Best restaurants for a Caesar salad in New York City 2012

Improve your lunchtime ritual by choosing one of these exceptional riffs on the classic romaine-and-anchovy Caesar salad.

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Photograph: Jolie Ruben

Escarole salad at John Dory Oyster Bar

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Photograph: Dominic Perri

Ensalada Alex-César cardini at Centrico

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Photograph: Loren Wohl

Chopped black kale salad at Five Leaves

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Photograph: Dominic Perri

Tableside caesar salad at Aretsky's Patroon

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Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Cavalonero salad at Il Buco

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Photograph: Jay Cheshes
Grilled Caesar at Millesime
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Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Pearl caesar at Pearl Oyster Bar
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Photograph: Dominic Perri

Traditional caesar salad at Pietro's

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Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
One-eyed caesar salad at the Redhead
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Photograph: Dominic Perri
Caesar salad at Sacred Chow

Apologies to readers who think the Caesar was the emperor’s favorite salad: Most sources agree that the Caesar salad was conceived in 1924 by a chef named Caesar Cardini in Tijuana, Mexico. The salad was created as a showcase for tableside preparation, a flourish that is alive and well in a handful of New York restaurants. Here, we’ve compiled our favorite Caesars, from the classic toss of romaine lettuce, anchovy and Parmesan to more impressionistic creations that employ kale, cod or even tofu to stunning effect. Did we miss your favorite Caesar salad in New York? Join the conversation in the comments section.

The John Dory Oyster Bar

Critics' pick

This palace of maritime kitsch inside the Ace Hotel deals mostly in seafood and oysters, but chef April Bloomfield’s take on the Caesar salad ($9.50) is a worthy detour. Bitter escarole, tarted up with a lemony dressing, comes festooned with thin and silvery slices of pungent anchovy. A blitz of a finely ground croutons adds crunch to each verdant bite.

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Midtown West

Millesime

Critics' pick

The Caesar grillée ($14) at this gorgeous hotel brasserie is a gutsy revision of the classic salad. Three hearts of romaine are lightly charred and served warm, spritzed with bracing lime and dusted in sharp Parmesan cheese. Instead of anchovies, the lettuce is draped with thin slices of smoked cod and crowned with lacy wafers of toasted baguette standing in for traditional croutons.

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Midtown East

Sacred Chow

This sparse Greenwich Village spot is a vegan mecca, but the pair of Caesar salad adaptations on the menu could fool any dairy obsessive. The traditional version ($8) is made with field greens in a tangy tofu-miso dressing topped with garlic croutons. Or go for the kale variation ($8), which offers garlic-kissed cubes of tofu served over a bed of the spicy-bitter green.

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Greenwich Village

Centrico

Since the Caesar originated in Tijuana, it makes sense that you’d find a version of the salad—called Ensalada Alex-César Cardini ($11) in homage to its creator—on the menu at this Mexican restaurant. Here, a bed of romaine is cloaked in a tangy Parmesan-and-pepper-spiked vinaigrette and crowned with garlicky croutons. Served in a wooden salad bowl, the mix is crisp, light and revitalizing.

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Tribeca

Pietro's

With its tuxedo-clad waiters and formal white tablecloths, this midtown stalwart feels like it’s out of another era. The stodgy chophouse fare isn’t all that exciting, but the Caesar salad ($12) is still old-school perfection: Romaine is dressed to order in a mix of egg yolk, lemon, Parmesan, black pepper, garlic and finely chopped anchovy, then topped with garlicky croutons. Each bite is a rush of tingling spice and brine. Beware: You’ll be breathing fire for the rest of the day.

Pearl Oyster Bar

Critics' pick

The cultish Caesar ($9) at this West Village oyster bar comes by way of owner Rebecca Charles’s mother, who coaxed it out of a California chef 60 years ago. Juicy, crispy romaine leaves are sauced in coddled egg, a healthy dose of anchovy, a splash of lemon juice, good Parmigiano-Reggiano and a blast of garlic. English muffin croutons, baked at a low temperature until they’re as hard as biscotti, punctuate the mix.

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West Village

Five Leaves

The Caesar gets a modern makeover at this Greenpoint café-bar. A mountain of finely chopped raw black kale is massaged with a spicy Caesar vinaigrette made with hot sauce, garlic, aged Gouda and two kinds of anchovies: vinegar-brined white and oil-cured black. The hefty portion ($12) comes to the table topped with more shavings of that aged Gouda, plus sweet halved hazelnuts to add a pleasant crunch.

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Greenpoint

The Redhead

Critics' pick

This brick-walled East Village gastropub applies a comfort-food sensibility to its take on the Caesar salad. The One-Eyed Caesar ($10) features a bed of romaine coated in a rich, creamy anchovy-infused dressing and wisps of Parmesan cheese. The greens are showered in crispy fried capers and crowned with a one-eyed Susan—a yolky egg fried into a hollowed-out slice of baguette.

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East Village

Aretsky’s Patroon

Critics' pick

Suits and finance types favor this opulent midtown restaurant during lunch. Nab a spot on the rooftop patio, where you can enjoy the Caesar ($15), prepared tableside, without all the ambient investment chatter. The salad is simple and refreshing: Crisp romaine in a creamy lemon-and-garlic-tinged dressing is sprinkled with sharp Parmesan and golden croutons. Though listed as traditional, the salad features no anchovy, but you can dress up your greens with grilled salmon for an additional $12.

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Midtown East

Il Buco

This copper-pot–embellished enoteca offers up an Italianate spin on the Caesar. The Cavolonero salad ($15)—named for the black kale that stands in for romaine in this riff—offers chewy greens doused in a lemon-and-anchovy dressing. Fat, crusty sourdough filone croutons add crunch, and a blizzard of just-shaved sharp Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh cracked pepper lends a funky bite. It’s hearty enough to be a light lunch.

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East Village

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