L.A. loves salad. We ranked the top chains from best to meh

Kaleidoscopic photograph of 3 colorful salads
(Photograph by Jessica Miller / For The Times; food/prop stylist Danielle Campbell / For The Times)
Share via

If you, like me, have trouble running more than one errand per day, you understand the relative importance of the few things that you do get done. One of those things is usually lunch. And that lunch is sometimes a salad.

We love our salads in Los Angeles. And the salad eaters of the city have a multitude of options to wade through. I’ve done my best to loosely rank some of Los Angeles’ more popular salad chains.

A few guidelines: The goal was to highlight quick-service and takeout chains where there is a focus, at least in part, on leafy green salads. (I’ve omitted Lemonade from this piece for that reason — they do a lot of bowls and veggies but not so much green salads.) No grocery stores. There has to be more than one location, but I’m not including megachains like Panera. At every place I visited, I tried to order at least one basic salad, like a Caesar or Cobb, as well as a couple of specialty salads.


I’ve eaten way, way too much salad over the past few weeks. I think I’ve become part romaine. Let’s dive in.

One man’s opinion on the best (and worst) fast-food burger chains.

Oct. 14, 2022

Salads from Mixt, California Chicken Cafe, Mrs. Winston's, Tender Greens under the words The Best of the Best

The Best of the Best


While it pains me to give this NorCal brand top marks, I have to give credit where credit is due. Mixt, formerly known as Mixt Greens, makes a good, abundant-feeling salad, if slightly on the pricier side. The Cobb features butter lettuce — not a leaf you’ll see at every salad chain but one that certainly belongs there. A light champagne vinaigrette is neither too heavy and sticky nor too flimsy.

The Puebla salad really shines — seeds are always good in a salad, and this one has crunchy pepitas. It also has slightly spiced sweet potato chunks, with a texture almost like dried apple, plus scallions and a creamy poblano dressing to go with a big slab of fried chicken cutlet. Sound good? It is.


Jeanne Kelley’s cookbook “Vegetarian Salad for Dinner” is a resource for flavor hacks and show-stopping salads-as-meals.

June 15, 2023

California Chicken Cafe

This L.A.-born brand has gone through a bit of an image makeover since I first remember going many years ago. It now seems to refer to itself as “Calif Chicken Cafe” (not sure removing “ornia” really moves the needle) and has adopted a cool new cartoon chicken mascot, in a move that resembles the addition of Poochie on “The Simpsons.”

But I enjoy this place. And you will too, if — and it’s an important if — you really like chicken. Because at CCC, the salads have, unsurprisingly, quite a lot of chicken. Otherwise, it’s the little things that help set it apart: A basic Caesar comes with sourdough croutons, cheese, rotini pasta, a lemon wedge and avocado (and chicken, of course). The Chinese chicken salad may be the best version of this salad you can get: It comes with a sesame dressing that manages to walk the line of being too sweet, almonds, Mandarin orange slices and crunchy chow mein noodles (as well as a healthy portion of … well, you know).

I don’t recall ever eating anything like this in China, but I’ll allow it.

Tender Greens

Tender Greens, with a menu that includes soups, sandwiches and mix-and-match entrees, feels more like a true restaurant than the other places on this list. I’d describe the aesthetic as “upscale cafeteria.” And the salads mostly deliver. A tuna Niçoise won’t exactly transport you to the French Riviera, but with olives, potatoes and nicely cooked green beans to go with a tannic cherry vinaigrette, it does a nice job (get it?).


A grilled chicken Cobb with skin-on chicken, bacon and pungent blue cheese hit all the right notes. And a Mediterranean steak salad had a decently cooked cut of meat to go with olives, sweet peppers and a fistful of mint and dill.

Mrs. Winston’s

I almost didn’t include Mrs. Winston’s — there are only two locations, and the one I went to in Santa Monica is in this big office park and is not the most obvious place to go unless you know exactly where it is. It’s right next to the Trimana. It’s also primarily a salad bar, which is somewhat different from a salad restaurant.

But I’m including it because 1) They validate parking and the people there are nice; 2) It’s an honestly fantastic salad bar; and 3) There is a menu of preset salads, you just have to ask.

A turkey Cobb I ordered was nontraditional — it had butternut squash and walnuts, among other things, as well as veggie bacon bits — but it mostly worked for me. I also went to the salad bar, and again, this is where the place really shines. I loaded up my box with goodies you can’t get at most salad places: greens like dandelion, watercress and rainbow chard. I put in scoops of fresh corn salad, orzo and macaroni salads, some very tart pickled mango and the standout item, something called spicy vegan super green noodles. It’s all worth a try.

