Thursday, November 1, 2012

Not Quite Guilt-Free

Souper Salad
5222 De Zavala Road
(just east of I-10, near Vance-Jackson)

I have a good friend who has recently been placed on a strict diet by his doctor. I went to have lunch with him — my friend, not his doctor — and salad was the order of the day. So I got on Urbanspoon, my preferred web site for such purposes, and found, much to my surprise, that there are very few salad-oriented selections out in his part of town. I don't know what I was expecting; I guess I just thought that all those young-professional types that make our sprawling modern suburban areas sprawl were going about munching on lettuce leaves and sprouts all the time. But of the 26 restaurants listed in the area under the "salad" heading, Souper Salad was the only place that offers leafy greens as its main focus. Perhaps someone of an entrepreneurial bent will smell an opportunity.

So: Souper Salad, by default.

My entirely reasonable prejudice, based on a lifetime of experience, against chain restaurants extends as much to Souper Salad as any other. I've been to a few locations, including another here in San Antonio, and have never been impressed. On the other hand, I've never been particularly revolted.

You get what you expect at Souper Salad, and a few little extras of an inexpensive and nutritionally questionable variety. Besides the big bowl of cut lettuce, there's a couple of Romaine salads, and the more irresistible and fattening things, like potato salad and pasta salad. All the usual toppings are available to jazz up your rabbit food, from red onion and peppers to various seeds, and other things suitable for scattering on the pile, including a good number of drizzly things to give it a little moisture. I was pleasantly surprised to find a low-cal Italian and a low-cal Ranch. A dieter's wet dream.

The buffet line is colourful and conscientiously attended, being kept clean, well-stocked and reasonably fresh. (In fact, I would say it is kept cleaner at this location than has been my experience elsewhere.) My only complaint is that most things are found only on one side of the buffet table or the other; and since customers tend to leave the tongs lying on the side of the food containers nearest to themselves, people on the other side can't easily reach these implements. I have arms just long enough to span the distance, with an unseemly and graceless lurch under the sneeze-guard; but most people, I'm sure, would absolutely have to go down both sides of the buffet in order to get all the things they want. 

Last city inspection: September 2012
a perfect score!
I was pleasantly surprised to find four soups on offer; two is, I think, the norm (although maybe the name of the place would be a clue here). I chose a meatball soup which, other than an excess of salt, was quite good, even considering how long these dishes have to be kept out on the serving line. There was also a good selection of breads, of which I chose cornbread and, as a treat, a small square of gingerbread. The cornbread was about as good as you could expect from a mass-production facility, but the gingerbread, sadly, turned out to be the low spot of the meal. To say it was rock hard would be an exaggeration; it was only drywall-hard, and only on top, I know not why. 

Pigging out on salad is just as bad as pigging out on any other type of food, but easy to do, and it's a relatively low-guilt indulgence. You think "I'll just have a tiny bit of this, and this, and this," and before you know it you're having to get a staff member to help carry your tray. But you don't feel bad, because it's just salad. And a sprinkle of cheese. Some chopped egg. A little soup, with beef and rice in it. A couple of small slices of thin-crust pizza. The bread, and the pasta salad, and potato salad (made with mustard, so of course it's like no calories). And then you can go back as many times as you like, plus there's desserts: cookies and puddings and non-dairy frozen stuff that comes out of an extruder, and all kinds of things to sprinkle on top of that.... 

If you're going to Souper Salad for lunch, you will get reasonably good food at a reasonably good price, and you will eat in a reasonably clean setting with reasonably efficient attendance by waitrons, who will keep you well-stocked with drink, and will keep the dishes from piling up embarrasingly. If you're going because you're on a diet ... well, take your will-power with you. Sadly, I left mine in the car.
Souper! Salad! on Urbanspoon

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