Salad gets a bad rap (and sometimes gets turned into a bad wrap). But with a little culinary creativity, this health food favorite can be transformed into an outright favorite.
Salads are already a celebration of seasonal produce — full of the bounty of flavors Mother Nature has to offer. And they have another serious flavor advantage: salad dressing. Salad dressing by any other name is just sauce, and to be honest, sauce is the main reason we eat food. Salad has an ideal sauce-to-food ratio. Every bite is doused in sauce, which makes it delicious.
And the best restaurants in Austin also make salad delicious. Actually, the best restaurants in Austin could make cardboard delicious. So, we’re going to go on record here: If Café No Sé wanted to serve us cardboard, we would eat it.
But until then, you can catch us eating the best salads in Austin. Here’s where to go to find them and what to order.
The 8 Best Salads in Austin
From vegan options to bacon-topped greens, these salads have something for everyone. So, here’s where to go for healthy fare and what to order when you get there.
1. Flower Child: Avocado Caesar Salad
It’s no secret that Flower Child is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Austin, so it should be no surprise that they serve up some of the best salads. With locations in Downtown Austin and North Austin, you can order their crisp greens on either side of the city.
For a decadent option (yes, salads can be decadent!), we love the Avocado Caesar. It’s rich in healthy fats from the avocado caesar dressing, and it gets a strong hit of savory flavor from parmesan bread crumbs and chives. And with crispy romaine lettuce to contrast with the creamy dressing, this salad is a symphony of texture and flavor.
2. Culinary Dropout: Butternut Squash & Kale Salad
Located at 11721 Rock Rose Ave., this North Austin establishment is our go-to for meat, cheese, and carbs. (Their soft pretzels and provolone fondue? Drool!) So, why are they on a list of the best salads in Austin? Because Culinary Dropout knows how to mix upscale cuisine with crowd-pleasing favorites, and that translates into seriously tasty eats.
Their salad menu is refined but unpretentious, and the Butternut Squash & Kale Salad is a standout. It artfully combines bitter, sweet, and acidic flavors to create a balanced profile that would earn any culinary dropout an honorary degree in our book. This leafy green creation features butternut squash, kale, ancient grains, dates, pistachio, toasted mulberry, and white cheddar, dressed with a cider vinaigrette.
3. Bouldin Creek Cafe: Tofu Broccoli Salad
One of the best breakfast places in Austin, the lunch menu at Bouldin Creek Cafe doesn’t disappoint either. This vegan and vegetarian restaurant has a selection of Big Azz Salads — all of which are vegan and gluten-free, with the option to add feta cheese or choose a parmesan dressing if you’re not strictly vegan.
For a veggie-filled yet filling entree, try the Tofu Broccoli Salad (it’s the staff’s favorite salad for a reason). Made with stir-fried sesame tofu and broccoli, and served on a bed of organic spring mix with sunflower sprouts, carrots, local tomatoes, and sunflower seeds, this Asian-inspired creation pairs perfectly with their ginger miso dressing.
4. Café No Sé: Shredded Kale Salad
Stop by any time of day for the shredded kale salad with cauliflower, crispy rice, currants, dill cucumbers, and sherry vinegar. This light and fresh menu item represents fusion dining at its finest. Borrowing elements from both Asian and French cuisine, the recipe combines the sharp flavors of sherry vinegar with the sweetness of currants and the rich earthiness of crispy rice. The result is magnifique on any continent.
5. Mad Greens: Pancho Villa Salad
With locations in South Austin and Cedar Park (and at the airport if you’re on your way out of town), this casual salad place also serves grain bowls and wraps. It’s a quick stop whenever you need a healthy lunch. All of Mad Greens‘ salads are customizable, so you can remove ingredients you don’t like or add avocado and other favorites.
One menu item that doesn’t require any changes is the Pancho Villa Salad (although, who are we kidding — everything is better when you add avocado, even things that already have avocado in them). This salad packs a protein punch with Southwest chicken, pumpkin seeds, and quinoa served on mixed greens with roasted corn, avocado, and cilantro chili lime dressing.
6. Blue Dahlia Bistro: Goat Cheese Salad
This European-style eatery serves up simple, fresh fare in West Lake Hills (one of the best suburbs of Austin). They source organic and local ingredients to create dishes that are good for the environment and the body — if that philosophy were a food, we’re pretty sure it would be a salad. Maybe that’s why salads are the first thing on Blue Dahlia‘s menu.
And the number one salad in our book is the Goat Cheese Salad with mixed greens, walnuts, tomato, extra virgin olive oil, and parmesan. Yeah, this baby has goat cheese and parmesan. Any salad with two kinds of cheese makes our list every time.
7. Picnik: Cobb Salad
Anyone who’s tried it knows that eating healthy is no picnic — especially when you’re eating out. But Picnik (see what we did there?) makes it easy with their menu of fresh, paleo, and gluten-free options.
Located on Burnet Road, this restaurant is conscious of allergies and eating restrictions. Their entire menu is free of gluten, peanuts, and refined sugars, and they only use clean oils like avocado, coconut, and olive oil, which means you can avoid the biggest drawback of ordering a salad (many restaurants’ salad dressings are made with processed and refined vegetable oils).
The Picnik Cobb is this restaurant’s loaded version of a classic cobb salad. It’s available in their traditional recipe with chicken tenders, mixed greens, avocado, tomato, blue cheese, bacon, and hard-boiled eggs topped with green goddess dressing. Or you can get it in a low-carb version, which features grilled chicken and sugar-free bacon.
8. Vinaigrette: Arugula Duck
Vinaigrette is a salad spot that gets it. Located on College Ave., this restaurant’s mission is to make salads as crave-able as French fries. With a menu featuring exotic ingredients and stand-out salad dressings (think lemon-cumin citronette and ruby-port vinaigrette), this fresh-food favorite delivers big flavor.
Don’t miss the Arugula Duck Salad made with duck confit, baby arugula, creamy goat cheese, balsamic roasted pears, and a hibiscus vinaigrette. This creation features four flavors working in harmony. It gets a rich fattiness from the duck, bitterness from the arugula, sweetness from the pears, and tanginess from the goat cheese and hibiscus vinaigrette. Your tastebuds will thank you.
Start a Lean, Green Routine
These Austin salad places make eating your veggies too tempting to resist. Whether you’re searching out salad to be more health-conscious, or you’re health reluctant and need some really good greens to get you onboard, these leafy options will show you that salad doesn’t have to taste like a health food. Lettuce is the perfect vehicle for sauce, and these salad spots know how to dress it up.
So, get out there, try some of the best salads in Austin, and while you’re at it, don’t miss the rest of Austin’s best food. The only thing hotter than this city’s temperatures and real estate market is its culinary scene. Bon appétit!