- Chefs shared the best and worst salads to order from restaurants.
- Arugula salads can be fresh and tasty, and Cobb salads are perfect for large appetites.
- But the chefs said to stay away from house salads, Caesar salads, and Caprese salads.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
If you’re looking for a fresher and healthier restaurant meal, a salad may seem like an obvious choice. Unfortunately, some salads can be overpriced and less than flavorful.
Insider asked professional chefs which salads are usually great to order from restaurants and which ones you should probably avoid.
Here are the best and worst salads to order, according to chefs:
Arugula salads are almost always a tasty choice.
Drew Slane, the executive chef at Mohicans Treehouse Resort, told Insider that a simple arugula salad is an ideal choice at most restaurants.
“Arugula salad is one of the greatest and safest salads you can order,” said Slane. “As there are only a few ingredients required, most chefs take the time to source high-quality produce.”
Because arugula salad is often served with few toppings, you can usually ask the kitchen to add additional mix-ins to customise your meal.
Beet and goat cheese salad is a great sweet and savoury dish.
Professional chef Mila Furman told Insider that even beet-haters should try ordering a beet and goat cheese salad.
“If you are not a fan of beets, this salad will change that,” said Furman. “The peppery arugula, crunchy candied pecans, and tangy balsamic vinaigrette make for a magical flavour combination.”
Diners who don’t like creamy goat cheese can ask the kitchen to substitute feta cheese for a similar flavour profile.
A Cobb salad is hearty enough to be an entrée.
Far from a simple side dish, Cobb salad is packed with hearty ingredients like avocado, hard-boiled egg, chicken, and bacon.
Many restaurants serve Cobb salad with blue cheese and red-wine vinegar dressing.
“A real Cobb salad has every ingredient you could want and is big enough to be your main course,” said Slane. “Best of all, there’s usually enough to bring home.”
Tabbouleh is a filling and fresh option.
Tabbouleh is a Mediterranean salad made with lots of finely chopped parsley, mint, onion, and bulgur wheat. It’s usually served with tomatoes and topped with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
“Tabbouleh satisfied my three big requirements when it comes to salads: It’s cheap, delicious, and really good for you,” Slane told Insider. “I order it whenever I see it on a menu, no matter what else I’m eating.”
Panzanella is a hidden gem on some menus.
Panzanella is a classic Tuscan salad full of juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and large, crunchy croutons. It’s usually topped with olive oil and vinegar.
“This old-school bread salad is a hidden gem on any menu. It is particularly great in the summer months when tomatoes are super ripe and juicy,” said Furman.
Grain-based salads are filling and packed with good ingredients.
“Salads made with a base of hearty ingredients like quinoa, couscous, and brown rice are perfect when you want more than just salad greens,” she said. “They offer the fresh crunch of a traditional salad but are more satisfying.”
On the other hand, ordering the house salad is usually a waste of money.
Unless you’re in the mood for wrinkly tomatoes and limp greens, Furman said, you may want to avoid ordering a restaurant’s house salad.
“Steer clear of the house salad, as ‘house’ typically means leftovers. It’s usually just a few iceberg lettuce leaves with some cold tomato wedges,” said Furman.
When in doubt, ask your server for a description of the house salad before placing your order.
Mesclun-based salads are more likely to be slimy.
Mesclun is a mix of assorted young salad greens, often including tender leaves of arugula, lettuce, endive, and chervil. Unfortunately, mesclun has a tendency to quickly become soggy and slimy.
“Have you ever looked at a bag of day-old mesclun greens and noticed a dark liquid forming at the bottom of the bag? The same thing happens at restaurants, and they hold onto those greens even longer than you do,” Slane said.
Instead, he said he recommends opting for salads built on a base of iceberg lettuce for maximum crunch and crispness.
Skip the Caesar salad unless the dressing is freshly made.
Traditional Caesar salad dressing requires raw egg, so premade dressings must either omit this ingredient or include artificial preservatives.
Slane said that unless a restaurant offers housemade, fresh salad dressing, customers shouldn’t bother with a Caesar salad.
“Worthy Caesar salad dressing is made table side, with raw egg and filet of anchovy. Any other premade imitation simply pales in comparison,” he said.
Pass on Caprese salad unless tomatoes are in season and the mozzarella is fresh.
A classic Caprese salad is made with thick slices of fresh mozzarella, raw tomatoes, and spicy basil leaves.
Unfortunately, ordering a Caprese salad, especially out of season, can result in a lacklustre meal.
“This salad sounds delicious on the menu but often disappoints in reality due to bland, hot-house tomatoes and poor-quality mozzarella,” said Booker. “No amount of balsamic vinegar can save it.”
Ordering tuna salad can be hit or miss.
As with all seafood dishes, freshness is key when it comes to tuna salad. Unfortunately, many restaurants serve up premade or even canned tuna salad.
“Unless you are at some world-class New York deli, there is no way that the tuna salad is fresh. Plus, the large amount of mayonnaise that is used in each serving might be off-putting to some,” Furman told Insider.
Unless tuna salad is a house specialty, you may want to opt for a salad that features whole seafood such as seared salmon or scallops.
Taco salads aren’t always the freshest salad option.
If you’re eyeing the taco salad, you may simply want to order a round of actual tacos instead.
“With a fried shell bowl, red meat, sour cream, and cheese, taco salads are pretty much the anti-salad,” said Slane. “Plus they’re usually overpriced and premade way too far in advance.”
If taco salads are your thing, you’re more likely to get one that’s freshly prepared and reasonably priced at an authentic Mexican restaurant.