Soup and Salad Skirmish: St. Francis vs. Carly's

On the quest for a light and healthy lunch, there are many hurdles to overcome -- the convenience of fast food, the breakroom doughnut box, and even the fatty richness of artisanal local joints. One of our go-to lunches is the soup and salad combo, which gives the energy you need to finish the workday without hindering your progress toward a pool-worthy bod. There's a lot of variety possible with this mix and match, but two local restaurants serve our favorite soup and salad plates.

See Also: - Green Chile Mac and Cheese Smackdown: The Main Ingredient vs. Roaring Fork - Cobb Salad in a Crouton Cone: Genius - Sticky Toffee Pudding at St. Francis

In This Corner: St. Francis

The Setup: Keep St. Francis in mind for Mother's Day. This bright restaurant is a great place to catch up on current events while sipping cocktails with muddled cucumbers. With great specials and high-quality ingredients, St. Francis seems almost impossible to beat.

The Good: The grown-up flavors of St. Francis' menu are available on a $10 lunch plate that combines the soup of the day and a romaine salad. When we went, the soup was a smooth and creamy cauliflower puree with a delicate flavor that masked its filling nature -- definitely a plus. Plus the presentation of the large wooden cutting board with a plate of salad, bowl of soup and crostini on top is sure to impress.

The Bad: It's not that the hearts of romaine side salad was necessarily bad. It was a little heavy-handed with the buttermilk cheddar dressing, which, when combined with the bacon on the salad, made us feel less happy with our "healthy" lunch choice. The peas, romaine, and radishes were nice and fresh, though.

In The Other Corner: Carly's

The Setup: You know you're a hipster when you eat at Carly's more than once per week, and its great lunch sandwiches and salads will keep you going on the regular. The art-laden, sultry-colored restaurant is a great place for a first date or to grab a bite with a friend before a night out. Its location on Roosevelt Row just west of Second Street also makes it easy to find yourself there again and again.

The Good: Compared to St. Francis' over-dressing, Carly's salad was definitely under-dressed. We went for the pear salad, which comes with mixed greens, gorgonzola, golden raisins and walnuts. The sweet and savory ingredients blended together for a balanced flavor, which was not overpowered by the very light drizzle of balsamic on top.

The Bad: When we went, the soup of the day was a tomato bisque that just fell short. The flavor was one-dimensional -- just tomatoey, nothing else. It would have been a great dip for a grilled cheese, but didn't accompany a salad in an interesting way.

And the winner is... Carly's. Although St. Francis' soup was obviously better in flavor and texture, its overuse of salad dressing just turned us off. We'd rather have our salad taste like rabbit food than see it drenched in buttermilk. Although we will say that St. Francis' contending dish definitely tasted better, we could see ourselves munching on the less rich lunch options at Carly's on a more regular basis.

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