"Eat good, look good, feel good" is the slogan sprinkled like verbal croutons throughout the website for Salata, the Houston-born, predominantly Texas chain of fast-casual restaurants whose sixth North Texas branch opened in November in downtown Fort Worth.
Yes, Salata does risk a bit of eye-rolling at its cultishly earnest vow to be the "next-generation salad bar," delivering compelling taste along with hyper-health-conscious "plant-based food."
But two salad wraps and two heaping salads ($8 each) later, Salata managed to convince at least one skeptic that its commitment to serving studiously fresh and healthy food doesn't mean sacrificing any texture or taste.
Upon entering Salata, amble up to the salad bar and be prepared for an embarrassment of riches. One of the restaurant's chefs will help you customize your salad.
It starts with a choice of four kinds of greens, followed by a head-spinning 48 toppings, plus the option of adding everything from chicken breast and baked salmon to tuna, shrimp and crabmeat, and saucing it up with one of 10 "all-natural" dressings.
Using my Salata mix (a slightly peppery combo of romaine hearts, spring mix, and red and green cabbage) and the iron-rich spinach salad as a base, I ordered more than a dozen accoutrements, including snappy snow peas, cauliflower, carrot slices, juicy tomatoes, crunchy tendrils of bean and alfalfa sprouts, ruby-red beet cubes, melt-in-the-mouth kidney and black beans, chickpeas, and sweet raisins.
Pleasing crunch came courtesy of sesame sticks, almond slivers, walnuts or pita chips, the new millennium's crouton. Heat was delivered by both banana and jalapeño peppers, while a dusting of feta and Parmesan cheeses gave the salad a certain irresistible tang.
This confab of ingredients mingled harmoniously in the bowl, with each one shining through while also melding under the subtle napping of the five sampled dressings. The dressing divas were a grassy fresh-herb vinaigrette, a pleasingly Asian-tasting ginger-lime and the mildly spicy chipotle ranch. If you happen to fall in love with one of Salata's dressings, they're sold by the 12-ounce bottle for $6.
The two Salata wraps I sampled delivered the same flavor pop as the salads, with an added lift from two proteins: chipotle chicken for the Southwest wrap ($8) and marinated shrimp for the Asian wrap ($9), with the latter essentially impersonating a super-size veggie roll. The wraps' pliable and soft tortillas never got soggy from the dressings, and were flavored with spices like Thai ginger, all of which amplified their copious fillings.
Salata's interior, with its pale peach walls and ceiling lamp shades the color of, appropriately, asparagus stalks and romaine lettuce leaves, is chainlike yet never sterile. The mostly salsa and meringue-flavored music on the sound system reinforces Salata's "fresh" atmosphere.
Located directly opposite the west facade of Bass Hall, Salata could become a downtown go-to for a healthy, ultra-light pre- or post-performance meal.