Certain stigmas surround salads. A salad doesn’t necessarily have to be a starter. Salads don’t even have to contain lettuce. Heck, a salad can even qualify as a filling meal. Here are 14 of the best salads in Los Angeles.
ALEJO’S PRESTO TRATTORIA
This casual Italian restaurant, sandwiched between Loyola Marymount University and LAX, specializes in a deluxe chopped salad named for dearly departed founder Alejo Castro. He helped create the chopped salad for La Scala in Beverly Hills and eventually migrated west. Alejo’s Salad combines a fine chop of lettuce, chickpeas, mozzarella, salami, tomato, plus turkey, bacon and red cabbage, served in a tangy yellow dressing.
If Sherman Way in North Hollywood is indeed Thai Town 2, then Bua Siam may very well be the neighborhood’s capital. The Tamphoon family hails from Chiang Rai in northern Thailand, and they’ve made many incendiary contributions to the menu, including green papaya salad. However, this is no ordinary salad. The crunchy green shavings tout a tangy dressing, a plethora of dried chilies, and a veritable bird’s nest of crunchy fried catfish, which works as a salty and textural counterpoint.
CALIFORNIA CHICKEN CAFE
This steadily growing chain first sprouted on Melrose Avenue, became known for rotisserie chicken, and has spread throughout Los Angeles. They have a California inflected Chinese Chicken Salad, which combines crisp romaine lettuce, white meat chicken, crunchy almonds, crispy Chinese noodles, corkscrew-shaped fusilli pasta, scallions, Mandarin noodles, carrots and a sesame kissed Chinese dressing. Nobody would mistake this for a classical Chinese dish, but in California, the plate works well.
Chef-owner Annie Miler has built a loyal customer base at her Century City café by packing a pastry counter and by celebrating Grilled Cheese Month. Still, the blackboard menu is the bread and butter, complete with sandwiches and salads like The Freshest Cobb Salad. The balanced salad consists of crunchy romaine, watercress, pulled chicken, creamy sliced avocado, crisp, sweet applewood smoked bacon, hard-boiled egg, and a pungent one-two punch of blue cheese and blue cheese vinaigrette.
Chef Jeff Cerciello and front of house partner Michel Darmon’s market-driven, multi-faceted restaurant, bakery and market in the Brentwood Country Mart has paid plenty of attention to their salads. The nouveau Nicoise consists of supple olive-studded bread, which supports creamy, herb-flecked Albacore Tuna Salad, piquant Kalamata olive tapenade hard-boiled egg, and accents of grey sea salt and Dijon. Crisp lettuce hearts lay alongside the open-faced meal.
GRAM AND PAPA’S
"Eat Clean. Play Dirty" at Mike Ilic’s Fashion District café, which features art-lined walls, and an open kitchen that showcases premium produce and house-roasted meats. Greek Salad utilizes a romaine base, feta, sliced red pepper, pitted Kalamata olives, chickpeas, crunchy red onion, cucumber and red wine vinaigrette. The final ingredient says North Africa more than Greece, but juicy grilled merguez lamb sausage works.
HOUSE OF MANDARIN NOODLE
Janin Chung Wang and her family have been in the restaurant business for over 30 years, and their latest location resides in a strip mall in the San Gabriel Valley hamlet of Temple City. House of Mandarin Noodle just may serve L.A.’s definitive "Chinese chicken salad.” San Tung Chicken Salad, named for a region of China close to the Korean border, combines juicy white meat chicken, crunchy cucumber chunks, crispy onion strands, and a tangy dressing of garlic-spiked soy sauce, and a thatch of cilantro.
This former West Hollywood hardware store still sports the original sign and now contains reclaimed wood floors and walls, an open kitchen with curved marble counter, and a moody back room with booths and a triangular bar. Chef Mario Alberto, who’s clocked time in some of the better Latin influenced restaurants in the city, but his baby kale and tatsoi salad is quite California, complete with quinoa, feta, and sunflower seed vinaigrette.
Lawry's isn't just known as the restaurant where college football players come to gorge on Prime rib prior to the Rose Bowl. The centerpiece of the Beverly Hills Restaurant Row, complete with a mural of the English countryside, is also famous for the Spinning Salad with romaine lettuce, egg, Russian dressing and bacon strips, finished with dressing poured from a silver pitcher on high.
Jesse Gomez grew up in a restaurant family and debuted his market-inflected Mexican concept near Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade in 2012. He continues to give credence to 2012’s “It” ingredient, kale, but featuring the hearty green in a Mexican Kale Salad. The plate also hosts arugula, candied pumpkin seeds, pears, dried strawberries, fried cotija pesto croutons, and tangy agave lime vinaigrette.
FIDM students and downtown office workers flock to this tiny shop from Cameron Lewis and Bruce Teichman. A wraparound line forms in front of an open kitchen, and most people take food to go, unless they can grab a prized table. Build Your Own, keeping in mind Greens, Toppings or Dressing, or get Signatures like the Professional 2 chopped arugula, baby spinach, salmon, quinoa, dried cranberries, cucumbers, grape tomatoes and purple cabbage. The owners recommend a dressing for each salad, and creamy dill is apparently one prescription for Professionals. Light, medium or heavy?
THE SYCAMORE KITCHEN
Karen Hatfield and husband Quinn Hatfield followed up the success of Hatfield's by opening a fast casual cafe and bakery amidst La Brea's design district. The space has concrete flooring indoors and out, a patio with umbrella-clad tables, and indoors, a pastry-packed stainless steel counter and exposed wood beams overhead. Salads are a Sycamore strength, including a well-balanced Mediterranean Chicken Salad. The bowl contains cubes of juicy chicken breast, dates, gobs of blue cheese, slightly bitter radicchio and more of everybody’s favorite green, kale.
The salad-driven concept from Matt Lyman, David Dressler and Erik Oberholtzer started in Culver City and as of this writing had eight eco-friendly locations throughout California. The original patio hosts pastel green and communal wood tables, and inside, you’ll find an open kitchen and a steady line. Greens from Oxnard’s Scarborough Farms contribute to salads like the Craft, complete with chewy discs of Chef Pete Balistreri’s housemade salumi, crumbly salty feta, pickled vegetables (fennel, carrot, onion), roasted bell peppers, pitted Kalamata olives, capers, lettuce and cabernet vinaigrette.
Naples natives Vito, Roberto and Giovanna Somma opened their hearty southern Italian restaurant in Santa Monica’s Ocean Park neighborhood in the early ’80s. Vito announces its presence with gold letters and planters, which give way to plush booths and tables with white tablecloths. Before the onslaught of pastas and meats arrives, many people opt for a Caesar Salad, prepared tableside, with crisp slices of romaine lettuce, Parmesan, garlic, olive oil, anchovies and more, all tossed in a wood bowl and plated with tongs.
Alejo's Presto Trattoria
8343 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester, 310.670.6677
12924 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, 818.765.8395
California Chicken Cafe
1751 Ensley Ave., Century City, 310.552.1080
Gram & Papa’s
227 E. 9th St., Downtown, 213.624.7272
House of Mandarin Noodle
4819 Temple City Blvd., Temple City, 626.286.1689
1984 N. Laurel Ave., West Hollywood, 323.656.6070
100 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310.652.2827
1416 Fourth St., Santa Monica, 310.526.7121
645 W. 9th St., Downtown, 213.488.9191
The Sycamore Kitchen
143 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, 323.939.0151
2807 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica, 310.450.4999