OK, let’s admit it. When this whole “stay at home” thing began in early March, many of us may have been guilty of diving into comfort food and snacks. Three weeks ago, beef stroganoff and anything with pepperoni seemed very sensible and essential food groups to me.

Now that we’re looking at a possible end in sight in just a few weeks, I’ve decided it’s time to step away from the COVID Bloat and start being a bit more sensible, period. While I can never entirely give up my favorite pizza or burger, I’ve taken the first step with an “infusion” of salads in the mix.

Fortunately, our chefs in this town know how to make salads that don’t taste like … you know … salad.

For years, my go-to salad has always been the Lumberyard’s Crab Cake Salad, a perfect combo of comfort and sensibility. I also love the super fresh, crunchy Farmer’s Market Salad at Royal Hawaiian, the Seared Ahi Tuna salad at Starfish and the simple Kale Salad at NEApolitan Pizzeria.

Thanks to my social readers and friends, I’m now extending my hunt for the most memorable Laguna Beach salads. If you have suggestions, by all means send them to Diane@TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and I’ll cover my favorites in future issues.

This week, since I’m craving my old travel days, I opted for salads whose originations are more internationally based.

GG’s Bistro Makes Mediterranean Salad Right

Natives of Turkey until they moved here in 2004, you might say that brothers Bulent and Ragip had every right to claim their new GG’s restaurant as “Mediterranean.” With their wives, Hande and Francesca, the two couples put together a menu that largely consisted of Mediterranean and Turkish fare. They were quick to make a welcome home here with residents

When Bulent suddenly and sadly passed a little over a year ago, his wife, Hande, stepped back and Ragip and Francesca took on full ownership. While I miss Bulent and Hande at the restaurant, our remaining owners are still so charming and welcoming; it’s like basking in sunshine every time I’m in their company.

It’s also a pleasure being in the company of their GG’s Mediterranean Salad (pictured above). Priced at $14 for the entrée sized salad, this is a hefty wallop of food. I ordered mine with added chicken and – three meals later – I’m still trying to get to the bottom of the tin.

Fine-chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, red onion slivers, Kalamata olives and plenty of crumbled Feta cheese are tumbled with a load of super-fresh salad greens. This is a stellar salad that hits all the marks on savory, creamy and crunchy, and is truly reminiscent of my days on that side of the world.

I always order my dressing on the side so that greens don’t wilt while waiting for the next meal. Ragip loads me up with plenty of dressing, but I also opted to purchase Francesca’s bottled Mediterranean Salad dressing because it just so happens to be awesome as a marinade for grilled chicken and shrimp, too. Twelve ounces for $12, this bottled dressing will see me sailing through this stay-at-home crisis.

Go to GGsCafeBistro.com for both salad and bottled dressing (and a long line of other great foods and pantry items). Order delivery or pick-up.    

Active Culture’s Eastern Trade Winds Salad

Most of us know Active Culture for its frozen yogurt wonders, but they tell me their take-out lately lies largely in their acai bowls and salads.

On strong recommendations from my BFF Lisa, I ordered their Eastern Trade Winds salad for $11.99. This is a giant of a salad. Seven full cups of salad are tamped into their to-go container. It piles onto my dinner plate like a vegetarian beehive of crunchy everything.


Eastern Trade Wind is a happy medley of cross cultures. There’s so much of everything that I can’t even tell you what the “base” of the salad is. As colorful as an Indian street market, it’s a combo of organic quinoa, small snips of kale, garbanzo beans, and micro-chunks of red pepper, cucumber and red onions. Then, they throw in chopped peanuts, walnuts and none other than the genius addition of fine-chopped dates.

I order their “Slammin Sauce” dressing on the side because I hate wilty greens the next day. Clearly, there’s no “wilt” to be had here now that I see the salad in person, but they still comply with plenty of dressing to get me through.

The manager at Active Yogurt claims that their “Slammin’ Sauce” is just a mix of Greek yogurt and garlic. No way, my friend. Talk to the hand. There’s a secret spice hiding in here, and I’ll get to the bottom of this mystery eventually.

As a cook myself, I’ve already gone to my refrigerator and pantry to see if I have all of the same ingredients. I do. And still I know … there’s no way in heck I’ll be able to replicate this salad.

Go to Active Culture’s website and pull down to Laguna Beach for your delivery or pick-up options. One note – if you prefer to pick-up, just put your delivery address in anyway. Once that processes, then you’re given the option to pick up behind the store.

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