Where’s the Best Salad in DC? Here Are 16 We Love.

Our favorite Caesar, wedge, and even salad pizza.

Eat Your Greens Salads—like this buttery shrimp version from Le Diplomate—have never tasted so good. Photographs by Scott Suchman .

Salads get a bad rap. There’s the sad desk salad (and now the $17 desk salad). The bacterial playground that is the salad bar, because nothing says yum like “sneeze guard.” The Jell-O salads of the ’50s that people now make fun of on Twitter. And the salads that seem more virtuous than delicious—vehicles for boneless, skinless chicken breast. Picture Nancy Reagan nibbling on the chicken salad she ordered each time she visited the Jockey Club in the 1980s.

It’s true, some salads are awful. But these days, many are very delicious. There are fried salads, butter-laden salads, work-of-art salads, and even destination salads (we’d drive over an hour for the Greek salad at Patty O’s in Washington, Virginia). Here are 16 of our favorites.


L’Avant Garde

Salanova Lettuce

2915 M St., NW.

Photograph by Scott Suchman .

“Simple salads are the best,” says Gilles Epié, the French chef who oversees the kitchen at this Georgetown hot spot. But this salad—an entire head of SalaNova lettuce, still on the root—is not as simple as it sounds. Because each head is a serving, Epié has the lettuce grown to his specifications at an Arlington farm. The tender leaves are accented with a Southern French–inspired herb vin­aigrette and breadcrumbs tossed with Parmesan.


Randy’s Prime

Prime Filet Mignon Salad

8051 Leesburg Pike, Vienna.

Filet mignon might get knocked in foodie circles—for as tender and velvety as the meat is, it has less savor than, say, a marbly rib eye. But for a steak salad? It’s the perfect cut, as proven by this retro Tysons dining room. Slices of prime beef are a juicy medium rare, while beets, blue cheese, walnuts, and a peppery buttermilk dressing do most of the talking.


The Bazaar by José Andrés

José’s Favorite Waldorf

1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.

Waldorf salad. Photograph by Louiie Victa.

The Waldorf salad was created in the late 19th century by the maître d’ at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. More than a century later, DC’s Waldorf Astoria gets its own modern revamp, thanks to chef José Andrés’s luxe dining room. He distills his version—shaved celery, pickled apples, blue-cheese dressing, and flecks of frozen blue cheese—into an endive leaf, which gives the sweet, crunchy mix a nice hit of bitterness.


Petite Cerise

Salade “à la Petite Cerise”

1027 Seventh St., NW.


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At his new all-day cafe and bistro, the Dabney chef Jeremiah Langhorne aims to serve the kind of French food you’d actually find in France. So yes, those are ultra-crispy pig’s ears—a common countryside ingredient—in his upgraded version of a Lyonnaise salad. Even more crunch comes from smoky lardons, butter-fried brioche croutons, and a mix of Castelfranco radicchio and frisée. A soft-poached egg in the center adds some creaminess to the mustardy vinaigrette.


Patty O’s Cafe & Bakery

Greek Salad

389 Main St., Washington, Va.

The best thing we ate in Washington, Virginia, this year wasn’t at the vaunted Inn at Little Washington—it was this Greek salad at Patrick O’Connell’s other, way more casual restaurant across the street. What makes it so special? The salad is carefully layered, so you can craft the perfect bite of herbed goat’s-milk feta, kalamata olives, onion, pepperoncini, and crisp lettuce glistening with sherry vinaigrette.


Boogy & Peel

Caesar Pizza

1 Dupont Cir., NW.

Photograph of Boogy & Peel.

It’s a pizza, but it counts! At Rachael Jennings’s Dupont pizzeria, the former Rose’s Luxury sous chef giddily fuses her pies with Italian subs, Big Macs, and for this one, Caesar salad. Jennings’s crust is thin and flavorful (the dough ferments for two days) and makes an excellent base for her kale salad tossed with zingy dressing, Parmesan, and a blizzard of breadcrumbs. Vinegary anchovies are optional.


Caruso’s Grocery

Caesar Salad

914 14th St., SE; 11820 Trade St., North Bethesda.


