Salads are a celebration of freshness. And in San Diego, the pristine produce is often locally sourced from neighborhood farmers markets or delivered directly from farms to restaurant kitchens. From creative and complex plates of crisp, leafy greens or warm roasted vegetables, with add-ins like grains or proteins, here are 19 restaurants with salad-making skills that go beyond boring.Read More
Where to Get Satisfying Salads in San Diego
It’s always salad season in San Diego
1. Choice Juicery
With COVD-19 friendly grab and go options (you can order ahead online to ensure they have what you want), Choice Superfood is a smart choice for salads and organic juice. The Macho Taco Salad comes with walnut “taco meat,” bell pepper, red cabbage, cilantro, and chipotle cashew dressing while the Coconut “Bakon” Cobb offers avocado, marinated hearts of palm, and quinoa with chawer ranch.
2. Mendocino Farms
Salads at Mendocino Farms are infused with the same creativity as their sandwiches. The Impossible Taco Salad is a customer favorite with savoy plant-based chorizo and succotash drizzled with a smoky vegan chipotle ranch. The Mama Chen’s Chinese Chicken Salad is built on a base of crunchy napa cabbage and kale slaw with bean sprouts, baby spinach, toasted cashews, and wontons in a miso mustard sesame dressing (it’s free to sub avocado for chicken).
3. Lotus Cafe & Juice Bar
In the historic core of Encinita, Lotus Cafe and Juice Bar serves primary vegetarian dishes including many wholesome salads. Many ingredients at Lotus are organic, like the leafy base of the Soulful Salad. It comes topped with carrots, red onions, jicama, red cabbage, radish, tomato, and organic sunflower sprouts with creamy dill dressing and optional add on proteins like tuna, tempeh, and tofu.
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4. The Greenspot Salad Company
If you work in an office near a Greenspot Salad Company you likely know the joy of seeing their boxes arrive for a catered lunch. There never boring salads include the Roasted Veggie with red peppers, grilled zucchini, and balsamic roasted mushroom and the Superfood with baby spinach, kale, broccoli, roasted sweet potato, quinoa, and avocado, tossed in a lemon dressing.
5. Parakeet Cafe
Popping up all over San Diego, Parakeet Cafe offers a creative menu including many salads. The Kale Caesar is a crowd favorite with carrot, fennel, pepitas, and quinoa, in a cashew Caesar dressing. The Farro Salad with roasted yams, shaved fennel, toasted almonds, and Fuji apples in a Dijon mustard vinaigrette is a filling choice as well.
6. Head Lettuce
This University City shop offers customized chopped salads like the Green Goddess with avocado, edamame, quinoa, spiced pepitas in a green goddess dressing and the Miso Ginger Crunch with shredded carrots, scallions, bean sprouts and crunchy ramen noodles and optional add on grilled chicken.
7. The Oasis Cafe
Tucked in to a quiet business park, The Oasis offers high quality creative breakfast and lunch dishes. New to the menu is the filling Avocado, Grains and Greens Bowl with lettuce, chickpeas and radish in a tangy Italian salsa verde dressing or try the Greek Salad cucumbers, olives, pepperoncini, and cheese with optional add-ons like grilled chicken, tofu, and vegan or hickory bacon.
8. Crafted Greens
This East County spot offers a rich, organic, menu of sandwiches, platers, and of course salads. Choose a base salad—like the Guacamole Greens with corn, black beans, avocado, tomatoes, grilled onions, white cheddar or vegan cheese, and crispy tortilla strips in a housemade lime cilantro vinaigrette—and enjoy as-is or with an added protein.
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9. Grater Greens
Mission Valley’s Grater Greens (who owes name harks to sister restaurant, Greater Grilled Cheese) offer build-your-own option salads or choose one of their featured creations. Choices include the Kale Couscous Salad with cabbage, couscous pilaf, avocado, roasted cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, and stewed black beans in a champagne vinaigrette and the Apple Cranberry with spinach, shaved red onion, and candied pecans in an apple cider vinaigrette.
