Remember when putting an apple slice in a salad was considered avant-garde for fast food? We’ve come a long way since the Caesar and House salads of a decade ago, with chains like Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s giving us all kinds of fruit, nuts, and cheese combinations to serve over something green and, presumably, healthy. That said, most of these salads have been established flavor combos —- berries and blue cheese, apples and almonds, stuff like that.
But strawberries and mango? Can’t say that’s something I’ve ever heard of before.
I’m not sure how Wendy’s came up with their new Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad other than to suggest someone spilled their smoothie on top of their Greek chicken salad, and decided it was the best thing in the world. Spoiler alert: It’s not.
That’s not to say this salad isn’t close to being really, really good. But being close to really, really good doesn’t count, otherwise we’d be comparing the current Patriots dynasty to the early 1990s Buffalo Bills dynasty.
Surprisingly, the mango is a hit. It’s one of those fruits that absolutely sucks when it’s overripe, but thankfully the mango in the salad is slime and sinew free. Its firm bite and tropical flavor match nicely with the familiar taste of the strawberries, with each providing a nice contrast to the greens.
Wendy’s grilled chicken, which got a facelift last year, is solid, with a juicy texture and robust flavor that outmatches anything I can do on the backyard Weber. Meanwhile, the mild and salty feta cheese is not that bad until you add the honey citrus vinaigrette and the honey roasted sunflower seeds.
How do I explain this?
Imagine taking a bite of something and tasting nothing but pineapple. Now, imagine adding a crunchy, slightly burnt honey-glazed sweetness to the end of that taste. Yeah, that’s what happens once the salad dressing and roasted seeds go on.
Overall, the tastes just don’t play nicely together. Think a kazoo and a saxophone dueling for time in a pop song. What’s more, they overpower every other taste with the exception of the chicken, which suddenly finds itself the reluctant centerpiece of a tropical salsa.
I love Wendy’s commitment to salad — their Mediterranean Power Salad might just be the best fast food salad around -— but the Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad is less than the sum of its parts. That said, if you prefer your smoothies in salad form, and don’t mind overly tart citrus notes, you’ve got a total winner.
(Nutrition Facts – Full size – 470 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0.0 grams of trans fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1140 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 31 grams of sugar, 39 grams of protein, 100% vitamin A, 80% vitamin C, 20% calcium, and 15% iron..)
Purchased Price: $6.59
Size: Full size
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Excellent grilled chicken breast. Fruits are firm, fresh, and full of flavor. Feta cheese works surprisingly well with the mango and strawberry. The evolution of fast food salads.
Cons: Dressing puts the citrus notes way off the chart and makes the whole salad taste like pineapple. Deep flavor the honey roasted sunflower seeds is too strong a contrast for the light flavors of the fruit. The salad equivalent of a kazoo and saxophone duet.