11 Philly Salads That Are Better Than Boring Caesars

We noticed something. Philly salads have gotten really good lately.
This is the mango salad at Alma Del Mar.

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

Salads don’t get talked about enough in Philly. But even in our meat-heavy town, you're going to have days when you can’t look pork and provolone in the eyes. Sure, you could wolf down an $18 handful of flaccid romaine. Or you could eat something crunchy, surprising, and layered.

These are Philly's exceptional restaurant salads right now, the ones that can reform a "salads are boring" attitude. They might even kickstart a fantasy about a JCPenney photoshoot on a bed of fennel, or at least signal the difference between a restaurant that gives a sh*t about great produce and one that doesn't. When you're ready for a salad that's just as exciting as Philly's other iconic dishes, try these versions.


photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO


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Green Salad

In our work Slacks, the Infatuation Philly team lovingly refers to this salad as "THEE salad." It looks like a blooming flower on a plate. Or maybe a birthday cake built with a perimeter of crisp romaine. Either way, the center has stacks of tiny leaves and a crown of watercress. And dijon vinaigrette with shallots and chive flecks give the whole thing a refreshing, acidic punch. It’s probably the greenest salad you’ll ever meet. Take your photos quickly, then destroy this thing.

Fennel Salad 

The fennel salad at this South Philly Sicilian restaurant costs about the same as one of their pastas. That logic adds up to us, given you can suss out the quality of the produce and it's just as exciting to eat as cavatelli. Strips of crisp fennel and onion slivers get topped with parsley confetti and lemon vinaigrette. It sounds simple, but the clean, citrus flavors are notably amped up. So you’ll still have room for the whole fish, agrodolce chicken, and maybe three glasses of wine.

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

Tabachoy Caesar 

Maybe you've daydreamed about the Old City saxophone guy serenading you, but never about raw cabbage. That will change when you eat Tabachoy's crisp, tangy caesar variation. (Don't let "caesar" throw you. This salad tastes nothing like a Panera "You Pick Two" combo.) This Bella Vista Filipino BYOB combines napa cabbage, mustard greens, cured duck yolk, chili, fried shallots, scallion, and sesame. There's snap in every bite, as well as a slick coating of dressing made with Filipino fermented fish paste.

Celery Salad 

Celery is usually something you throw into a soup or plop on a last-minute veggie tray at the office potluck. At Laurel in East Passyunk, the fibrous, stalky gnawer gets the respect it deserves. Angular cuts of celery mix with ricotta salata, dates, and hazelnuts. The result is sweet and salty, and textured enough to give you that inner ear crunch. It'll convince you not to treat celery like a sidekick to chicken wings.

photo credit: Pietramala



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Barncat Salad

The salad at this vegan restaurant in Northern Liberties has a mini tower of chicories, fermented ramps, puffed grains, dill, and Barn Cat vegan cheese. The ramps give the salad a muted, garlicky edge, sort of like a vidalia dressing’s introverted and more interesting cousin. We'd happily cross town to eat at this laidback BYOB—gorgeous salad and all.

Chicory Salad

We’d probably eat salad every day if it were tossed with a dressing made of buttermilk, anchovy, miso, and a bus load of lemon. But until other Philadelphia restaurants follow Illata’s lead, read this guide, or see our salad-shaped banner in the sky, we’ll keep going to the Fitler Square BYOB for more. Illata’s salad is light, bitter from chicories, and slightly salty from comte cheese on top. It’s perfect for when you don’t want the hassle of 10 ingredients that do nothing but take up real estate on your fork.

Green Salad 

If artichokes and snowfalls of cheese speak to you on a deep level, Alice in Bella Vista has a salad that you’ll want to mount a picture of on your wall like it’s your first celebrity crush or maybe a child you produced. This is not one of those salads that looks better than it tastes. Buttermilk dressing and grana padano flakes make everything creamy, and the charred artichokes give the dish a smoky, double-take element.

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Queen Village’s Emmy Squared is mostly known for its pizza. But they also make a good salad full of brussels sprouts, cashews, pickled red onions, and dried cherries. So it’s an ideal counterpart to a slice dripping with mozzarella and toppings. You could always add crispy or grilled chicken to the mix, but the earthy combination of the salad stands on its own just fine.

Laab Ped

At Fishtown’s Kalaya, the juicy duck salad has more meat than greens. So, fine, it’s not a salad in the same way as the other leafy bowls are on this list. But it still counts because it’s fantastic. And salads, like time, are a flat circle. Picture warm ground duck, crispy duck skin, chilis, and herbs like Thai basil and mint, all coated with fish sauce. There’s a nice kick of heat, and cucumbers and lettuce leaves give it a snapping crunch.

Marcos Crazy Mango Salad 

This dish at Alma Del Mar in Bella Vista hits the sweet spot between a fruit salad and a green one. And since the place opens at 8am, you can eat it for breakfast with your friends or even for dinner when they throw lump crab into the mix. We're talking about what's ostensibly a kaleidoscope in a bowl, with bright orange grilled mango slices, mixed greens, avocado slices, red bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. And the citrusy mango dressing makes this salad one of the best ways to eat fruit in Philadelphia, third only to raw and water ice. 


Okay, yes, this is a straightforward caesar, but it's a special one. The lettuce concoction at this Northeast Italian spot is so giant, you could eat it for several minutes, and there'd still be a good 70% left. Dressing coats each leaf without anything getting too heavy or soggy, and the garlic bread croutons take it over the top. Plus, unlike most places in this guide, Cafe Carmela is open during the daytime. So this is one salad you can order between writing memos or streaming a TV show at your desk while pretending to write memos.

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