roasted corn and chiles and a side of Chipotle Vinaigrette dressing. Try it with charbroiled steak or savory pork carnitas."

My take: I like that this came with a flauta on the side (actually one flauta cut in two), because usually a salad, even a big one, on its own doesn't make a full meal for me. There were a lot of different flavors in this salad that each stood out while blending well with all the other ingredients. On my review of Baja Fresh I gave them the lowest rating I've given any restaurant so far (a neutral two and a half Speedy Gonzales rating) but this salad earns its own four Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Official Site


La Salsa

Chipotle Shrimp Salad
Price: $6.95
La Salsa's Chipotle Shrimp Salad

Official description: "Grilled marinated shrimp, Romaine, Jack and cheddar cheese, black beans, corn, salsa Mexicana, half of a fresh avocado, topped with a chipotle vinaigrette dressing and corn tortilla strips."

My take: I took one bite of this and my eyes started watering because of the super spicy chipotle dressing. After that first bite the spiciness toned down to a tolerable degree but if you like spicy shrimp, a lot of avocado, and a lot of lettuce this is for you. La Salsa's Chipotle Shrimp Salad earns a three Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Official Site


El Pollo Loco

Tropical Pollo Salad
Price: $4.99 (with coupon)
El Pollo Loco's Tropical Pollo Salad

Official description: "El Pollo Loco's new Tropical Pollo Salad is prepared fresh to order with crisp, hand-tossed Romaine lettuce topped with a warm, juicy citrus-marinated, flame-grilled chicken breast. Crowned with fresh mango and papaya salsa, tortilla strips and cilantro, and drizzled with pineapple mango dressing, it's a refreshing taste sensation unlike anything else found in fast food restaurants."

My take: The papaya/mango salsa is a plus, but for some reason the chicken in this seemed much more mass-produced than is usual for El Pollo Loco and there was too big of a lettuce to toppings ratio. Overall spiciness was less than the La Salsa salad but more than the Baja Fresh salad. El Pollo Loco's Tropical Pollo Salad earns a three and a half Speedy Gonzales rating:

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(The Tropical Pollo Salad appears to have been discontinued.)
BBQ Ranch Chicken Tostada Salad
Price: $4.99
El Pollo Loco's BBQ Ranch Chicken Tostada Salad

Official description: "The new BBQ Ranch Chicken Tostada Salad combines plenty of El Pollo Loco’s juicy flame-grilled chicken breast with crisp Romaine lettuce, BBQ Black Beans, corn poblano, crunchy tortilla strips, freshly chopped cilantro, Cotija cheese, Ranch dressing and El Pollo Loco’s new barbecue sauce-- all in a crisp tortilla shell."

Official Site


Rubio's

Chipotle Ranch Salad
Price: $5.69
Rubio's Chipotle Ranch Salad

Official description: "Grilled chicken, salsa fresca, fresh guacamole, cotija cheese and crunchy tortilla chips atop crisp lettuce with smoky Chipotle Ranch Dressing."

My take: Not as obviously intriguing as the other salads but it filled me up well and they mixed some pepitas into it even though they aren't an official ingredient for this salad so that was a nice touch. Rubio's Chipotle Ranch Salad earns a not very enthusiastic yet still solid three and a half Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Baja Caesar Salad
Price: $5.69
Rubio's Baja Caesar Salad

Official description: "Grilled chicken, chile lime pepitas, salsa fresca and cotija cheese atop crisp lettuce tossed in creamy Cilantro Caesar Dressing."

My take: The salad with the ethnic identity crisis makes its debut at the big fish taco chain. The "Caesar Salad" was invented by a man named Juan Cesar from Tijuana, Mexico, but it seemed so complementary to Italian food that Italian eateries started serving it and it was easy to think that "Caesar" was referring to Julius Caesar. Now, even though it was created by a Mexican living in Mexico, Caesar salads are being served by Mexican food establishments that put even more of a Mexican spin on them to make them seem a little less Italian. While El Pollo Loco adds tortilla strips to theirs Rubio's adds chile lime pepitas and both add salsa. Like its sibling salad from the same chain, Rubio's Baja Caesar Salad earns a not very enthusiastic yet still solid three and a half Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Official Site


Sharky's

Tostada Salad
Price: $5.99
Sharky's Tostada Salad

Official description: "Grilled vegetables, romaine lettuce, organic rice and beans, cheese, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo. Add mesquite broiled chicken or steak for $1.99."

My take: Actually my co-worker, David R., got this one when we were on a lunch break together. He said that on my rating scale Sharky's Tostada Salad earns a four Speedy Gonzales rating, and that on his own "Yip!" rating scale it gets a four out of seven Yips!:

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NuMex Caesar Salad
Price: $5.99
Sharky's NuMex Caesar Salad

Official description: "Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, roasted peppers, tortilla strips, roasted pepitas, cotija cheese, red chile croutons, tossed with a poblano-caesar dressing."

