The Absolute Best Salads In The U.S.

Sometimes we can look down a menu filled with steak, burgers, and sandwiches, and realize that what our stomach is really craving is a delicious salad. Biting into a freshly made salad can feel like a cool, clean breath of fresh air that our bodies have been begging for. Too often, we think of salads as nothing more than a "health-conscious" alternative to something more filling and tasty. But that would be ignoring the sheer versatility of what a salad can be. It doesn't just have to be a bowl of leafy greens dripping with dressing. It can be light in your stomach but still packed with flavor.

Yet oftentimes, the salad plays second fiddle to the entrée, if not usually replaced with soup as a starting course. But step outside the boundaries of the restaurant scene, and there's an entire universe full of salad dishes that not only are unique, versatile, and even culturally significant, but are regarded as the best salads you could possibly order. Each of these entries has something unique. Whether it's special ingredients, a new spin on the classics, or a truly creative presentation — these salads are considered the must-try option on the menu.

Warm Duck Confit Salad with Roasted Pumpkin at Dear Margaret - Chicago

Louisa Chu, the food critic for the Chicago Tribune and co-host of the Chewing podcast, declared Dear Margaret "one of the best in the Midwest." Dear Margaret's style of cooking melds their French-Canadian cuisine with a Midwestern sense of comfort and coziness. Considering that Dear Margaret opened in 2020 during the beginning of the pandemic, it's a testament to the restaurant's tenacity, as well as the popularity of their food, that they've turned into a real Chicago-style success story.

Their warm duck confit salad with roasted pumpkin perfectly captures Dear Margaret's mentality and their mission to create comforting meals that nourish both body and soul, while at the same time breaking the mold of common salad notions by serving it warm. Cured duck yolk stands out as the centerpiece of this dish, with white beans, pickled onion, arugula, and roasted pumpkin, seasoned with Banyuls vinegar and Spanish olive oil. It's the kind of meal that shows how Dear Margaret "excels in the art of the leisurely dinner," according to The Infatuation Chicago's food critic, Adrian Kane.

"A meal here doesn't happen so much as it unfolds," says Kane. "Like a map to a remote Canadian village populated by incredible chefs. It's not that things move at a frustratingly glacial pace, but the combination of the cozy space, downtempo music, and casual, incredibly friendly service is just relaxing."

Gem Salad at Jon and Vinny's Pizza - Fairfax, California

Typically, the salad at a pizza place is a pretty standard affair, usually meant to add some needed greens on the side while diners enjoy a hot slice of cheese and toppings. Yet, nestled in the California town of Fairfax is a place where they take the salad just as seriously as they do their pie. Jon & Vinny's Pizza offers up their own modern version of a pizza place salad, made with a combination of gem leaves, mixed vegetables, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese and topped with chili dressing.

According to Johnathan Gold, food critic for the LA Times, "Jon & Vinny's is a neighborhood pizzeria the way that Spago in 1982 was a pizzeria" (Spago is the flagship restaurant of famed chef personality Wolfgang Puck). High praise indeed for a pizza place. As for the salad, you just need to look at the hundreds of Yelp reviews singing its particular praises. "Phenomenal," said Yelp reviewer Maylondie S. "Best salad I've tried thus far. So simple yet flavorful. Perfect amount of crunch, heat, and Parmesan. I'll be dreaming about this salad." Much of the praise across the board goes to how perfectly seasoned the gem lettuce salad is, with many saying that boasts the perfect amount of heat. Another Yelp reviewer even dubs it a "spicy Caesar salad." It might just be good enough to forgo the pizza! Maybe.

Roast Carrot Avocado Salad at ABC Kitchen - New York City

Who said that you always need leafy greens to be a salad? New York's ABC Kitchen has got the comeback to that question with their own roast carrot avocado salad. The roasted carrots are joined by the combined citrus of orange and lemon, along with radishes and a seasoning containing cumin, thyme, and chili flakes, and topped with slices of fresh avocado. And even in a 24/7 city like New York, people will still take time to look for good locally sourced food. In that area as well, the ABC Kitchen has got New York covered with a locally sourced taste, but at a more affordable price. "ABC Kitchen pulls off the magic trick," said Sam Sifton in his New York Times restaurant review. "The food is great and not terribly expensive."

There are a couple hundred Yelp reviews for this salad alone! Jessalyn S. wrote, "I was hesitant at first because it sounded plain but [it's] actually really delicious." Another Yelp reviewer even called the roast carrot salad "shockingly addictive."

Burnt Broccoli Salad at Superiority Burger - New York City

Already, this hole-in-the-wall burger joint had previously made waves on the food scene with its award-winning vegan burger, which was even declared "Best Veggie Burger in New York" by Glasgow's Burger Blog. But according to Brian Hoffman of the food blog "Eat This, New York," all the love people are showing for the establishment's veggie burger is doing a disservice to their outstanding burnt broccoli salad. In Hoffman's perspective, the broccoli is "charred beyond perfection," and it's served with cashews, cilantro sprigs, and chilies, with an eggplant puree on the side.

