Eat This Tonight: light and sexy salads 

You've got a lot of eating to do

With the Charleston Wine + Food Festival serving up lots of treats this weekend, there will be plenty of opportunities to break out your elastic waist pants in the next few days. But with all the delicious food and wine that awaits you, you're going to want to take things easy during your off-hours, saving up as much room as you can for the smorgasbord. Fortunately, nestled between the city's kitchens dishing out heavy Southern fare are restaurants doing some seriously tasty salads and smoothies — light enough to hold you over until it's time to pig out.

This insane warm February weather begs for something light and refreshing over the usual heavy meal, and nothing cools you off and fills you up like a smoothie. Mt. Pleasant's favorite little juice bar, Sprout serves up the Meal Deal, a fruity blend of strawberries, peaches, bananas, and homemade cashew milk topped with crunchy granola, also made in-house ($5.75). Go for something a little wilder with the Green Monkey, an apple and kale juice-based smoothie blended with pineapple and banana ($8.25). Feeling really crazy? Hit up the gym connected to Sprout before this weekend punches you in the stomach.

Relatively new to Charleston, all-salad bar Verde has been meeting the demands of the city's salad lovers with their endless array of lettuces and toppings. Choose from some of Verde's standards like the popular Mesa Verde, their take on Southwestern, topping romaine with grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, red onions, avocado, black beans, corn, cilantro, and a chipotle lime vinaigrette ($8.95). Or go Asian with the Mandarin salad, a colorful mix of mesclun lettuce, wasabi peas, edamame, mandarin oranges, and grilled shrimp all drizzled with their wasabi honey dressing ($8.95). Can't decide? Build your own salad, add protein, or even wrap it up for a portable and healthy lunch.

They might be known for their pizza, but the folks at Monza know building a good salad is just like building a good pie — it's all about the toppings. Along with usual staples like the wood-roasted asparagus salad topped with a local farm egg cooked sunny side up and Parmigiano reggiano ($7), Monza also offers a salad of the day. A recent salad you might encounter again features a bed of arugula topped with celery, strawberries, watercress, pistachios, and ricotta salata cheese, tossed in a grapefruit vinaigrette ($9). You'll forget you came for the pizza.

With folks constantly lined up outside the door, a table at downtown lunch and dinner staple Five Loaves Café is a steal. While many restaurants offer two or three salads, the list at Five Loaves can be daunting for the true salad enthusiast. Try the eggplant fritter salad, a bed of mixed greens topped with goat cheese, grilled asparagus, and of course, deliciously fried eggplant fritters ($4/$7.75) Get it in a half or a whole portion.




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