Salads are bullshit. Let me elaborate. Most salads are bullshit. Let me elaborate further. The majority of restaurants in America have no idea what to do when it comes to salads. The newest and lowest-skilled employees in restaurant kitchens are usually assigned to the position of “salad bitch,” a testament to both the implicit sexism of many restaurant kitchens and the disrespect thrust upon cold, vegetal foods in our contemporary American understanding of cuisine. To them, its filler; a dish they stick on the menu to look like a healthy meal option when it’s actually higher in sodium or fat than anything else on the menu. This is usually some variation of chopped romaine, slathered with thick dressing, topped with cheese and protein. Some restaurants take time with salads, making highly-composed works of art so pretentious if they were people they’d be the kind who don’t even own a TV. I have yet to find the happy-medium between these two extremes, and unfortunately Salad Republic doesn’t fill the gap.
Occupying the space next to the defunct Z Pizza in Irvine’s University Town Center across from the University of California Irvine, Republic has been open for less than a month. It goes for the sleek/uninviting/modern/sterile look so common in “healthy” restaurants these days ( flashes of Freshii). The menu features the standard 4 S’s: soups, salads, sandwiches, sides. The obvious focus here being salads, we looked over the hand-tossed options before deciding on the Grilled Flat Iron Steak and Chinese Chicken salads.
These things were enormous, but quantity does not a good salad make. The base of the steak salad was roughly two heads of chopped romaine doused in gorgonzola dressing. The steak was cooked well, a nice light char covering the still-warm strips circling my plate. I enjoyed the healthy helping of avocado, but I can’t say the same for the random pieces of radish and bell pepper I encountered. The Chinese Chicken was lighter than the steak, but still bogged down by too much sesame dressing. The consensus was that, after polishing off the good parts, you’re pretty much left with an overwhelming amount of salad that you just want to hate into oblivion.
The service was exceptional, with the server and owner constantly checking to see if we needed anything and taking the time to help advise a friend with some dietary restrictions. The lemon water is also a pleasant refreshing touch, but the salads need some fine tuning. As a wise man (Homer Simpson) once said, “You don’t win friends with salad.” Salad Republic doesn’t prove him wrong.
Mile-High Club First-Class Business Economy
Check ‘em out at:
4237 Campus Dr.
Irvine, CA 92612
11am-10pm, 7 days a week
Photos by Cristiana Wilcoxon