Salad: Tastiest Restaurant Finds

So, I’ve been dieting. What else is new? But no plain cottage cheese and pineapple for me!

Not when there are so many great salads to be found. I’ve revisited many of this year’s new restaurants (and a few old favorites) to find the one great salad that I am craving. And they are out there, my friends. You just have to know where to look!


Bar Toma  – Their namesake salad is the perfect counterpoint to a wood-fire baked pizza… or the antidote. Radicchio and arugula provide the base; then hard-boiled egg, fennel, capers, celery, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and Toma cheese are piled on top with a lemony vinaigrette.

Dragon Ranch – Possibly the largest salad currently sold in North America. Bring a friend to share the Grilled Garden Salad, featuring mixed Asian greens, grilled cauliflower and green beans, edamame, strands of carrot and watermelon radish, and rotisserie chicken all tossed with a bleu cheese vinaigrette.

RPM Italian  – They took an antipasto plate and made it into Giuliana’s Italian Salad, featuring crisp greens, fresh and pickled veggies, salami and cheese with a piquant vinaigrette.


Hota  – A ladylike tangle of greens are tossed with flaky smoked trout, roasted tomatoes, avocado and creamy but light dill dressing.

Taco Diablo  – I am craving this salad weekly: Greens with black beans, carne asada (or grilled chipotle shrimp), corn, zucchini, sweet cherry tomatoes and cilantro ranch dressing.

Terra  – If there’s anything prettier than these candy-striped beets, I haven’t seen it. Try their Chioggia Beet Carpaccio with arugula, green apple, Gorgonzola cheese, macadamia nuts and apricot vinaigrette drizzled on top.

Highland Park

In the Raw   – I feel especially virtuous here! Vegan, gluten-free… but lots of flavor. Chopped kale with avocado, red pepper, tomato, radish, chili-lime pepitas, queso fresco and creamy chipotle dressing combine for raw nirvana.

Moderno  – Take me back to Tuscany with the Steak Salad, laden with cannellini beans, pickled peppers and arugula, all tossed with a Grenache vinaigrette.

Nieto’s – I am really digging their Lobster Cobb with hard-boiled egg, tomato, avocado, Roquefort cheese and Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

Lake Forest

Market House on the Square – This salad tastes just like summer to me, especially with all their market-driven produce: Scallop ceviche with heirloom tomatoes, fresh corn, red peppers, red onions, cilantro, tortilla strips and grilled lime.


Prairie Grass Café  – This is vegetarian heaven. Chopped Greek salad with romaine, red and green peppers, cucumbers, red onion, red wine-herb vinaigrette and baked feta cheese with spicy banana peppers.

Stir Crazy  – I’ve been eating their Fuji Tuna Salad forever. Wok-seared tuna sashimi, grilled shiitake mushrooms, mixed greens and Fuji apples with wasabi-soy dressing. (There’s a second area location in Schaumburg.)

Zodiac Restaurant at Neiman Marcus  – When my mom’s in town, we always stop here for this salad (and some popovers): Grilled Lemon Shrimp with hearts of romaine, quinoa, feta cheese, grilled asparagus, toasted almonds and citrus vinaigrette.


Libertad  – A classic with a twist, their Peras salad is delish: Asian pears, Cabrales cheese, candied pecans, arugula and balsamic vinaigrette.

Cheesecake Factory  – Their Luau Salad makes me happy. So many textures! Grilled chicken breast layered with mixed greens, cucumbers, scallions, red and yellow peppers, green beans, carrots, mango and crisp wonton sheets with macadamia nuts and sesame seeds.


Saranello’s – Try the Wood-Roasted Salmon salad with red and yellow beets and green beans on a bed of mesclun. Ask for the mustard vinaigrette.


Gilson’s – Go with the Big Chopped Salad, always a fave. But trust me… the half salad is enough! Loaded with ham, turkey, Swiss and Fontina cheeses, bacon, veggies, homemade croutons, and of course, ranch dressing.


Avli Estiatorio – It might just be there for the summer, so hurry in: Refreshing watermelon  salad with Greek Feta, toasted almonds, red onions and mint.

Trifecta Grill – Lots of flavor is packed in to the Mango Shrimp Salad, loaded with the marinated and grilled crustaceans, avocado, mango, red onion, cucumbers, cilantro and citrus vinaigrette.