Like the good bears that we are, we’ve definitely fattened up during the winter months. Now that spring is here, though, there’s nothing to stop us from getting back on the health train. Luckily Orange County is chock full of great options for that, like these killer salads that we’ve so graciously compiled for you right here.
Fun fact: Habana actually means “salad heaven”. The Costa Mesa Cuban local fave has some great ones, all $15 or under for dinner. Give the Organic Baby Spinach Salad (with herbed goat cheese croutons, crispy jamon serrano, avocado, tomatoes, red onion, and orange ginger vinaigrette) or the Ensalada Catalan (romaine, heirloom tomato, fried goat cheese, raw garlic, olive oil, and red wine vinaigrette) a shot to experience said heaven.
You already know that Fresh Brothers puts together a rock-solid lineup of pizza and wings, but did you know that they also put together a rock-solid lineup of BBQ chicken, Greek, and other salads? Did you know that they also ALSO put together rock-solid options to build-your-own-salad? Of course you did.
Shuck Oyster Bar
Your go-to Costa Mesa oyster spot (that frequently rocks $3 oysters and no corkage) will be your go-to seafood salad spot once you get your hands and mouth on one of the ocean-friendly salads Leonard Chan's team is serving up. If the Crab Louie doesn’t do it for you, their garden salad with your choice of smoked salmon, shrimp, crab, or lobster definitely should.
Sometimes the most soul-soothing meal is a hearty Italian chopped salad. Jinny’s Italian, with romaine, radicchio, Castelvetrano olives, radicchio, red onion, tomatoes, mozzarella, and house giardiniera dressing should do exactly the trick. See ya there.
Okay, so Butterleaf doesn’t exactly have salads, but they do have veggie bowls and if you’re trying not to eat like a monster all the time, Butterleaf still has your back. Coming soon to TRADE in Irvine, we suggest you try out one of their build-your-own bowls; choose from brown rice, quinoa, or freekeh, then pile on your veggies -- choices of kale, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes-- , and douse ‘em in either citrus honey sauce, tiger sauce, or herb sauce. Also available as a wrap, if you hate forks.
The obvious move when it comes to Greenleaf is to build your own salad, since they rock a near-perfect list of ingredients to choose from, like agave-roasted walnuts, Thai chili, and grilled flat-iron steak. But if you feel lazy/so inclined, you can grab one of their house favorites, like Lemongrass Chicken (Scarborough Farms baby mixed greens, grilled chicken, mango, grilled pineapple, jicama, popcorn shoots, toasted coconuts, cashews, Thai chili, and lemongrass lychee) or Mexplosion (Scarborough Farms baby mixed greens, black beans, pico de gallo, cilantro, avocado, sunflower seeds, tortilla strips, queso fresco, roasted pepperoncini blend, and spicy chipotle orange bbq sauce).
The beloved Costa Mesa Vietnamese restaurant may be known for their sandwiches and rice bowls, but the salads at their disposal are big-time winners. You can go for the Grapefruit Salad, ( red & Napa cabbage, cilantro, basil, candied peanuts, shallots, and citrus vinaigrette), the Pickled Mango & Kale (pickled mango, black kale, red onions peanuts, toasted sesame seeds & coconut, and sesame vinaigrette), or the Vermicelli Noodles (spring mix, herbs, bean sprouts, cucumbers, peanuts, fried shallots, egg roll, and citrus vinaigrette). Don’t be afraid to add chicken, tofu, pork, shrimp, or pork belly either.
Mead’s Green Door
Locals lose their mind for Mead’s be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Part of that is no-doubt due to their cult favorite Taco Salad. For under $10 you can nab this miracle snack packed full of greens, buffalo cauliflower, black beans, tomatoes, corn, olives, avocado, and pepitas. If you order two, we promise not to tell anybody.
Wilder Shaw is an LA-based writer and comedian who loves salads and doesn’t care what anybody thinks. Follow his leafy green adventures on Instagram at @wildershaw and Twitter at @wildershaw_.