My take: Not particularly inspiring. I should've ordered this as a smaller side item and not the full-meal size I got. As a side it is only $2.99. A slight step above completely plain, it still earns a three Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Naked Chicken Tostada Salad
Price: $7.99
Sharky's


Official Site


Arby's

Market Fresh Santa Fe Salad
Price: $4.99
Arby's Market Fresh Santa Fe Salad

Official description: "A fresh bed of mixed greens topped with crispy chicken tenders - made with 100% all-natural chicken, shredded Pepper Jack and Cheddar cheeses, roasted corn and black bean salsa, red onion and grape tomatoes, served with tortilla strips and Santa Fe ranch dressing on the side."

My take: This is part of Arby's relatively new Market Fresh line of salads and sandwiches. It's got a nice blend of flavors that interact and complement each other effectively and earns a four Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Official Site


Jack In The Box

Acapulco Chicken Salad
Price: $4.89
Jack In The Box Acapulco Chicken Salad

Official description: Jack In The Box's official website does not even mention this salad but you can still get it. It has lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, shredded Jack Pepper cheese, blue corn tortilla strips, cilantro-lime dressing, and two lime wedges.

My take: This is one of my favorite Mexican-based fast food salads. Every one reviewed in this entry is good in its own way but Jack In The Box's Acapulco Chicken Salad is the best overall and earns a four and a half Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Official Site


Carl's Jr.

Chipotle Chicken Salad
Price: $4.59
Carl's Jr. Chipotle Chicken Salad

Official description: "Charbroiled Chicken, parmesan cheese, fresh salsa, and chipotle dressing."

My take: Very spicy and the taco shell it's in almost tastes like a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Carl's Jr. Chipotle Chicken Salad earns a three and a half Speedy Gonzales rating:

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Official Site


Del Taco

Chipotle Shrimp Salad
Price: $4.99
Del Taco Chipotle Shrimp Salad

Official description: "Lettuce, lime, corn, tomatoes, chipotle sauce, shrimp."

My take: Here's an enigmatic item. Recently I've seen some, but not all, Del Tacos advertising two new salads: a Caesar Salad, and a Chipotle Shrimp Salad. A couple weeks ago I decided to try one so I went to what I think is the Del Taco nearest my Irvine domicile only to find they had neither. So I decided to go to the next nearest one and figured if they didn't have either salad I would just get a bean burrito and leave. Well, the second location had both so I ordered the Chipotle Shrimp Salad. Fast forward a couple weeks and now it seems like Del Taco is widely advertising their new Caesar Salad but not advertising the Chipotle Shrimp Salad. So it could be that this item failed in the test market and is no longer available. I still liked it. It capitalizes on two current crazes: chipotle sauce and shrimp. And I think this is the only fast food salad out there with breaded shrimp.

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Official Site


Charo Chicken

Chipotle Shrimp Salad
Price: $4.99 as a bowl or $6.49 as an entree
Charo Chicken Fiesta Ensalada

Official description: "Juicy fire grilled chicken breast, lettuce, tomatoes, tortilla strips, cheese and your choice of House Oil & Vinegar, Cilantro Caesar, or Ranch dressing."

My take: Decent salad from a place that isn't really about salads. The Cilantro Caesar dressing was a plus.

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Official Site

5 comments:

joy said...

Mmm... I don't usually think of getting chicken salads, but you make these look good! I was going to say, I should order salads more often, because they're more healthy -- but once you add the half an avocado, not to mention the flauta, and the dressing, that's not exactly low-cal anymore. But then, I guess I'm not going to Mexican restaurants to lose weight anyway.

ChristianZ said...

You could ask them to leave the flauta off or the avocado off, or you could not eat them or you could get the one salad that doesn't have either. One thing I've been meaning to tell you about is the Ensalada Nutritiva from Taco Rosa which is on their lunchtime-only menu. I think it'd really be up your alley.

elmomonster said...

You know it's funny that you're doing a post on taco salad. Last Friday, was the first time in a long time that I actually ordered a salad. And not just any salad. A taco salad. And not just anywhere. A taco salad from Farmer Boys!

Not the least bit 'authentic' (I don't think taco salad ever is), but it was decent. It had a flad tostada shell of corn tortilla slathered with Mexican-style ground beef, which is placed on top of a green salad mix. That's it. Not bad I thought, although probably a shadow of the salad you've profiled in your post.

I think it'll probably disappoint you though, so I don't advise that you try it unless you are already standing in Farmer Boys.

Anonymous said...

The Jack in the Box Acapulco Chicken Salad only shows 3 1/2 Speedy's, not the 4 1/2 you mentioned in your review. Wish I had known about this Salad when I lived near a Jack in the Box.

ChristianZ said...

Thanks; just corrected the Speedy Gonzalez issue.