Fast Food Review: New Garden Sensations Salads from Wendy’s

It seems like quick-serve restaurants are constantly making attempts to bridge the gap between fast food and something a bit more.  Every burger joint seems to have a meatier restaurant-style burger these days and the often-scrutinized McDonald’s has upped the quality in it’s newer offerings (see McBistro Chicken Sandwich).  When we see fast food menu items reach the $6 area, it’s hard to look at them as “just fast food”.  Along with the prices, the quality is also being amped up.

The latest menu items to fit the pricier/higher quality realm at Wendy’s are the New Garden Sensations Salads.  Over the past month or so, I’ve tried all four and here are my impressions.

Apple Pecan Chicken Salad:

Described as:

A perfect mix of peak-season red and green apples, real blue cheese crumbles, sweet cranberries and roasted pecans, topped with a warm, grilled chicken fillet.

Nice mix of ingredients with the mix of salty and sweet. While haters of blue cheese will want to opt out, it really helps balance with the fruit and the sugared pecans.  Texture-wise, crunchy apples and pecans combined with chewy dried cranberries provides for a pleasing munch. I encountered a few wilted lettuce pieces, but overall the meal was fresh.  The chicken fillet was cut a little too big, but not a problem… good sized portion.  The pomegranate vinaigrette came off a little bitter so I used only one of the two packets provided.

Nutrition Facts: Calories 580, Fat 27g, Saturated Fat 9g, Cholesterol 110mg, Sodium 1590mg, Carbs 50g, Dietary Fiber 6g, Sugars 39g, Protein 38g

GrubGrade: 8.00/10

Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

Baja Salad:

Described as:

A hearty salad with a Southwest flair, featuring fresh pico de gallo, guacamole and slow simmered chili, all topped with a red jalapeno dressing.

I had doubts going into this one as it is the only one of the new salads to come without chicken.  I was surprised that you get an entire side of small chili to distribute as you please.  This salad has guacamole and I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to guac.  The guacamole was decently fresh, but too vinegary. The guacamole helps cool down some areas and provides for a creamy texture when mixed with everything else involved.  I didn’t taste much of the red jalapeno dressing and felt this salad was mostly dominated by the meaty chili.  Dorito-like tortilla strips help add a nice crunch.

Nutrition Info: Calories 740, Fat 47g, Saturated Fat 17g, Cholesterol 95mg, Sodium 1990mg, Carbs 49g, Dietary Fiber 13g, Sugars 14g, Protein 35g

GrubGrade: 6.75/10

Baja Salad

Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad:

Described as:

Caesar salad the way it’s supposed to be, made with hand-chopped romaine, sweet grape tomatoes and shaved Asiago cheese.

This salad had problems with an overwhelming salty taste. I took off about half of the shaved Asiago cheese because it enveloped a good portion of the salad and I felt like it was just too much.  Caesar salads are already a tangy/salty variety but this one was pushed over the edge with the spicy fried chicken fillet.  I think the spicy chicken fillet is better suited in sandwich form. My opinion is to go with grilled chicken instead of spicy… you have the option.  I liked the zesty lemon-garlic Caesar dressing by itself and only used one of the two packets provided.

Nutrition Info: Calories 740, Fat 49g, Saturated Fat 15g, Cholesterol 125mg, Sodium 1860mg, Carbs 41g, Dietary Fiber 7g, Sugars 5g, Protein 37g

GrubGrade 7.00/10

Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad

BLT Cobb Salad:

Described as:

Treat yourself to the taste of crispy Applewood Smoked Bacon mixed with real blue cheese crumbles, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and avocado ranch dressing.

My favorite of the four new salads, the BLT Cobb features Wendy’s Applewood Smoked Bacon.  Grilled chicken and bacon complement one another very well and can work extremely well in sandwiches.  As a salad, the BLT Cobb is a tasty, protein-packed meal of chicken, bacon, hard-boiled egg and blue cheese crumbles.  Once again, blue cheese haters be warned.  I felt the BLT Cobb had a nice mix of greens and juicy tomatoes, but the main stars are the chicken and bacon.  Rounding out the meal, a creamy avocado ranch dressing.  Nothing too reminiscent of avocado, but who could tell?  Lot’s going on with the BLT Cobb and not much bad to say.

Nutrition Info: Calories 670, Fat 47g, Saturated Fat 15g, Cholesterol 300mg, Sodium 1920mg, Carbs 15g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Sugars 6g, Protein 47g

GrubGrade: 8.50/10.

BLT Cobb Salad

In closing, these new Garden Sensations Salads from Wendy’s are of a more premium quality and that comes at a more premium price. Nutrition-wise, these aren’t low-cal/low-fat salads, although I must point something out…  3 out of the 4 salads (Baja not included) have nutrition figures based on two entire packets of dressing.  One packet of dressing should be just fine so if you go that route, less fat/calories.  I think all four salads are worthy of a taste, yet I guess the question is… Would you shell out $5.99 for a salad? Most combo meals are around the $6 mark these days right?  This is just another example of fast food pushing it’s way into new territory that kick out any idea of a cheap meal.

Pros: Higher quality ingredients. Filling. Varied combination of toppings.

Cons: People will fear the $5.99 price tag. No real low calorie or low-fat selection in the bunch.

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