Karen's Pick | Vinaigrette

Talk about perfect timing. Just as spring arrives and thoughts turn to al fresco dining and summertime fare, Vinaigrette opens. This new salad-centric restaurant features one of the prettiest patios in town and serves refreshing food that won’t weigh you down.

Located off South Congress, Vinaigrette occupies the former Tree House Italian Grill, unrecognizable now after a dramatic remodel. Clean lines and neutral colors are accented with unexpected pops of color, like flowers in a field. Vaulted ceilings and panoramic windows flood the dining room with cheerful natural light and a view of the lovely patio.

Thankfully, the patio’s majestic live oak remains, its massive canopy providing welcoming shade. Gone are the hard ground surfaces, replaced by soft crushed gravel and natural wood, with tables nestled among lush grasses and planter boxes overflowing with fresh herbs. A wicker swing hangs whimsically in the corner and hay bales provide overflow seating. And if you’ve got a dog, bring it.

But all this gorgeous scenery is wasted unless the food is good. And it is. Vinaigrette, with outposts in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, is famous for its entrée salads and rightly so. Fresh, creative, bold and delicious, they’ll win over even the most ardent salad foe. With almost two dozen options, each bursts with a riot of flavors and textures.

I devoured the Salacho, a tasty spin on taco salad, loaded with crunchy romaine, red cabbage, scallions, red onion, and fresh corn, then scattered with ripe tomato, ground meat, cheese and cumin honey-lime vinaigrette. A squeeze of fresh lime elevated its flavors. My companion happily polished off his French Frisée, a mound of fresh, tender frisée topped with a perfectly poached egg, smoky bacon lardons and warm shallot vinaigrette. Other entrée salad options include the popular All Kale Caesar studded with chopped Marcona almonds and the Arugula Duck tossed with duck confit, goat cheese and roasted pears. Proteins like poultry, meat, seafood and tofu can be added to any salad.

If salad’s not your thing, there are also appetizers, soups, and sandwiches. But salads are the star, and portioned large enough for a meal. There’s also an extensive beverage menu of inventive fresh fruit and veggie concoctions and garden-inspired cocktails. While intriguing, we preferred our glasses of Italian pinot blanc and French white Burgundy.

Unquestionably, Vinaigrette is still a new restaurant. There were minor hiccups in service and food, but the vibe is friendly and the ambiance divine. The owner, Erin Wade, is committed to quality and plans to eventually supply most of Vinaigrette’s produce from her nearby Bastrop farm, which will make this delightful new restaurant even more appealing. As my companion said as we finished our meal, “Let’s come back here again soon.”


Photograph by Hayden Spears


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