10. Alforon Mediterranean
When seeking Lebanese salads that go beyond Fattoush, Alforon steps up and provides. From their tender Beet Salad over crisp romaine to their Favarugula—fava beans marinated in olive oil and lemon over arugula and tomatoes—they go well beyond the basics. Of course Alforon’s Fattoush with romaine tomato, cucumber, radish, bell peppers, and toasted housemade bread is solid as well.
11. Garden Kitchen
With a menu built on what is available direct from the handful of farms Garden Kitchen works with, the ever-changing salad selection highlights San Diego’s local produce. On the menu you’ll find smoky blue cheese or herby sunflower seed pate with baby kale and micro greens or the housemade bread toasted into a Panzanella with cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, agave balsamic, and a pungent pop of capers.
12. Loving Hut
Loving Hut lost no abundance when translating their Heavenly Salad to takeout. The clear clam shell busts with shredded cabbage, carrots, onions, and bell pepper with thin strips of fried tofu and soy protein, a handful of Vietnamese mints (like pepper and fish mint), and crushed peanuts with tamarind-spiced sweet and sour dressing.
13. Tribute Pizza
Nothing makes it to Tribute Pizza’s menu without being perfect. Every pizza, every appetizer, and ever salad deserves individual acclaim. The seemingly simple Elaine Benes Little Big Salad—with heirloom tomatoes, veggies, and marinated garbanzo beans in a bright red wine vinaigrette—reveals why it’s namesake character made a scene over these greens. The “betrayal of caesar by the coward brutus, or, et tu brute” has been a favorite from the start with grilled romaine (sometimes switched to baby kale with the season gives) spotted with Calabrian chilies and a garlicky dressing finished with the lacey crisp of wood-fired focaccia croutons.
14. The WrapShack
At their two locations in East County, The WrapShack offers ready designed salads, like a California Cobb, or you get any of their dozens of wraps served salad style. Favorites include a Thai Chicken with peanut sauce cucumbers, bean sprouts, and basil and the Vera Cruz with corn bell, bell pepper, and spicy salsa—both available with grilled or vegan chicken.
15. Soi 30th
Soi 30th’s Somtom salad is built with a crunchy base of shredded green papaya, tomatoes, lettuce, and peanuts steeped in a tart lime dressing with optional shrimp. The larb salad, marinated protein tossed with generous portions of fresh herbs and slivers of onions then dusted with roasted brown rice powder is available with pork or crispy mock duck.
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16. Donna Jean
Seasonally driven, the kitchen at Donna Jean plays with vegetables through the vegan menu. The salads feature the freshest items like shaved Brussel Sprouts with tatsoi (a bok choy like leafy green), golden raisins, apples, seared maitake mushrooms, smoked almond, and vegan parmesan in a shallot vinaigrette.
17. Tender Greens
As the name implies, the greens here are always tender and fresh... and filling. A selection of proteins come plated with simple salads like butter lettuce with chives and a tarragon dressing or kale with parmesan and roasted garlic vinaigrette. Or bypass the meat altogether an get lemon dressed greens nestled between farro with tart dried cranberries, green hummus, and a nutty tabbouleh in the Happy Vegan salad.
18. Cafe Gratitude San Diego
Café Gratitude San Diego’s ‘I AM Expansive’ farmers market salad is the ideal dish for a healthy start to the new year. Deliciously filled with butter lettuce, watermelon and French breakfast radishes, avocado, heirloom cherry tomatoes, persian cucumbers, pickled carrots, cashew mozzarella, and maple-toasted seeds, all tossed in a shallot herb vinaigrette. Other faves include the Kale and Sea Vegetable salad and Little Gems Caesar.
Never shy about changing the menu, since opening South Park’s Kindred has held tightly to the Wizard Bowl. The kitchen casts a bowl of buttery greens with maple glazed carrots, crispy tempeh, tender beets, candied pecans, and more under a champagne vinaigrette. The Little Gem Caesar, with sourdough croutons and fried capers in a white miso dressing, is another lair favorite.