I have categorized The Southern Salad as Vegetarian and Vegan-Friendly, even as a source of Health Food, all of which is correct. But that doesn’t mean you can’t also get eggs, cheese, chicken, beef, and pork as part of a mighty feast — if that’s the way you want to go.
It’s all up to the customer in this bright restaurant, where cafeteria-style service means that you can build a salad or a grain bowl from the bottom up. First, select a base of lettuce or grain; then choose toppings from a long list that includes vegetables, fruits, herbs, and such “premium” add-ons as pulled pork, tri-tip, shrimp, bacon, and smoked salmon. You even can tell those who put the salads together whether you want yours “shaken” or “pretty.”
If all that decision-making is too much chore or challenge, not to worry. The Southern Salad menu includes several pre-selected combination salads, grain bowls, and toasts.
A salad called TSS is a fine introduction to what’s good about this place: It is built around a house blend of lettuces (hydroponically grown) to which are added a Dixie-accented medley of pecans, fresh watermelon and pickled watermelon rind, Vidalia onion, and cornbread croutons. Plus goat cheese. Dressing? Sweet tea basil vinaigrette. Good as all that stuff is, what wows me about this salad is the lettuce itself. It’s got body and flavor that are light years beyond sad green leaves poured out of a bag.
For a heartier meal, check out the Triple B Grain bowl — roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and bacon, plus chunks of granny smith apple, avocado, quinoa, and sunflower seeds. This one comes with BBQ ranch dressing (which you apply yourself); and for a slight surcharge, it can be topped with crumbles of the famous artisanal blue cheese made at South Carolina’s Clemson University.
Whereas the Triple B is 781 calories (every dish has a calorie count next to it), the Mediterranean bowl is a mere 352. That’s the house lettuce blend, quinoa, roasted red peppers, olives, cucumber, artichoke, green beans, feta cheese, and sliced cucumber, with apple cider vinaigrette and a trio of good pita chips.
Toasts would be worthwhile if only for the bread they’re built on: tiles of crisp sourdough from Atlanta’s H+F Bread Company. Toppings include avocado spread, roasted beets and hummus, Nutella and bananas, and smoked salmon with cream cheese, cucumbers, pickled red onion, and dill. That last one is brilliant.
The Southern Salad is located on Augusta’s Broad Street, now a thriving cultural hub that includes multiple good places to eat. It’s a spanking-new space with ebullient room tone — a restaurant whose time has come.
I love the way one is greeted at the head of the cafeteria line. The person who will be taking your order looks you in the eye and says, “Welcome home!”