The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Wild Greens sprouts dry food but provides lush atmosphere.

Easy-listening tunes crooned from removed speakers while waitresses busied themselves rearranging empty tables. Beulah, a friendly customer entering the restaurant, broke the quiet atmosphere by loudly drawling, "You all look so pretty," to white-haired matrons sporting pastel pantsuits. The kindly and simple yet colorful demeanors of Beulah and her lady-friends speak most for the restaurant, Wild Greens, in which we dined.

Tucked away at the far end of Barrack's Road Shopping Center, by Hollywood Video, Wild Greens is an unpretentious restaurant which caters to the local community, offering salads, pastas and meat and seafood dishes.

Contrary to its name, Wild Greens is neither "wild" nor particularly "green." The menu does not root itself in a celebration of greens or truly explore the culinary potential of "non-green" foods. Rather, Wild Greens experiments with food of mostly southwest and southern origins, while maintaining a conservative feel through the usual side orders -- french fries, rice and plain steamed vegetables.

Wild Greens' overpriced entrees are taste-bud temptations that fail to deliver, but the sandwiches and side salads provide a reasonable alternative, offering satisfying blends of flavor and texture.

Menu possibilities, arranged in witty categories, range from starters and light items -- like the pesto-grilled shrimp brochette, the southwest grilled chicken cobb salad and the eastern shore crabcake sandwich -- to heartier meals -- like the jumpin' jambalaya, backyard bar-b-que babyback ribs and new American meatloaf. We ordered the veg head stack and the pecan-crusted local mountain trout.

The veg head stack is a sandwich composed of a portobello mushroom cap, marinated eggplant, roasted peppers, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato and basil aioli. At $7.50, it provides a filling dinner for vegetable lovers. French fries and coleslaw accompany the meal, and a salad may be substituted for these side orders.

As a whole, the veg head stack is a satisfying meal. The portobello mushroom is tender and generous in size, and the eggplant is nicely marinated to complement the flavors of the basil and mozzarella cheese. The sandwich's crisp French roll absorbs the flavor without getting soggy. Watch out for your fingers, though, should you order this veggie delight: The price for large bites is an inky, runny juice, which can get quite messy.

In contrast to the juiciness of the veg head, the pecan-crusted local mountain trout is dry and crusty. This entree is an entire trout -- complete with tail -- smothered with pecan bits and served with rice and garlic-butter zucchini strips. Somewhat bland and overrun by nuts, this dish goes for $16.50 and includes a salad. Through its interesting blend of flavors and ingredients, the salad improves the otherwise mediocre meal.

Somewhat similar to a Caesar salad, the Wild Greens starter salad tosses mixed baby greens, asiago cheese, roasted peppers and pine nuts in a creamy garlic vinaigrette. It can be ordered as an independent meal for $5.95, with the option of adding either chicken or shrimp at an additional cost.

Where the fish fails, the salad succeeds. Flavorful and imaginative, the salad effectively blends textures of all types, from the slimy to the crunchy, while balancing both tart and sweet elements.

A basket of warm, slightly-toasted rosemary bread complements every meal. Small, onion-shaped butter balls add a kick to the bread's taste.

Although our meals were not extraordinary, we ventured to try one of Wild Greens' few desserts, which the friendly and accommodating wait staff reputed as good and made on the premises. Despite the recommendation, the double-chocolate buttercream cake, served over a drizzle of vanilla sauce, proved disappointing. Cold and flavorless, the cake was reminiscent of Pepperidge Farms' frozen box cakes and lacked both moisture and inspiration.

While the food is not stellar at Wild Greens, the restaurant succeeds with certain menu items, like the salad.

Since the restaurant is relatively new to the area, it has potential to improve as a grill with particular local appeal. As we got up to go, the laughter of Beulah and her friends rang out above the clinking of forks, reminding us that good meals do not always rely simply upon the quality of food -- although, undeniably, the food makes an impact on the patron.

If you dine at Wild Greens don't forget to grab some mints by the door. Multi-colored and tasty, they truly do melt in your mouth, even if the main course fails to do so.