Jeanne Kelley’s cookbook “Vegetarian Salad for Dinner” is a resource for flavor hacks and show-stopping salads-as-meals.

June 15, 2023

Salads from Sweetgreen, Mendocino Farms, Salata, Everytable and Chop Stop under the words The Best of the Rest


The Best of the Rest


Los Angeles-based Sweetgreen is the heavy hitter of this bunch, so I’m going to spend more space digging into the publicly traded company that once collaborated with Kendrick Lamar to create a salad called Beets Don’t Kale My Vibe.

Sweetgreen, with well over 100 locations nationwide, is slick, well-capitalized and has an overactive social media team. It sells a broad selection of salads and bowls with preselected ingredient combinations as well as build-your-own options. The company also comes as close as any quick-service restaurant has to scaling “healthy” food on a national level. Could we all be stopping at salad joints at highway rest stops instead of burger places in the future? Maybe.

Sweetgreen’s salads largely meet expectations. The Spring Asparagus salad (which has been rotated off the menu since my visit) is well served by crunchy, savory za’atar breadcrumbs and a dill-leaning green goddess dressing. A Hummus Crunch salad is again aided by the breadcrumbs, which go well with creamy hummus and briny olives — unfortunately, however, there were no chickpeas available when I went, which struck me as a key omission.

For the most part, I liked salads better than bowls, with one exception: The Harvest bowl, with goat cheese, apples, wild rice and a mouth-puckering balsamic dressing. It’s a warm, familiar combination that feels like a ’90s wormhole to a more comforting time of SnackWell’s, Nautica jackets and the art in the Gramercy Tavern dining room. Take me back, baby.


The menu is somewhat reliant on kale but also keeps romaine, spinach and arugula in heavy rotation. Whenever I got an arugula-heavy salad, the greens were quite reedy. And in some cases, some almost branch-y, as with an otherwise tasty Crispy Rice bowl.

Value here is average — most items cost less than $15. When ordering online, make sure to select extra dressing, as the default is to give you only one container, which will leave you with an underdressed salad. And there’s nothing sadder than an underdressed salad.

Mendocino Farms

The dining experience at Mendocino Farms, with dozens of California locations and a handful in Texas and Washington, is self-described as “an unexpected culinary adventure with fresh ingredients and fearless flavor combinations.” I’m not sure I agree entirely with that breathless statement, but the salads are pretty decent and the service was friendly (shoutout to Taylor at the Hollywood Boulevard location).

The Thai mango salad, with sticks of pickled daikon and carrot, sweet roasted almonds and ramen noodles, is a winner, as is the impressively tasty vegan taco salad with Impossible chorizo and slightly spicy chipotle ranch dressing. A Caesar salad with a sad, pallid chunk of avocado unfortunately came up a little short. Prices are reasonable enough — everything I tried was less than $15 — but portions seemed a little on the smaller side.



For those of you who think service doesn’t matter in restaurants anymore, especially in more casual places: You’re wrong. It still does. And props to the Salata manager at the Fashion Square mall location in the Valley, whose Harold Hill-like belief in how much I was going to love my salad actually, I think, positively influenced how much I enjoyed it.

This is primarily a build-your-own-salad place (I also ordered preset Greek and Caesar salads), and when I saw Salata had spicy giardiniera, the fiery pickled pepper mix that goes on Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches, I knew what I had to do. I loaded up my salad with giardiniera, carrots, jalapeños, onions and other veggies, then added some chunks of steak. Voilà — I had made the salad version, kinda sorta, of the beloved sandwich.

“You’ll like this so much you’ll be coming back here two, three times a week,” the manager said. Maybe not, but I was certainly nudged in that direction.

Nowhere but the L.A. Times will you find smoothie content like this. Nowhere!

July 5, 2022



Everytable was founded a decade ago with the mission of bringing healthy food to parts of L.A. that have limited access to fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s a good goal, in other words. The location I visited had a manager who was very engaged and proud of the sales he’d already done that day ($1,400).

You can eat there, but the format is largely grab-and-go. They were sold out of a lot of things (again, the manager was pleased about that) but what I tried was pretty good. A Salmon Superfood salad had a generous chunk of fish, roasted sweet potato and quinoa to go with a tart cilantro lime dressing. A Lemon Pepper Chicken Caesar could have used more punch but was solid: the accompanying Parmesan black pepper dressing tasted like the dregs of a bowl of cacio e pepe.