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Matt Adler has a knack for tweaking Italian American standards so that they’re immeasurably better but still taste unfussy and traditional. Take this Caesar, a mound of chopped romaine tossed with tons of Parm, tons of pepper, and tons of tangy dressing. Adler’s not-so-secret touch: a bit of Duke’s mayo. 


The Woodmont Grill

Emerald Kale Salad

7715 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda.


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What’s in the kicky peanut dressing that makes this kale salad soar? We asked a server, and she responded as if divulging a state secret. “I think there’s rice vinegar,” she whispered after some pleading. The Vietnamese-­inspired salad is topped with flavorful rotisserie chicken and heavy on fresh cilantro and mint. The wild card: shavings of Parmesan.


Rose’s Luxury

Pork and Lychee Salad

717 Eighth St., SE.

Photograph by Aphra Adkins Creative.

Certain dishes come to define a restaurant, and this one—a constant on the ever-changing menu—helped catapult Aaron Silverman’s Capitol Hill dining room to national fame. The bowl looks simple enough: a few sweet lychees, pork sausage, red onions, and a cloud of whipped coconut milk. Do as your server instructs and get messy with it. A few tosses reveal a fireworks show of flavor, thanks to peanuts, garlic chips, coconut powder, and fresh herbs.


Elephant Jumps

Fried Papaya Salad

8110 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church.

A deep-fried salad? Yes, please. Imagine the flavors of a classic Thai green-­papaya salad, but with shredded fruit that’s battered and fried tempura-style into a big crunchy tangle with shrimp. On the side: a sweet-sour-spicy chili-lime sauce with cherry tomato and ground peanuts for dipping or drizzling.



Celery, Celery, Celery

1541 14th St., NW.


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The pizza restaurant is as well known for its “on the board” salad specials as it is for its blistery pies made from house-milled flour. But while seasonal vegetable plates come and go, the celery salad is a permanent staple. Chopped stalks are mixed with walnuts and shaved pecorino in a lemony vinaigrette. If you’re not already a celery fan, the combo will convert you.


Le Diplomate

Warm Shrimp Salad

1601 14th St., NW.


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Decadent dishes such as the burger Américain and foie gras parfait tend to get all the glory at this buzzy French brasserie. But you can catch regulars ordering this entrée salad, which features perfectly poached shrimp, avocado, shaved Parm, sun-dried tomatoes, and a heap of greens. Best of all: a dressing of truffle-lemon beurre blanc, earning it the nickname “butter salad.” 


Thip Khao

Naem Khao

3462 14th St., NW.


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If you’re not familiar with Lao food, let this crispy coconut-rice salad be your gateway. The dish has been one of chef Seng Luangrath’s most popular since her days serving a “secret” Lao menu inside then–Thai restaurant Bangkok Golden in Falls Church. Fried chunks of jasmine rice mixed with lemon­grass, garlic, and chilies are combined with bright herbs, red onion, peanuts, lime juice, and fish sauce. Fermented sour pork is an optional add-on but a must.



House Salad

1250 Ninth St., NW; 79 Potomac Ave., SE.


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Iceberg lettuce gets a bad rap, but that cold crunch is exactly what you want in an Italian American house salad. These kitchens source provolone piccante from Italy and fresh mozzarella from Liuzzi, a five-generation cheese maker in Connecticut. Slivers of red onion and pepperoncini add some bite alongside Castelvetrano olives, and the whole thing is dressed up in a homey Italian vinaigrette.


2 Amys

Little Gem

3715 Macomb St., NW.

This popular Cathedral Heights pizzeria is all about the very best ingredients prepared simply, and its “vaguely Caesar salad” is no exception. Whole leaves of Little Gem lettuce are piled with wedges of jammy boiled egg and tiny housemade croutons. The lemony anchovy dressing adds just the right zing. (Can we get a bottle?)


Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

BLT Wedge

750 15th St., NW.

Photograph by Jeff Marini.

The wedge salad—that nutrition-free union of cool iceberg and creamy blue cheese—has made a comeback on cheffy menus. But it never left the steakhouse circuit, and in DC it’s this offshoot of Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami that does it best. Triangles of crunchy lettuce are laden with plenty of crumbled blue cheese and chopped egg, then surrounded with chunks of bacon and grape tomatoes.

This article appears in the June 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.