It can be argued that Los Angeles is the country's salad capital. And when it’s lunchtime, sometimes you just need a great big salad.
Many restaurants in the city offer terrific salads, but — in the words of Seinfeld's Elaine — are they big salads? Do they tower above their plates? Contain tomatoes like volleyballs? Would you expect full meal credit for buying someone that salad?
The integrity of a big salad lies not only in its size but its intrigue and originality. Salads with these specs can be found at any number of the new salad places appearing on every corner these days. But here are 10 Los Angeles restaurants that have truly mastered the big salad.
The classic Cobb at Alcove Café & Bakery
Los Feliz's much-loved garden bistro Alcove Café & Bakery serves a classic Cobb that could cure a hunger headache upon first bite. Topped with half an avocado, a whole egg, a generous helping of thick, applewood-smoked bacon and a fresh-baked pretzel roll, this meal is packed with protein while its base of romaine and iceberg maintains a respectable level of crunch. And though the Cobb is notable for its superbly filling ingredients, several of Alcove’s other salads also work as hearty meals, including the Mediterranean steak salad with portobello mushroom and feta. 1929 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 644–0100, alcovecafe.com.
The organic kale salad at Follow Your Heart
On the corner of Sherman Way and Topanga in the West San Fernando Valley is Follow Your Heart, a vegetarian market and café that’s been serving gigantic salads since the 1970s. Follow Your Heart’s vintage glass bowls are brimming with super greens and dense, vegetarian proteins. The most substantial of the bunch is the organic kale salad, piled with tomato, avocado, carrots, whole raw cashews, bok choy and your choice of cottage cheese or cottage-style tofu. Top it with one (or two) of FYH's homemade vegan dressings, including tofu tahini dill, creamy garlic and organic miso ginger, or with one of the usual suspects: vegan bleu cheese, ranch or Caesar. 21825 Sherman Way, Canoga Park; (818) 348-3240, followyourheart.com/market-cafe.
The Cheebo Chop at Cheebo
Here is a salad that appears light and refreshing yet is so filling it often can’t be finished in one round. The Cheebo Chop is an organic, mountainous helping of chicken, mixed greens, mozzarella, provolone, Genoa salami, garbanzo beans, tomato and olives, chopped and tossed with such precision that all flavors and textures are presented by the forkful. Dressed with light balsamic vinaigrette, it’s the Italian antipasto’s svelte cousin but packs the same punch. Enjoy it with Cheebo's complimentary breadbasket and box of crayons, and you’re all set. 7533 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 850–7070, cheebo.com.
The Tri-Salad at Langer's Deli
This salad is so big, it has salads on salads on salads — literally. Everyone knows delis serve hefty helpings of the items on their bible-length menus, and the salads are no exception. Here we have a perfect specimen of a deli-big salad. While a salad in itself, it also includes chicken, egg and tuna salads on a bed of tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots for crunch. Rounded out with a mound of olives, sweet pickles and peaches with cottage cheese, this is a salad for the person who has to have a big salad but can’t quite decide on one direction. 704 S. Alvarado St., Westlake; (213) 483-8050, langersdeli.com.
The Kale Caesar at Mixto
Though a taco stand might not scream “big salad” to most people, Silver Lake’s Mixto Comida Latina, a new-wave Mexican-American walkup, offers a simple yet sizable kale Caesar for when you’re all taco'd out. A paper plate is piled generously with kale and dressed with pecorino Romano, croutons and a light, tart lemon vinaigrette. Top it with chicken or carne asada for protein, and enjoy it on the streetside patio with everyone and their dog. 2827 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; (323) 668–1818, mixtomixto.com.
The California chicken salad at California Chicken Café
The sheer circumference and depth of California Chicken Café’s salad bowls really tell the whole story. California Chicken Café has outright owned the big-salad game for more than 20 years. While at its core it’s a rotisserie chicken quick-serve, its California chicken salad reigns as one of the biggest, heartiest, most satisfying salads in the city. This stack of fresh lettuce, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, tomato and avocado, tossed with pita croutons, fusilli pasta and white meat chicken, should be ordered with a to-go box. Served with fresh, warm whole-wheat pita on the side, it’s the big salad all big salads wish they could be. 6805 Melrose Ave., West L.A.; (323) 525-1013, californiachickencafe.com.
The Chinese chicken salad at Joan's on Third
A big-salad list wouldn’t be complete without a proper Chinese chicken salad, and the family-owned Joan’s on Third does it right with a heap of iceberg lettuce, sliced chicken breast, toasted almonds, crispy wontons and rice sticks in a big, round bowl. Dressed with their signature Chinese chicken salad dressing, this salad is not only big but tastes and feels like your (really talented in the kitchen) mom made it just for you. For the past 18 years, Joan has consistently fed out-the-door lines with her signature salads, sandwiches and sweets, and she recently opened a second location in Studio City. 8350 West Third Street, West L.A.; (323) 655-2285, joansonthird.com.
The Mediterranean salad at Crimson Mediterranean Cookhouse
The zest of a big, Mediterranean salad is a force to be reckoned with, and Crimson Mediterranean Cookhouse takes this challenge very seriously with its classic offering of the dish. With romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, Kalamata olives, garbanzo beans and feta cheese, the focus here is on the key ingredients that make a Mediterranean salad great. It can be graced with salmon or antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken for protein and is served with a large pita chip for scooping, dipping or just plain crunching. Though the Mediterranean is the star here, the menu offers six more big salads, along with wraps, kabobs and a slew of breakfast options. 2901 Ocean Park Blvd. #127, Santa Monica; (310) 396–2400, crimsonla.com.
The fresh corn grilled salad at Fresh Corn Grill
Yes, the fresh corn grilled salad — the original dish of the two-location, California-style eatery — has grilled corn. It also has zucchini and asparagus mixed with a mound of fresh greens, tomatoes and avocado. Finish it off one of many protein offerings, including chicken, salmon, shrimp, skirt steak, tofu or rockfish, for a substantial meal that might feel more like a summer barbecue than a salad at a casual dining establishment. You can also choose from any of the other, more traditional salads on the menu, including a Caesar, Cobb and Greek. 8714 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 855-9592. 1266 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 470-0414. freshcorngrill.com.
The antipasto salad at C&O Trattoria
Everything about C&O Trattoria in Marina del Rey is big. Between the restaurant's long tables and dining room–encompassing sing-alongs, a meal at C&O is an outsize experience in itself, and the family-style salads are no exception. While each of the salads is massive, the antipasto salad is highlighted here for its dense helpings of salami, turkey breast and mozzarella that sit atop a beautiful mess of roasted red peppers, Roma tomatoes, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini and chickpeas. Served along with bottomless garlic knots, this salad could easily fill two people to the brim. Though most dishes are meant to be shared at this feast-focused eatery, there’s no shame in ordering one of these large salads for yourself. And if big just isn't big enough, they offer a “gargantuan” size for an additional $4. 31 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey; (310) 823-9491, cotrattoria.com.