Forget Brunch Burgers—Decadent Brunch Salads Are the Way to Go

Two words: butter dressing.

Warm shrimp salad a.k.a "the butter salad" at Le Diplomate. Photograph by Scott Suchman

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I love a good brunch salad. A blue cheese-smothered wedge or bacon-heavy cobb is the happy medium between an açaí bowl and a bacon cheeseburger. It says ‘I’m vaguely healthy, but not annoyingly so.’ Or, ‘I’m mildly hungover but still want to enjoy my day.’ The fatty salad is a power move that avocado toast can never accomplish. 

Vegetables are crucial for appearance and personal morale, but they’re not the focus. You’ll want some kind of lettuce—iceberg is more than acceptable—topped with a combination at least two of the following: cheese, bacon, avocado, egg, and a hearty protein like steak, fried chicken, or shrimp. Toss it all with a creamy dressing and you’re on your way. 

Warm shrimp salad, Le Diplomate
All hail the king of decadent salads. The plate arrives with warm poached shrimp, avocado, shaved parm, a tangy heap of greens, and truffle beurre blanc. Yes, this salad is basically dressed with lemony truffle butter. The last time I ordered it, a woman at the next table exclaimed “Your salad smells amazing!” And it did.

The “dirty” Caesar. Photograph courtesy of Unconventional Diner.

“Dirty” Caesar, Unconventional Diner
This filthy salad has all the hallmarks of a great Caesar—creamy, anchovy-laced dressing, showers of cheese—plus smoked tomato, a runny egg, and a umami-packed black garlic crumble over top. Say yes to the optional smoked salmon.

Fried chicken salad at Roy Boys. Photograph courtesy of Roy Boys.

Fried chicken salad, Roy Boys
Everything you need is here: bacon, crumbled egg, mixed cheese, and fried chicken—plus tomatoes and “power greens” to knock the bowl back into the healthy-ish category.

BLT wedge. Photograph courtesy of Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

BLT wedge, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab
The “luncheon salads” menu (offered at brunch) at this swanky downtown grill is a goldmine. Among the offerings: a bang-up steak salad and king crab Louis. But it’s hard to pass up a truly great steakhouse wedge, and that’s what you’ll find here. 

A warm, crunchy salad Lyonnaise at Convivial. Photograph courtesy of Convivial.

Salad Lyonnaise, Convivial
Frisée gets a bad rap, but it’s the perfect curlicue vehicle for a runny egg, thick-cut nubs of bacon, and brioche croutons.

Chopped salad at Pearl Dive. Photograph courtesy of Pearl Dive.

Chopped Salad, Pearl Dive Oyster Bar
This salad had me at “popcorn crawfish” (a.k.a. croutons of the sea). If you really want get decadent with this chopped salad of romaine, avocado, and seasonal veggies, add fried oysters as well.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.