Occasionally, we order salads to help balance out our pizza or hot dog consumption, but sometimes we order salads because they're just so darn good. These 10 bowls of greens fall into the latter category—with fresh vegetables, seafood and other ingredients, they're often meals unto themselves, or great for sharing at the table. And while you'll find some at vegetarian restaurants, plenty are at more meat-centric spots. After all, life is all about balance.
The 10 best salads in Chicago
The best salads in Chicago range from simple greens to seafood-topped masterpieces. Here's where to get your fill of leafy greens.
Best salads in Chicago
Sometimes a salad is less about the greens and more about the thick slices of barely cooked tuna placed on top. This is the case at Japonais, where their sashimi caesar salad includes whole leaves of romaine coated in creamy, tangy caesar dressing with a touch of garlic. It's covered with a blizzard of shaved Parmesan and crunchy, salted croutons, but the star is the tuna, which is sushi grade and just barely touched by the grill. The fish is sweet and coated in a thin layer of sesame seeds and a confetti of seaweed, and melts when it hits your tongue. Mix it into the tangy dressing, and you have the ideal light lunch.
Brendan Sodikoff’s sexy French supper club Maude’s has a menu so overwhelmingly full of elaborate cold seafood dishes and thick-cut aged meat that you wouldn’t expect to find such a restrained salad hidden in the margins. The bibb lettuce salad is made with layers of frilly, ruffled leaves of butter lettuce generously coated with a bright and light lemony dressing, which has a slight bite from dijon mustard. The salad is topped with fresh herbs, from bitter parsley to dark-green chives, making it the perfect starter for a heavier meal. The best thing about Maude’s salad is that it doesn’t need gobs of cheese or meat to make it stand out, and allows the simple leafy greens to shine.
The cheese, charcuterie and sandwich shop also serves a menu of salads that make a great lunch or dinner. We’re fond of the harvest salad, composed of fresh, sweet mixed field greens and topped with tangy crumbles of Ader Käse Reserve blue cheese. The addition of crunchy green apples and a sweet-sour bite from onion confit (made from locally sourced shallots) makes this salad shine. The finishing touch is the addition of housemade prosciutto bacon, which adds a chewy, salty crunch. The whole thing is topped with Pastoral’s homemade sweet and sour balsamic vinaigrette, which helps turn each bite part of this salad into a perfectly balanced meal.
At Reno, which serves excellent wood-baked pizzas, it’s worth starting off with a heaping portion of leafy greens. The salad selection changes occasionally, but one of the long-standing menu items is the frisee spinach salad. The base of the salad is composed of sweet, tender leaves of spinach mixed with crunchy, fluffy sprigs of frisee. Ribbons of flash-fried leeks are scattered in tangles over the salad, and sliced raw baby portabellos and strips of snappy red onion are tossed on top. The salad is finished with a vibrant and vinegary sherry-laced dressing that adds a nice, acidic kick. Make it a meal and top it with the additional tender shredded smoked chicken or salty-sweet bacon.