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Blue Barn Gourmet

PHOTOS: Krescent Cassaro

Salads used to get a bad rap: boring, bland, tools of the health lobby to get us to consume our nation’s surplus of pointless frisee. But then someone (Applebees?) discovered a trick to make people eat salads: load them up with cheese and meat and crunchy things. Blue Barn has elevated this trick into an art form, and as a direct result they run the salad game in this town.

If you are a girl in San Francisco, you’ve been to Blue Barn. It’s science. It’s a “healthy” place where you can always grab a table (or if it’s too jammed, take out) while checking out your fellow diners modeling the entire Kit & Ace spring collection. But just because there are salads doesn’t mean it’s only a place for aggressively health-conscious humans - these creations are loaded with moderately unhealthy and highly delicious toppings that make them fantastic for people attempting a 30-day yoga challenge as well as people attempting a 30-day ‘eat something green’ challenge. The sandwiches are all strong as well, with perfect filling-to-bread ratios across the board.

Krescent Cassaro

The Polk Street location is bigger and more manageable than the line-out-the-door situation that arises on Chestnut Street at peak lunch hours, so if you can, head to the Russian Hill outpost. The order at the counter set up generally moves pretty quickly, but just be prepared to have your salad cost $18 if you add salmon, chicken, or pretty much anything extra.

So if you’re looking to be healthy - or at least feel like you’re being healthy - hit up Blue Barn for salads that have enough toppings to mask the fact that you’re eating lettuce. Or, you know, just go for some of the better fancy grilled cheeses around. Either way, you’ll enjoy them in a place where no one will judge you for wearing gym clothes, and will probably even ask you where you bought your leggings.

Food Rundown

Fattoush Salad

While it seems like the right thing to do, adding falafel to this Middle Eastern-ish salad is the wrong choice. It would make sense that they don’t keep a deep fryer inside of a barn (lots of hay, fire hazard), but the baked falafel is horrifically dry and just bad. Add anything else, and this is a great salad.

Arugula Salad

One of our go-to's and especially good if you add chicken or the outrageously priced salmon. Crispy chickpeas are possibly better than croutons.

Winter Salad

Sometimes it’s 70 degrees and you ask the person at the counter why they’re still serving the winter salad. They tell you it’s January, and then you black in and order the damn salad. Because it’s full of roasted vegetables and topped with mountains of cheese. The pomegranates make it extra delicious.

Tostada Salad

San Francisco’s take on a salad you could (and would) get at TGIFridays. Cheese, tortilla strips, and all the other Southwestern accoutrements. We love this, especially the salty, toasty pumpkin seeds.

Detox Salad

Nope, don’t get this. It only has vegetables in it and some seeds and the dressing is called “master cleanse.” Boring, flavorless and what traditional salad is rumored to taste like.

Kickin' Chicken

Barbecue sauce and chicken and bacon and cheese. Not from Wendy’s. It’s fresh, it’s melty and messy, and very good. If you’re dragging your boyfriend here, make him get this and he’ll stop complaining about being at a ‘chick place.’ Also if he calls it a ‘chick place’ maybe get rid of him.

Ragin' Cajun

Once you’ve gotten rid of ‘chick’ boy, the Ragin’ Cajun is another perfect sandwich for a guy who has been roped into the Barn. Or for anyone. Very good bread and spicy sauce and multiple meats. Extra points for putting pickles inside the sandwich.

Grilled Cheese

There are several options, and they all are close to perfection. They are also more like paninis, since the Provo and Cheddar have meat in them, but we appreciate the ‘restaurant of the people’ move to just call them grilled cheese. Lots of cheese = lots of happiness.

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