Prices are very reasonable — both of these items were less than $10.

Chop Stop

A visit to Chop Stop feels like a trip to the early 2010s, when we were all too into bacon, Sriracha and Pinkberry (but not necessarily all at once). The building at the Glendale location seems way too big; the logo and fonts are friendly, almost cartoonish; and the restaurant, which specializes in chopped salads and Choppurritos, feels permanently trapped — in a nice way — in that era. Chop Stop has the motto “More than a salad” (cue Boston’s “More Than a Feeling”), which is proudly plastered on the wall.

Try the Santa Fe with corn, chicken, tortilla strips and cilantro lime dressing, or the Viva Mexico, with a chipotle dressing that tastes like it has a packet of taco seasoning poured into it. Prices are reasonable — in the $12 to $14 range.


Salads from Simply Salad, LA Greens, Salad Farm and Goop Kitchen under the words The Rest

The Rest

Simply Salad

You can’t spell “simply salad” without “simply sad,” which is how I felt picking at my food in the downtown Main Street location. I don’t know if it was just an off day, the glum interior of the restaurant or the logo’s weird font (is that a rounded sans serif?) that started things on the wrong foot.

But I wasn’t too impressed with the salads I tried. The Chinatown salad, with a dressing mysteriously called Far East, was a bit thick and treacly. A few stray wonton and chicken pieces couldn’t redeem it. A basic Caesar is decent. But the Buff, the buffalo chicken salad, lacked that signature buffalo kick and came with a gloppy, somewhat flavorless blue cheese dressing. The Earthy, Nutty, Crunchy, with tofu, sunflower seeds and artichoke hearts, has a lot of potential, but the tahini dressing was a bit clay-ey.

Much of this is redeemed by Simply Salad’s reasonable prices. A plain Caesar is just $7.95 and most specialty salads are around $13. Is that enough to get me to return? Maybe.


LA Greens

I picked up my LA Greens order from what appeared to be a restaurant — and I believe was an actual, sit-down restaurant called Cheebo — that also functions as a ghost kitchen. Go ahead and click around on their website: It all looks pretty soulless, and that’s how the salads felt. A basic Caesar did the job, as did an arugula and fennel salad with pine nuts — but they seemed to lack any kind of love or care. The Signature Chop salad, with cheese, salami and olives, came with an odd, gelatinous red wine dressing.

Look, I understand that ghost kitchens are now a part of the dining landscape. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Salad Farm

There wasn’t anything exactly wrong with Salad Farm, besides its unappealing name, but there wasn’t a lot that was right, either. The other prominent sections on the menu, besides salad, included paninis, baked potatoes and quesadillas — all things I like but don’t necessarily want to see together on a menu.


A Caesar salad was serviceable but unexceptional. I would have felt better if my seared tuna salad took a few minutes longer to put together than it did. A Greek salad was probably the best thing I tried, with a powerful vinaigrette to go with the feta and olives.

Goop Kitchen

Again with the ghost kitchens. I picked up my order from Goop Kitchen, an offshoot of Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand that brought us jade vagina eggs and gold dildos, and was surprised to find myself at a nondescript North Hollywood building (Goop Kitchen refers to it as their Studio City location. It’s very much not in Studio City. ) with a bunch of DoorDashers awaiting various orders from the shared space. Goop Kitchen’s takeout bags are printed with the phrase “More goodness from the clean Goop kitchen.” So, just as clean as Chick-Fil-A’s and Wingstop’s kitchens, in other words?

Goop Kitchen uses the word “clean” a lot to describe its products — clean food, clean recipes, clean pizza (seriously). I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it makes me slightly uneasy, and it certainly makes me ponder what types of food the braintrust at Goop would consider “dirty.”

This would all be sort of moot, I guess, if the salads knocked it out of the park. But they didn’t. I liked the spicy Calabrian dressing on the Caesar, but it came with so many gritty breadcrumbs I felt like someone had kicked sand in my salad.


The cashew dressing on the Spring Roll salad had a tangy kick, but the marinated glass noodles were pretty limp and flavorless. An otherwise decent Italian salad with Fontina and pepperoni (which has been taken off the menu since my visit) was undone by the container of dressing that had separated and congealed. Not a disaster on the level of, say, losing half a day of skiing, but unpleasant.

I know I’m supposed to fall for Goop’s healthful image, tasteful photography and effective marketing and leave these other details unquestioned. But I won’t do it! I refuse! I am the eldest boy!