Larkburger's new salads make spring official -- celebrate with a Memorial Day burger BOGO

Colorado-based Larkburger is springing into the warm weather with three very spring-y new salads: baby kale, bibb and quinoa, and Caesar. I'm sure I'm not the only Denverite who is hoping these spring offerings will bring some good juju with them, ensuring that we won't see another snowflake until next year.

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I've never had a bad experience at a Larkburger; in fact, I thoroughly enjoy eating at these restaurants (there are now twelve of them in Colorado) because of the consistently fine burgers, the truffle fries, and the totally mellow, organic-feeling atmosphere at each store. Earlier this week, I stopped by the Larkburger at 340 East Alameda Avenue to try the new salads. Chill reggae music drifted out from the sound system, the wood-paneled walls and minimal décor made for a relaxing, non-eye-cluttering experience, and I swear that forking into the salads made me feel downright healthy and serene.

The baby kale salad (prices start at $5.75 and rise with protein upgrades like ahi, beef, turkey and chicken) was a page torn straight out of the "fresh tastes of spring" handbook: It featured the thinnest of thinly sliced carrots, cucumbers and radishes, accents of red onion and a tamari-ginger dressing that was tangy but not overwhelming. But the tiny, micro-sized baby kale was the standout delicacy, since the diminutive leaves were bright and tender, with no hint of the annoying woodiness that older kale can have. Larkburger recommends adding a piece of its seared ahi tuna to this salad, and that's a good idea: Larkburger does magical things with tuna (witness its tuna burger).

Quinoa was once an exotic, ancient grain that you didn't find in salads -- just in a few stray bins at health-food stores. But thanks to changing tastes and global diffusion, it's becoming more common. For another new salad, Larkburger mixes quinoa (seasoned very lightly with tomato) with bibb and lolla rosa lettuces, then tosses in carrots, cucumbers, radishes and chickpeas. The house vinaigrette enhanced this bowl of delicious weeds and veggies enough that it didn't need the medium-grilled beef I added...but beef makes everything better. Still, the salad was a little scanty on the quinoa. While offering a small taste might be a good way for some restaurants to baby-step folks into appreciating a new taste and texture, Larkburger's demographic could handle a lot more.

Caesar salads are as common in restaurants as silverware and trash cans, and some of the bottom-stem-cuts in my Larkburger Caesar belonged in a trash can. But the gluten-free croutons were tasty little bits of toast, the dressing was piquant, and the adobo-seasoned chicken breast I'd ordered on top of the salad made it into something special.

And the new salads aren't the only reason to visit Larkburger over Memorial Day: There's a burger BOGO promotion on its Facebook page for Monday, May 27, National Burger Day. You all know the drill -- like 'em on Facebook and get an e-mail coupon for a free burger with the purchase of a regular-priced burger.

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