"[The burnt broccoli] has a depth of flavor and textures," said Hoffman. "The Thai-like spice is tamed a bit by a creamy eggplant puree, offering expert balance to this scene-stealing side dish." Hoffman concludes his review by speculating about whether broccoli could become the next food obsession. If it's served the way Superiority Burger does it, that's probably a fair prediction. It would be a welcome upset if expertly burnt broccoli became the new veggie burger.

Original Chopped Salad at La Scala - Beverly Hills

Restaurants across the country serve the classic chopped salad in one iteration or another, but none serve it the way La Scala has been doing so since 1956. Their dish is considered the true origin of the chopped salad and is described by Gillian Ferguson of Bon Appétit as being so finely chopped that chewing is an afterthought. La Scala's well-minced salad was a blockbuster hit with their famed movie star patrons and quickly took the U.S. restaurant scene by storm.

The ingredients may sound pretty common, but La Scala's chopped salad puts an emphasis on being as bite-sized as it can be. The classic chopped salad is made with finely, and we do mean very finely, chopped iceberg and romaine lettuce, julienned salami, and "shredded into near oblivion" mozzarella cheese. Its biggest secret, though, is found in the dressing (via The Los Angeles Times), made with wine vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper. The dressing and salad are topped with a garnish of Parmesan and served with garbanzo beans. "It was an addicting salad," said restaurateur Nancy Silverton. "You were able to get a perfect, well-distributed bite in every forkful." Even now, La Scala still sells this popular salad to 400 hungry customers a day.

Caesar Salad at Carbone - New York City

Twenty-one dollars for a Caesar salad?! According to Nick Solares of Eater New York, what the Greenwich-based old school Italian-American chophouse is serving, you wouldn't normally call a salad. At least if you're thinking about your waistline. "With all the egg, butter, and anchovies, you might as well be eating a hamburger from a health perspective," said Nick Solares in an Eater New York article.

Prepared right at your table as in the classic restaurants of yesteryear, the Caesar is a classically made kind of salad, created with romaine lettuce and tossed with dressing and anchovies. But what truly sets it apart is the homemade croutons. Described as "as big as your head" by food blogger Elle Harikleia, Carbone's croutons are "properly soaked in butter, toasted to a crisp on the outside, but so large they stay nice and chewy, with that rich drain of butter and olive oil that smooshes out when you bite into them."

Hardly what one could ever call remotely healthy. But if you're like Yelp reviewer Seth M., the Caesar alla ZZ is the salad for the "I'm not a salad guy" kind of guy.

Beet Salad at Olive & Ivy - Scottsdale, Arizona

The Arizona climate can arguably be considered a perpetual state of summer. With such dry desert heat and scorching sun, the last thing anyone wants on a hot day is something heavy that might just give them the meat sweats. It's the kind of weather just asking for a cool and crisp summer salad. Thankfully, Olive & Ivy is serving the people of Scottsdale the perfect plate of greens that's both light and refreshing with their beet salad. A simple combo of beets, arugula, goat cheese, and pistachio nuts, this salad fits into Olive & Ivy's Mediterranean-style menu and helps bring that much-needed breath of cool, fresh air to the hot Arizona desert.

Olive & Ivy's Beet Salad perfectly matches their overall relaxing and laid-back Mediterranean dining experience. This is the kind of salad you order with a glass of white wine while dining al fresco with a gentle breeze passing by. A review by Opentable said Olive & Ivy transports you from Scottsdale to Southern France.

Artisan Avocado Salad at Avocados - Gainesville, Georgia

Brunch can be so much more than French toast and coffee, or (depending on your hangover) eggs Benedict and mimosas. Either way, if you love good food and afternoon drinks, brunch is hardly, if ever, a bad idea. Avocados in Gainsville, Georgia tends to agree with that idea — and so do their artisan salads. They're made with or without grilled chicken; with artisan lettuce, feta cheese, and a cilantro vinaigrette dressing; and served, of course, with freshly chopped avocado and a side of gluten-free bread. No matter how you're feeling in the morning or how hard it is to recover from the night before, this salad has you set with the proteins and starches for that mid-morning or early-afternoon boost.

Both the salad and the bread have netted some attention on Yelp, with the artisan salad being among the most-mentioned dishes. "The gluten-free bread tasted like REAL BREAD," raved an enthusiastic Cindi R. That might be the highest form of praise one could ever give to gluten-free anything. "I usually get the artisan salad when I go for lunch and it's delightful," said Tori H. "The greens are always very fresh [and] the chicken is cooked to perfection."

Cobb Salad at Sadelle's - New York City

Another one of America's favorite salads, the Cobb, is a popular staple at Sadelle's in New York. Found between Soho and the Village, Sadelle's serves the classic salad in tremendous portions, with Yelp reviewer Perry T. calling the Cobb salad a "veritable acre of lettuce and goodies." Those goodies include bacon, chicken, egg, avocado, and tomato nestled in the massive forest of lettuce. The sheer generosity of the portions alone makes this salad easy to share. "We got a Cobb salad to split, which was huge and amazing," said reviewer Jackie W.

