Salad is to LA what cheesesteak is to Philadelphia - a complete and utter cliche, but also something we suspect roughly half the city is eating at any given moment.
That said, not all LA salads are created equal (especially those sad build-your-own ones you see people eating every day at that place across the street from your gym). If you’re going to stick a bunch of vegetables in your mouth at once, you might as well find a salad that’s actually great. And you live in a city that’s full of them. We can’t promise all of these are healthy, but we can promise they won’t make you sad. Here are the the best salads in LA.
Your Order: Garden Of Lettuce Salad
When it comes to eating insanely fresh vegetables, Rustic Canyon is a place that deserves a permanent spot on your list. So it comes as no surprise that this fancy-ish spot in Santa Monica has a salad good enough to cross the 405 on a weekday. The “Garden of Lettuce” is pretty simple (it’s basically just a bunch of leaves with radishes and avocado underneath), but everything tastes like it was picked that day and the shallot vinaigrette is something we can’t stop thinking about. It’s not big enough to be a solo entree, but you should put this on the table as a starter.
Your Order: Kale Salad
Jame Enoteca is one of our favorite places to eat pasta in the South Bay. Or anywhere, for that matter. But if you come to the tiny Italian spot in El Segundo and only concentrate on rigatoni, you’re missing out on one of the better dishes on the entire menu - the kale salad. We could point to the razor thin chop on the kale itself, or the slightly pungent parmesan cheese, or the sweet and spicy almond vinaigrette lightly dressed throughout. But what makes this salad great aren’t the individual elements - it’s the balance of everything together, taking this dish from being just another kale salad to one you intentionally seek out.
Your Order: Tum Kha Noon
There are a number of different dishes at NTFC worth driving across town to eat, like the creamy khao soi and spicy sai oua, to name a few. But no stop at this tiny Thai Town spot is complete without an order of the tum kha noon. The young jackfruit comes pan-fried with curry paste and seasoned with lime leaves and fried garlic. It’s a fairly simple dish, and yet, tastes like there’s 100 different ingredients involved. It’s spicy, herbaceous, and the kind of flavor-packed salad that’ll stay on your lips (and mind) all day.
Your Order: California Chicken Salad
California Chicken Cafe wins the award for having the salad you can depend on during another midweek life crisis. Yes, California Chicken Cafe is a chain, but we do not care. There’s something about eating this giant pile of chicken, feta, avocado, pasta, carrots, croutons, bell peppers, and broccoli that feels like you’re being hugged by your mom on a sick day.
Your Order: The Spinning Salad
The title of LA’s Oldest Salad doesn’t exactly sound like a compliment. But it is. This Beverly Hills institution has been going strong since the 1930s, and outside of the prime rib, their spinning salad is the most famous item on the menu. Filled with chopped eggs, beets, croutons, and their “vintage dressing,” this won’t be the most creative bowl of lettuce you eat this year, but it’s literally spinning on a table in front of you. Count your blessings.
Your Order: Endive Salad
You don’t walk into Petit Trois expecting to eat something healthy. This is the home of a cheese-oozing burger, and we’re pretty sure everything else involves more than your average daily serving of butter. But if you want something that’s not too rich, go for the endive salad - a pile of endives on top of chunks of avocado on top of an incredible walnut vinaigrette. Plus, it’s all topped with a mountain of cheese.
Your Order: Tea Leaf Salad
The tea leaf salad from Burmese, Please! combines all of our favorite things - pungent fermented tea leaves, fried garlic and shallot bits, fish sauce, and the sweet, sweet sense of accomplishment when we assemble it all together at home (even though we “technically” didn’t “cook” or “prepare” any of it). No, all of the actual prep work is done by chef Jessie Nicely, the owner and creator of the Arts District pop-up, who drops a new menu of Burmese staples on Instagram once a month. Luckily, the tea leaf salad is always available. This comprehensive kit contains at least 45 different accoutrements, and is a fun way to practice mise en place.
Your Order: Spicy Vietnamese Salad
The industrial-ish cafe on La Brea has become well-known for all of its phenomenal lunch dishes, but it’s the “Spicy Vietnamese” that takes the cake (or salad?) for us. The shredded chicken is great, but it’s all the chiles, peanuts, and lemon vinaigrette mixed in that make us want to order this on a weekly basis. Bonus: This salad is actually spicy.
Your Order: Crispy Rice Salad
This tiny North Hollywood staple is one of the most overlooked Thai restaurants in LA. And while pretty much everything on the menu is fantastic, you shouldn’t leave without ordering the crispy rice salad. They’ve been serving it here since the 1980s (long before you became obsessed with the one at Night + Market), and for good reason - this minty, slightly spicy classic is worth the drive up the 134 every time.
