Food & Drink

Tasty toss up: Locals recommend their favorite salad spots in Manatee County

There are lots of places to grab a great salad in Manatee County.
There are lots of places to grab a great salad in Manatee County. Creative Commons

They say it’s beneficial to “eat the rainbow,” and how better to do it than with a salad? (“Skittles” is the wrong answer.)

Salad is a versatile dish that can be as healthy as you please or downright decadent, and there are few meals that check off as many food groups in one go.

There’s also no culinary genius required to make a visually dazzling bowl of the stuff. A well-placed tomato here, a drizzle of dressing there and you’ve got yourself a masterpiece.

We asked members of the Bradenton Herald Facebook group “Manatee Eats” where to find the best salads in Manatee County.

Here’s where they recommend.

Psst ... go easy on the bacon bits and ranch.

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The “Siesta Salad” at Gecko’s Grill & Pub comes with romaine lettuce, feta cheese, cranberries, glazed pecans, tomato, bacon and onion tossed in a Greek vinaigrette. It can be upgraded with chicken, tilapia or shrimp. Gecko's Grill & Pub

Gecko’s Grill & Pub

Word among our foodies is that Gecko’s Cobb salad is killer. You will probably want to make a main course of it.

Appropriately dubbed “The Ultimate Cobb,” the creation is comprised of chicken, bacon, egg, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, black olives, crumbled blue cheese, cheddar and jack cheeses, croutons and a tortilla shell over fresh greens.

The salad goes for $13, and you can upgrade the chicken to tilapia or shrimp for an extra $2.

There are 10 other salads to try on the menu, including a chef’s salad, grilled Mediterranean salad and a Buffalo chicken Caesar salad.

Gecko’s Grill & Pub has two Bradenton locations — at 7228 55th Ave. E. and 4310 State Road 64 E.. There are four locations in Sarasota.


Columbia Restaurant’s “1905 Salad” is famous for a reason. Try it and find out why. Rob Bovarnick Columbia Restaurant

Columbia Restaurant

The Columbia Restaurants are landmark Florida eateries, and the owners boast that the original Ybor City location is the state’s oldest continually operating restaurant.

The closest Columbia Restaurant is in Sarasota County, but we will make an exception to our Manatee-only rule because our locals love it, and well, their salad is just delicious.

Part of the restaurant’s notoriety is definitely owed to the “1905 Salad.”

Named for the year the restaurant was founded, it is tossed tableside with iceberg lettuce, julienne of baked ham, natural Swiss cheese, tomato, olives, grated Romano cheese and garlic dressing.

You’ll probably want to make a meal out of this one, too.

If you are a true “Manatee Eats” loyalist and you don’t want to leave the county to get the salad, never fear. You can make it at home with the handy recipe on Colombia Restaurant’s website.

Columbia Restaurant’s Sarasota location is at 411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota.


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The Keto Bowl at Bowled Life is designed to comply with the ketogenic diet, but it makes a tasty salad for all. Photo courtesy of Bowled Life

Bowled Life

Bowled Life started out as a food truck that, amazingly, serves healthy and nutritious food.

In addition to the mobile eats, the owners just opened the Bowled Life Cafe in Palmetto at the beginning of the October.

Bowled Life’s menu’s main focus is acai bowls, which could be considered a kind of fruit salad, but there are some more greens-oriented options too.

The quinoa bowl is made with fresh greens, organic quinoa tabbouleh (cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley) and optional feta cheese. You can also add chicken, egg, sliced avocado or almonds for an upcharge.

The keto bowl is made with fresh greens, shredded chicken breast, hard boiled egg, sliced avocado, almonds with olive oil and flavored vinegar drizzle.

Check Bowled Life’s Facebook page to see where the food truck will be next, or stop in and check out the new restaurant.

Bowled Life Cafe is at 929 10th St. E., Palmetto.


Other recommendations:

“Rich’s Caesar” salad at enRich Bistro, 5629 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Central Cafe, 906 Manatee Ave. E., Bradenton.

Beach House Restaurant, 200 Gulf Dr. N., Bradenton Beach.

House salad with grilled chicken at Anna Maria Oyster Bar, multiple locations.

Cortez Clam Factory, 10104 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.

The Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria.

“Berry Island Salad” at Esplanade Golf and Country Club, 12825 Malachite Dr., Lakewood Ranch.

“Robb Cobb Salad” at Peach’s, multiple locations.

Salad bar at Ruby Tuesday, 8306 Tourist Center Dr., Bradenton.

Newk’s Eatery, 5405 University Pkwy. #110, Bradenton.

O’bricks Irish Pub & Martini Bar, 427 12th St. W., Bradenton.

Chick-fil-A, multiple locations.

Taco salad at Wendy’s, multiple locations.

Shake Station, 4219 U.S. 301, Ellenton.