Sadelle's also made its claim to fame with its menu of Jewish cuisine and highly-celebrated bagels. In 2016, Grubhub even declared Sadelle's to have the best bagel in New York. Whether it's for bagels, brunch, or for dinner at any time, Sadelle's is considered an iconic destination restaurant, according to Ryan Sutton of Eater, New York.

"This is what happens when you transplant the culinary traditions of the Lower East Side to the Soho shopping district," said Sutton. "You get, with Sadelle's, an instant New York daytime classic." When you stop by, don't skip the salad.

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad at Harvest Wine Bar & Restaurant - New Haven, Connecticut

Another instance that proves you don't need lettuce to call yourself a salad. At New Haven, Connecticut's Harvest Wine Bar & Restaurant, they've forgone a bowl of leaves in favor of a short tower of shaved Brussels sprouts balled up on top of a small cake of Parmesan-encrusted risotto, topped with some more generous shavings of Parmesan and drizzled with a truffle oil vinaigrette.

This salad even got the attention of Josh Levinson, the so-called "editor-in-pajama-pants" for Between Two Rocks, a blog about all the things to love in New Haven. "Harvest calls itself a wine bar but is low-key one of the best restaurants in New Haven," said Levinson in his article about the city's best dishes. "The shaved Brussels salad is one of the hidden gems on their awesome menu ... If you order it, the only regret will be that you have to share it with someone else."

Ono Island Ahi Salad at Aloha Salads - Kailua, Hawaii

Tripadvisor reviewers are tripping over themselves to sing the praises of this dish, with one declaring, "OMG, the best, freshest, tasty salad I have ever had!" Aloha Salads has grown beyond the island of Hawaii and become an international business, even opening one of its salad bars in Harajuku, Japan in 2017. Their Ono Island ahi salad is low on calories but high on that bright, refreshing Hawaiian flavor. Ahi tuna serves as the meat in a melody of mixed field greens, strawberries, mango, bean sprouts, avocado, green onion, and shredded coconut, topped with a mango vinaigrette.

"We wanted to give people with a busy lifestyle an alternative to the plate lunch — meat, rice, mac salad," said Aloha Salads co-owner Sara Lufrano, in an interview with Dining Out. Further setting themselves apart from other salad bars not just by being health-conscious but with environmental awareness, Aloha Salad uses locally grown produce, and even their Ahi Salad uses locally fished ahi tuna.

Milano Salad at Bella Milano - Springfield, Illinois

Keeping it simple yet satisfying in the Illinois state capital, the Milano salad at Bella Milano is a favorite of Food Correspondent Kathy Rem, according to her State Journal-Register restaurant review. "I always get the delicious Milano salad," she said. "It's a blend of iceberg and romaine lettuces, green onions, prosciutto ham, cheeses, and a creamy house dressing." Even though the restaurant lies more on the slightly pricier side of this list, it hasn't stopped Bella Milano nor their self-named salad from grabbing some rave reviews on social media.

"Still one of my favorites," said one Trip Advisor reviewer. "I like to start off with the house salad. It's simple, yet so good ... a great starter in itself." Similarly, on Yelp, the Milano Salad continues to get love from patrons. Carolyn C. calls the salad, "an absolute treat." Melanie M. goes one further, saying it's "to die for."

Boise Chopped Salad at Fork - Boise, Idaho

So good that it shares the name of the city, the Boise chopped salad is the kind of salad meant to fill up your stomach and then some. Made of an arugula-spring mix with smoked king salmon, white cheddar, dried sweet corn, pepitas, Balsamic tomatoes, pearl couscous, black currants, and served with Fork's house-made buttermilk basil-pesto dressing, it easily made the list of the 14 Must-Try Spots for Boise's Best Salads on the Boise Bucket List website.

"The Boise Chopped Salad (aka "The B.C.S.") is a favorite among Boise visitors and residents," according to The Plasencia Group, a hospitality firm. Even if you're not a fan of smoked salmon but still enjoy fish, Fork has got you covered with a smoked catfish or smoked trout B.C.S. And if fish really isn't your thing, you can also get it with crisped or roasted chicken. Basically, there's no excuse not to order.

Falafel Salad Bowl at Public Greens - Indianapolis

It can be difficult to go vegan when it comes to the local restaurant scene. Even a salad often can't be considered vegan, as the dressing or anything made with animal by-products isn't part of a vegan diet. Thankfully, Public Greens in Indianapolis brings a taste and flavor that shows you don't have to sacrifice good food in the name of health in the form of their vegan-style falafel salad bowl. This salad hits a healthy trifecta of being vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. Kale serves as a bed for radishes, carrots, cucumbers, and a generous portion of sliced avocado, sharing space with fried falafel. Even the dressings (in the case of this salad, a yummy champagne vinaigrette) are vegan-friendly!

It's especially popular with vegan-centric restaurant review sites, like Happy Cow. "If you are in the area, it's a 'must try,' restaurant," said reviewer LoriZavada. Public Greens also gets some extra love for being community-forward, as proceeds from the restaurant go to fight food insecurity for the youth of Indianapolis.