FoodLife & Style

Zamalek salad bars: Low-calorie options for sweltering Ramadan summers

As the weather gets hotter, salads and light, fresh meals become more and more appealing. Fortunately, some eateries in Zamalek are offering exactly that for those looking for healthy yet filling meals that could work best for sohour, the one last meal before Ramadan’s fasting kicks off at dawn.

GoodCals is a small bistro that’s big enough to hold a group of six people. The place is tidy and clean, with a fair number of options. The menu offers 10 different types of salad and nine different sandwiches, all available on either white or whole-grain bread.

The menu is limited but very informative. Each item shows the number of calories it contains. The moment you step in, you are welcomed by a three-meter menu glued to the wall, with all the items offered at the bistro listed, in addition to a very small list of hot and cold beverages. No waiter will come to your table, so once you make up your mind, head to the counter and make your order.

The Green & Marine salad is a mixture of leafy green vegetables, cherry tomatoes, avocado and shrimp, with the option of ranch or lemon vinaigrette dressings. The combo of greens and seafood is delicious, and the tastes are accentuated by the succulent, sliced avocado. The salad was fresh, juicy and refreshingly different.

A waiter recommended the Tuscan salad, which was also a good choice. The sweetness of the corn and red beans neutralized the acidity of the balsamic dressing. The contrasting flavors make this salad unique.

The restaurant is a perfect destination for vegetarians, vegans and people with strict diets. Service is speedy and efficient — I received a second serving of vinaigrette sauce in a second and also free of charge.

If a bit of bread makes you happy, the sandwich menu is also good. Whether it’s chicken, meat or seafood, it is all available for you, on a bun of white or brown bread.

GoodCals has a small but fair menu of hot drinks. The latte, a mixture of strong espresso coffee and fresh, creamy milk, is heavenly. The quantities are huge and the prices are affordable. Salad prices range from LE24 to LE34, while sandwiches are priced at between LE21 and LE30.

Saladero offers a different experience — you pick the salad ingredients yourself. The menu is divided into a salad base, premium ingredients, unlimited vegetables and a large selection of savory dressings.

The salad base can consist of lettuce, spinach or pasta. Pick two premium ingredients — fried chicken, tuna, smoked turkey, roast beef, grilled chicken, sweet corn, fresh mushrooms, romy cheese, canned mushrooms, feta cheese, cheddar cheese or roasted almonds — and then your vegetables. Items such as shrimp and shredded smoked salmon cost an extra LE5 each. You can also have your mixture in a wrap with your favorite dressing.

Saladero offers a small, basic drinks menu that includes sodas and coffee, in addition to a dessert menu. The parfait is a healthy, energy-boosting mix of yogurt, berries, oatmeal and honey. The fruit salad is also recommended.

An average salad or wrap should cost about LE22. My salad and soda cost less than LE30 — definitely cheaper than GoodCals.

Almost all ingredients on the menu were available, except salami. The place is constantly busy and the service is good. The interior is hip and cozy, and the place will seat up to 15 people comfortably. My salad was fresh and tasty, though the salad bar attendant used too much dressing, which made my bread soggy and soft.

Most of the ingredients are fresh, and the staff is friendly, even though as I walked in, the salad bar attendant was preparing a delivery order and made me wait. A walk-in order at the bistro should take priority.

Both restaurants deliver to the entire downtown Cairo area — Zamalek, Mohandiseen, Dokki and Garden City. GoodCals opens from 8 am to 12 am and offers free Wi-Fi, while Saladero opens an hour earlier. Both eateries are non-smoking, though a high table is available for smokers by the entrance of GoodCals. Saladero offers a catering service for conferences and parties, and also has branches at the American University in Cairo and in Alexandria.

Saladero: 15 Taha Hussein St., Zamalek, Cairo; GoodCals: 32 Shagaret al-Dorr St., Zamalek, Cairo;

This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent’s weekly print edition.

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