Salads have long been deemed a safe, albeit boring, choice. Pass on ordering a Caesar for the hundredth time and head to one of the following spots offering salad bars or customizable salads that buck the trend. They’re fully stocked with dozens of fresh ingredients for a nutritious and delicious meal. The pandemic may have changed the way some of these restaurants operate but the end result is still the same: A bountiful salad that goes beyond iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing.Read More
Where to Find Chicago’s Best Salad Bars
After a pandemic pause, salad bars are back
Chicken Works & Salad Company
Flame-broiled chicken is the main headliner at this Irving Park restaurant, but customers can also make sure to eat their greens. Complement the juicy and succulent poultry with a refreshing garden salad. The bar is loaded with a variety of veggies.
Tasty made-to-order salads keep folks coming back to this Lakeview spot for more. The combinations are nearly limitless as there’s a plethora of veggies, proteins, and dressings to try. With so many choices, it’s easy to enjoy something different and exciting each time.
Dom's Kitchen & Market
Guided by pandemic lessons about the challenges of salad bars, Dom’s Kitchen & Market so for its very first store (on the Lakeview/Lincoln border), owners set up a stall called the Plant Butcher for custom-made salads. Customers can even pick out produce from the store shelves for workers to slice up and add to their meals. In 2021, the team added a second location in Old Town.
The original Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises restaurant doesn’t have the same glitz and glamor as some of the company’s newer spots, but it’s a reliable standby that claims to have been one of the first in the country to offer a salad bar. Just like when Rich Melman opened the doors back in 1971, diners today create their own hearty salads. There are 35 total ingredients to choose from but as a result of the pandemic, ordering is currently done via paper cards, and the assembly of the dish is left to the kitchen.
The Ramli family has been serving some of the most popular Middle Eastern fare in the city for more than two decades. Its beloved Wicker Park restaurant is a veritable vegetarian oasis thanks to first-rate falafel, dips, and an affordable salad bar that features 30 items. Guests can prepare a meal packed with tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves, marinated veggies, and more. There are also Logan Square and Lincoln Park locations.
Fogo de Chão
Believe it or not, the Brazilian churrascaria offers one of the finest salad bars in town. Most come for the fire-roasted meats but vegetarians also have plenty of options at the Market Table. Feast on fresh and roasted veggies and fruits, such as artichokes, eggplant, peppadew peppers, roasted beets, jumbo asparagus, papaya, and dragon fruit. There are other specialty salads, cured meats, smoked salmon, and cheeses as well. Fodo de Chao has additional outposts in the suburbs.
This salad joint has two downtown outposts and a long list of ingredients at diners’ disposal. Mix together enticing ingredients like artichoke hearts, roasted beets, hearts of palm, wasabi peas, and ahi tuna.
The Washington, D.C.-based chain brought its fresh greens to town in 2016 and quickly became a dependable go-to for lunch. Boring, wilted salads are often the norm but that’s not the case at Sweetgreen. Guests fully customize their bowls using locally-sourced ingredients — such as roasted sweet potatoes, spicy broccoli, roasted sesame tofu, and burrata — and watch as it’s tossed in front of them. There are numerous locations and orders can be placed online.
An offshoot of popular all-day eatery Beatrix, this grab-and-go marketplace features a comprehensive salad bar that’s perfect for lunch. Salads don’t have to be bland — not when there’s Japanese eggplant, roasted shiitake mushrooms, roasted sweet potatoes, and much more to be had. Additional locations are open near DePaul University in the Loop, Streeterville, and Fulton Market.
A fast-casual chain with several locations in the Loop and River North, Just Salad provides convenient and healthy lunches to downtown workers. There’s a selection of seasonal and signature salads but if guests prefer to build their own bowls, they can do so with traditional produce plus premium add-ons like cauliflower and broccoli rice, oven roasted bok choy, Beyond Beef meatballs, and creamy vegan feta. Online orders can be placed here.
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With several locations in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, this fast-casual chain makes it easy to eat fresh. Pick from more than 40 ingredients, including USDA-certified organics.
Though its location has moved (slightly) over the years, Belli’s remains a Pilsen powerhouse featuring a popular selection of juices and smoothies. Customers looking for something more filling can also find a thoughtful selection of salads with tons of add-ins like jerk jackfruit and smoked mushrooms.
Soul Veg City
There are lots of reasons to visit Soul Veg City, but among the most well-known are its Hot Bar and Live Bar, self-serve stations where patrons can load their plates with soul food favorites and a wide variety of salad components for $9.95 per pound.
County Fair Foods
This grocer had been offering prepackaged salads through the early stages of the pandemic, but the self-serve bar is back at full strength. In the search for salad bars, it’s a notable oasis as the South and West Sides don’t have many plant-centric options.