My mom says I’m in a rut with this salad, but I swear I’ve only had it, like, four or five times. ‘Course it was the last four or five times I went to Panera, all in a row, so I could see where she might think that. But I can’t help it. Salad, although I like it just fine, is not something that I normally crave. But then I met this salad. I don’t know what even compelled me to order it the first time. Oh wait, yes I do. It was the giant placard they had in the front of the restaurant, advertising it. I’m a sucker for a good food picture. Or a good ad. Or both. I ordered it right away, and it’s been love at first bite ever since. I stop just short of licking the bowl clean.
So let me break it down:
roasted pieces of corn
tender pieces of chicken
crispy bits of blue and red tortilla strips
and the dressing
Now the first couple of times I had the salad, I had it in the restaurant, so I didn’t pay much attention to dissecting the dressing. But then when I ordered the salad to-go once, and I paid closer attention. The dressing is a Thousand Island/French (what is the difference between the two anyway?) and BBQ sauce. When you get it to go, it’s in two separate cups, so it was easier to tell what was going on. Well, scratch that. I happened to look the salad up on the website, and it says it’s a Ranch with the BBQ sauce. Hmm, go figure. I think further research might be in order, especially since it tastes like Thousand Island/French, and I have yet to see a pinky-colored Ranch.
And, of course, all of this means that should I ever feel compelled to make this salad at home, it’s totally doable. I would never have thought of putting BBQ sauce on a salad, but with the dressing, it works. I promise. I’m just glad my new favorite salad didn’t end up on this list. I have to say, I held my breath as I was reading through the entries. If this, or Wendy’s Mandarin Chicken Salad ended up there, I don’t know what I’d do.
If you’re near Panera, or even just want to try this one at home, do. I promise you won’t be sorry. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from the keyboard.