Kale is rumored to have been discovered by the ancient Greeks, but in recent years, the green veggie has transformed into the trendiest pick in the produce aisle. It's transcended food geek culture to become a cultural icon in its own right. Don't believe us? Check out these "Hail Kale!" bumper stickers and the KALE sweatshirt from Beyonce's 7/11 music video.
Though it tastes as good in smoothies as it does in a pasta dish, we think this cruciferous green tastes best in its most natural form: raw and in a salad. Kale's unique flavor makes your average greens mix look weak and bland, and its bold color brings beauty to your salad bowl.
Flower Child and Chop Shop both offer kale salads, and we tried both to help you decide which salad packs the biggest punch.
In This Corner: Flower Child
The Setting: The newly opened Flower Child in Scottsdale certainly draws a crowd, though the staff work quickly to find you a table while you wait in the deli-style line to order. The industrial-style ceiling pairs interestingly with the delicate floral decorations, but it works. An outdoor patio provides additional seating and a cool place to enjoy your meal.
The Good: The kale salad here had a different flavor with each bite. Black currant, Fuji apples, pink grapefruit, red cabbage, and white cheddar intermingle with a large portion of shredded kale. We liked that after crunching on a bit of apple, there would be a tart piece of grapefruit followed by a sweet currant. The vinaigrette softened the kale without making it mushy, and almonds added a smoky flavor to the whole salad. The variety of textures and tastes kept us guessing until the final bite. We paired it with the black passion fruit tea, bringing the final cost to a little over $11. Chicken, salmon, steak or tofu can be added for a couple bucks more.
The Bad: Though the dressing complemented the slight bitterness of kale, it was on the heavy side. Once you got to the bottom of the bowl, the kale became tart and too soft. The pool of dressing left at the end of our bowl serves as evidence of the issue.
In This Corner: The Original Chop Shop Co.
The Setting: The Chop Shop in Scottsdale is definitely a gathering spot for the trendy post-gym crowd. It has some grocery items inside, which can result in some overcrowding near the registers, but service is quick and friendly.
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The Good: If you imagine a Caesar salad and replace half the lettuce with kale, this is what you will get. It's definitely an improvement on the original because the kale adds a more substantial flavor to the otherwise plain recipe. It also helps that the croutons and dressing carry a small punch to them, adding a spice not usually found in salads. The cherry tomatoes are a nice surprise and make the dish a little prettier. In terms of cost, this dish is a little less than Flower Child's, ringing in at about $9.50 with a small iced peach tea. Customers have the option to add protein as desired.
The Bad: This salad lacked the "wow" factor. Though it tasted good, there was nothing spectacular or particularly flavorful. Some chunks of iceberg lettuce were too hard and ultimately distracted from the kale and flavor of the dressing. The excess of Parmesan cheese also distracted from an otherwise solid flavor profile.
The Winner: We had to go with Flower Child on this one. Their clever pairing of sweet and tart knocked Chop Shop's salad out cold in the first round/bite. Flower Child's salad left us full and satisfied, while Chop Shop's kale Caesar left us craving more flavors and substance.