Your Order: Caesar Salad
There are a lot of well-thought-out, beautifully constructed and plated salads on this list - the Caesar at Dan Tana’s is not one of them. Made by an Italian guy in the corner of the dining room, Dan Tana’s is the kind of salty, old-school Caesar that appears on tables at family reunions and is always the first thing finished.
Your Order: Kale Salad
There’s a lot to love at this sunny, Historic Filipinotown cafe. Like their pork shoulder breakfast burrito, flaky pastries that change with the seasons, and an open, airy interior where we’ve spent more than a few mornings on the brink of passing away. But what many people don’t know, is that Doubting Thomas has one of the best kale salads in the city. How do they make this glorified leaf pile so good? Did they pray to the Goddess of Leafy Greens? Stumble upon a magical elf in the garden? There’s a strong flavor of preserved lemon, which makes the kale taste alive and tangy. A dash of serrano pepper for heat, toasted almonds for crunch, a few sprigs of mint to balance it all out, plus, a whole mound of finely shredded parmesan, evenly sprinkled throughout. We truly believe this salad is the result of some divine power.
Your Order: Fresh Corn Grill Salad
Whenever we’ve had one too many rich meals, the namesake salad from Fresh Corn Grill is our lifeline. Each of the ingredients in this gathering of vegetables is so fresh and colorful, that by the end of the meal, you’ll feel like a glowing halo of health is floating above your head. Asparagus, corn, and zucchini have noticeable char marks and come chopped to the optimal bite size, then get mixed together with avocado, a rainbow of sliced cherry tomatoes, a bitter green mix, and light vinaigrette dressing. The option to add grilled chicken, salmon, steak, or shrimp is also available, and we usually go with the chicken, which is consistently juicy, and takes on the flavor of the surrounding ingredients. A little-known secret is that this is essentially identical to the “Grilled Vegetable Salad” you’ll find at The Ivy. The Fresh Corn founders got their start cooking there, and brought their cult salad recipe along with them.
Your Order: Southwestern Salad
HealthyCA is the best place to get a salad in the Valley, and the best salad here is the Southwestern. Not only is it massive, but all those ingredients stacked on top (corn, beans, jicama, pepitas, avocado, bell peppers) are also as fresh and delicious as they come. If you’re a studio worker looking for a not-sad salad on your lunch hour, this is your easy solution.
Your Order: Caribbean Chicken Salad
Don Cuco does not have the best Mexican food in LA. But this nearly 50-year-old Burbank spot is still a Valley staple and where studio execs get trashed after work until the end of time. Also, they have the “Caribbean Chicken Salad.” Pineapple, tomato, avocado, raisins, and beans with a handful of tortilla strips on top help wipe away any notion that you actually ordered a salad.
Your Order: Gem Lettuce Salad
The gem lettuce salad at this Fairfax staple is simple - little gem leaves, chili dressing, parmesan, and breadcrumbs. But we maintain there’s a fifth ingredient from the dark side in here, because there’s no other explanation for how they make this so good. You’re going to need something to balance out all the pizza and pasta you eat here, and it should be this salad.
Your Order: Vermicelli Salad
The vermicelli salad at Croft is the salad for people who don’t really do salads. The base is rice noodles, not greens (although there are some of those too), and there are pickled carrots, cucumber, and crispy shallots on top. The real star though is the tangy coconut dressing. This thing makes you feel healthy even when you’re actually just eating a bowl of noodles.
Your Order: Nancy’s Chopped Salad
Inspired by La Scala’s classic chop, Nancy’s chopped salad at Pizzeria Mozza is the kind of salad that could constitute an entire meal, and is also not really very good for you. Sure, there’s lettuce, but there’s also (thankfully) a whole lot of salami and provolone to cancel it out. It’s a balanced meal in salad form, and might just be better than the original.
Your Order: Caesar Salad
The Caesar salad at Huckleberry is sometimes a kale version, sometimes lettuce, and either way, always part of our regular rotation here. It’s nothing fancy - a big bowl of greens with croutons and parmesan, some cranberries, and a lot of dressing. Which is the right way to be with Caesar dressing.
Your Order: Chopped Salad
La Scala is a restaurant best known for its lunchtime Bravo celebrity crowd, but it’s also home to what is possibly the city’s most famous salad: a giant mound of chopped lettuce, salami, mozzarella, and garbanzo beans. If there ever was a salad that was closer to a soup, it would be this one. And despite how unpalatable that might sound, we mean it a compliment. Also, the real trick here is to think of the salad itself as only a base for the many, many things you’ll add - pepperoncini, cucumbers, and tomatoes are a good place to start.