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All tossed up

Barely dressed salads

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Does early daylight-saving time mean our local farmers' markets will open earlier this year too? If not, Charlotte still sparkles with restaurants offering well-composed, multi-textured salads dressed in the barest of vinaigrettes.

People often ask me about a "true" Charlotte restaurant. Well, I don't know what constitutes "true," but some restaurants have staying power. One of those is Primo Tuscan Grille, the restaurant of Myers Park. This establishment has been going strong since 1993, and on any given evening you can find the neighborhood crowd there. Primo also has one of the best salads in the city. Their Italian chopped salad is a tasty sum greater than its parts: yellow and red bell peppers, cucumber, celery, carrots, red onions, salami, hearts of palm, baby lettuces, gorgonzola, parmesan and a bit of EVOO. Yum. I promise, you can't help but feel great after finishing the last forkful (available without the salami). For nine bucks, you can't beat it.

116 Middleton Drive, at Providence Road, 704-334-3346. Closed Sunday and Monday.

A glorious Caesar, a garden with goat cheese, or the fabulous Fresca -- whichever salad you choose, you cannot miss at Dolce. The Fresca contains a crunch of pear and walnuts and mixed greens that unlocks a delicious blast of Gorgonzola honey, a dressing worth bottling. Each of Dolce's salads bespeaks a kitchen restrained from gratuitous embellishment.

Dolce Ristorante Italiano, 1710 Kenilworth Ave., 704-332-7525.

Nolen Kitchen, another Myers Park locally owned restaurant, offers salads in two sizes and prices. My favorite is the peppery arugula salad paired with grape tomatoes, candied walnuts and Manchego cheese shaved thin as silk stockings.

Nolen Kitchen and Crescent Bar and Lounge, 2839 Selwyn Ave., 704-372-1424

Leave it to a Frenchman to have the necessary restraint and keen eye for ingredients to perfect a salad. My choice at chef and owner Bernard Brunet's Global is his perfectly composed endive salad with blue cheese, pecans, apples, chives and almond vinaigrette. Global is off the beaten path and located in a far corner of an office park, but this is food prepared by a talented chef and should be noticed.

Global Restaurant Bar & Lounge, 3520 Toringdon Way, 704-248-0866

If salad makes you think bar then the place for you is the salad bar at Rodeo Rodizio Brazilian Steakhouse. They offer 27 dishes, both hot and cold, on their all-you-can-eat buffet. Items include such cold salads as spears of hearts of palm; a lusty cole slaw; romaine; cauliflower, artichoke and shrimp; corn; eggplant; mango; and Portobello. Also available is feijoada, a black bean stew served over white rice with collard greens, and then sprinkled with farofa, a toasted mixture of yucca flour that's similar to spicy breadcrumbs, and orange segments. The salad bar can be pricey if you are not indulging in the meat selection: Dinner is $29.95 per person.

391 Towne Centre Blvd., Pineville (behind Talbot's, off Highway 51) 704-889-0000.

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