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[Photographs: Rabi Abonour]

There's plenty to love about Despaña, from its Spanish specialty goods to its sandwiches and its Spanish-style horchata. So it should come as no surprise that the salads are also a strong offering, and at $7 each, an affordable lunch.

Both the Marcona and Serrano salads start with a standard base of mixed greens and halved cherry tomatoes. The greens are crisp and the tomatoes are flavorful. You can then choose from a selection of homemade dressings—the vinaigrette is well-balanced and fresh-tasting.

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But it's the toppings that make these salads shine. The Marcona features cubes of rich, salty cheese and, as the name implies, wonderfully crunchy marcona almonds. The Serrano is a more assertive option. Here, the greens and tomatoes are joined by pickled red onions, grated cheese, and generous helping of cubed Serrano ham. The onions hit you first with a vinegary kick, followed by the ham's meaty, sweet, and salty flavors, then the cheese adding a touch of creaminess to pull it all together.

Despaña clearly cares about great ingredients. When they come on plain salads, even in small quantities, it makes all the difference.

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