Menu Innovations | February 2016 | By Sam Oches

Inspirations: Sharky’s Tostada Salad with Baby Kale

Steven Paperno, Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill CEO and founder, discusses the inspiration behind the fast casual's Tostada Salad with Baby Kale.
Southern California fast casual kale salad excites customers looking for bitter notes.
Sharky’s Tostada Salad with Baby Kale Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill

“It’s on a secondary menu that we call ‘Get It Naked,’ which to us means lower in fat and lower in calories. One of our top items has always been the tostada. What we wanted to do with the Naked menu was try to take one of our top-selling products, which was the tostada, and make it even healthier.

“We didn’t want to fry a tortilla. We developed a whole-wheat tortilla that has multigrain, but also has substituted some soy flour in there. By adding the soy flour and taking out some of the grains, we were able to create a higher-protein, lower-carb tortilla. We take that tortilla and we bake it nice and crispy so it’s almost like a cracker.

The Players:

• Tortilla

• Baby kale

• Organic pinto or black beans

• Organic poblano brown rice

• Steamed vegetables

• Guacamole

• Low-fat cheese

• Non-fat sour cream

• Pico de gallo

• Mesquite grilled chicken

“We top it off with organic pinto beans or organic black beans, then layer it with organic poblano brown rice and a choice of greens. One of those greens is kale. Kale is interesting; either you love it or you hate it. Bitter is not what everybody likes. You’re kind of appealing to a more sophisticated palate when you’re dealing with certain greens and especially bitters. We had a choice of many types of kale, but to move away from bitter while still having nutritional content, we used organic baby kale.

“Then we use steamed vegetables. We use fresh, hand-made guacamole, a low-fat cheese, a non-fat sour cream, and fresh pico de gallo. And we use our mesquite grilled chicken on top of that. We kind of just took what was our No. 1 seller and said, ‘OK, how do we make this even better and healthier?’ And we did that. It was a hit instantly.”

—Steven Paperno

CEO & Founder


Sharky's rocks. Steve is the real deal. Good to see food CEOs doing the right thing.

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