Good salad (?!) lunch at Za [Arlington MA]

I’m usually not a salad-for-lunch kinda girl but I had one yesterday and it was good. I met a friend for lunch yesterday at Za Arlington. We ate outside and were cozy under light fleece blankets (we brought our own) - they don’t have heaters. I hadn’t been to Za in ages because, although I like the place and the people, I don’t care for their pizza crust. Neither does my friend but as she wisely said, the salads are their raison d’etre. She immediately knew she’d get the cucumber salad. A fresh Greek-ish salad mounded on top of a mound of cold mashed potatoes. She loves that salad and I could see why - I would never think of using cold mashed as a salad element, but after 1 nibble of the potatoes and I understood. My avocado salad was a Mexican-leaning timbale of avocado with beans, jalapeños, tomatoes, onion. Crumbled up tortillas added a welcome textural contrast. Delicious and refreshing. Coffee for her and wine for me.

ETA: Not a timbale…I always thought that meant a molded-cylindrical kind of thing-y but I decided to google that after I posted.

Friendly casual service and good people-watching including this:


I’m not a salad guy, but I might have to try that potato based one. I do like their pizzas!


I was the lucky friend and man, that Greek-ish salad was as good as I remembered. I’ve probably had and enjoyed it more than 20 times over the years. Agree with @digga, not a big fan of their pizza but love everything else about the place. Service was delightful and the coffee was very good.

PS - agree on the “people-watching” although that is an interesting phrase as mostly we enjoyed the dogs who went by, including the pictured engaging good dog who had an unpictured companion in costume, also very good.


I love the Za salads, all of them: avocado, cucumber, beet, iceberg. Haven’t had Za food for years, but I see from the menu they are still serving the same salads I started enjoying more than 20 years ago. The arugula might be “new” or a special. The cucumber/potato is my favorite. The East Cambridge location has the same menu.


@digga, @GretchenS, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re not fans of the pizza crust at Za. Me, neither.

I remember their sister restaurant EVOO in Cambridge (on hiatus during the pandemic) having tasty salads. I blame them for showing me that soaking dried cherries in port makes an amazing addition to an arugula salad.


Is the potato base of that Greek Salad mashed potatoes or like potato salad?

The potatoes are mashed but they taste like a Greek potato salad. It’s hard to describe…all the flavors meld very well, this is not at all like eating cold mashed potatoes. The ingredients are Tomato, Kalamata Olive, Drumlin Farm’s Radish and Potato Salad with Feta Cheese, Fresh Oregano and Homemade Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette. It is delicious, especially with some fresh ground black pepper.


Those are both mighty tempting looking salads. Wise to bring the fleece. Some places that used to offer blankets have stopped out of fear of COVID transmission. Pretty unlikely, I think, but bringing your own has multiple advantages.