If you are a Californian, you love salads. Chicago may have the deep dish pizza, New York their steak, and New Orleans their Cajun cuisine; but California boasts some of the best salad places I know. This fact comes as no surprise since we are such health junkies. Yes, it’s quite common to see people order soy milk instead of skim milk at Starbucks (that is so 1990’s!), jog in the wee hours of the morning (heck, I see joggers all the time!), and bike to work. So it comes as no surprise that Californians like a plate of freshly tossed garden salad with fat-free dressing as their lunch preference. To some out-of-state readers of mine, I might as well be talking about Mars, but trust me, you can’t leave California without trying one of the many fresh salads in like every restaurant (I think McDonald’s have them too here. Lol). So here is a list of great salad places I go to when I am craving for something healthy and with lighter calories.
Pluto’s: Pluto’s opened in 1995 and was a go-to splurge for when I was a senior in high school. I remember a branch opening on University Ave, Palo Alto, and us finding special opportunities to go in our friend’s car and eat here. I think that happened like once, but I always like to refer it as a favorite place of mine in high school. Lol. While, Pluto’s serves favorites like mac-n-cheese and their famous non-halal steak sandwiches, it is the salad that uh…takes the cake. Here, you can have customized salads that are made right in front of you. You can select if you want a kale (costs extra), spinach, or Caesar salad. Then you pick your toppings/fixings that get tossed in your salad; corn, beet root, mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes, eggs and avocado (cost extra), plus many more are all that can be added to your greens. After you add your desired fixings, you can pick from over six different homemade salad dressings. The end results are absolutely unique and divine, plus the sizes of these salads are humongous! A go-to if you are in Palo Alto area.
Crepevine: In the past, I usually went to Crepevine (in Palo Alto and Mountain View) for their delicious crepes. However, on my last brunch there, I ordered a salad and was not disappointed. Crepevine has several vegetarian and non-halal meat options with original and regional twists. You will find Southwestern/Mexican style salads with black beans or olives and feta cheese in a Greek salad. Their curry-marinated chicken salad will transport you to Thailand. My favorite is the California-style salad, which includes caramelized walnuts and orange vinaigrette. Their Caesar salad is pretty good too and tastes quite good with iced tea. The décor is truly Californian as well with blackboards as menus and spacious outside eating areas. You won’t regret coming here!
Sweetgreens (vegan): I personally have not dined here, but I thought it would be interesting to include this chain in the post. This place is purely organic and includes vegetarian and vegan salads. Expect to go quinoa-crazy here. There are seasonal salads available that are made of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Then their original menu includes warm bowls and regular salads all under 600 calories. If you ever eat here, let me know what you think. I may have to try it myself. I am not a complete health nut to go here for lunches regularly, but for a vegan experience, why not?
Mirchi Cafe: Mirchi is not in the Peninsula, but I have to include them in case you are ever in the East Bay. The portions of the halal chicken tikka salad here are generous and there is more chicken tikka than leaves on the plate, so I get tikka happy when I see the waiter coming to me with this salad. I do recommend going earlier in the week or on Saturday because around Thursdays and Fridays, I have found the chicken to be a little stale (something to do with the delivery schedule, I think). However, I highly recommend making the trip to Fremont or Dublin (East Bay) for this meaty salad.
Café Milano: Café Milano in Berkeley (East Bay) has another great selection of salads in their little college town café. Here you will find the brightest students cramming for midterms, so if you can take the stressful environment, then come in for a mocha or a salad. Portions are decent and the focaccia bread the salad comes with is absolutely fresh and yummy. I usually have their Greek Salad and an iced tea when I come here for lunch. For a good ol’ Californian pick-up, do try their lattes and mochas. You may have an excited barista make some cool art with your coffee.
There are countless other salad places around the Bay Area especially in San Francisco and Oakland/Berkeley area. However, the ones mentioned above are (mostly) tried (multiple times) and true favorites of mine. If you live here in the Peninsula, then do consider these salad places as alternates to Google food (yes, I know, not everyone knows a Google employee). If you are not from here, then adding Californian fresh greens should be on your travel bucket list (Check Yelp! for local listings). Happy Traveling!