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Bites Nearby: Ralphs Salad Bar

There are lots of choices and the price is nice.

It was a dark and stormy night, an unfit night for man or beast—but deadline time to write a restaurant review. The bar at was the first choice because the French onion soup there has a certain "je ne sais quoi," and the ambiance reminds me of Mundaka, a place in the Basque Country of Spain. BeauRivage is an excellent place to go and sit by the fire on a cold, dark and stormy night.

But Bridget Graham —so that was out.

was a contender because I had shared some tilapia there a couple nights ago with a friend. But a shared plate of tilapia was not enough material for a fair review—even with the potatoes. And it was too dark and stormy to drive all the way there.

The previous night, a friend ordered some curries from , and I went there to pick them up. But it turned out she had ordered from the Thai Dishes in Santa Monica, and it really isn’t fair to write a restaurant review about a place that didn’t receive the order.

So: , a place I have driven past a million times, but stopped at only a few. It was all lit up like a downtown Christmas tree, which was good because it was visible in a raging downpour at around 7:40 p.m. on this dark and stormy night.

Pulling in, there was a sign reading “Self Pay Parking Lot,” and I was aghast: “Malibu Seafood has valet parking! This has gone too far!”

But no, that sign was for the parking at the  Trailhead of the Corral Canyon Loop. This was not a night for hiking. And it wasn’t a night for Malibu Seafood, which I discovered closes at 7:30.

The was in the wrong direction.  was tempting because I have never been there, but I didn’t want to eat there alone.

So I went to .

Ralphs? Yes, it is more than a grocery store in many ways. And on a side note, it is spelled "R-a-l-p-h-s." That apostrophe countless people place before the “s” is not needed.

The packaged sushi is pretty good, especially when that kind sushi chef is back there, smiling quietly to himself and whipping it up fresh. Go nuts, and you can spend as much as $13 for a sashimi medley.

But my choice on this night was the salad bar. It is pretty good and an inexpensive and healthy option. There are four kinds of lettuce for the base, and the base is important. They have spinach, a lettuce medley, raw romaine and a Caesar salad with dressing. I skipped the prepared Caesar, but took little grabs of the rest, and prepared a nice base of leafy greens.

And then it was down the line. Two trays per row. On this night, the options went like this, from bottom to top: Diced carrots and tuna and/or salmon surprise, chopped onions and tabouleh salad, soy beans and imitation crab, mozzarella balls and ham, red onions and turkey, beets and hard-boiled eggs, corn/pea/carrot medley and canned corn, garbanzo beans and cucumbers, rice surprise and bell pepper, bacon and broccoli, grated blue cheese and mushrooms and grated feta and croutons.

On the left end, there were six options for dressing: balsamic vinaigrette, ranch, honey mustard, thousand island, blue cheese and Caesar. On the right side, there was oil and vinegar.

On occasion, they bust out the baby shrimp or artichoke hearts. But that was not to be on this night.

The salad bar at Ralphs is a quick and healthy option, the price is right ($7.99 per pound) and there’s no valet parking.

Ralphs, 23841 Malibu Road in Malibu Colony Plaza

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