Quest for the Best Salad

I love a good salad, but I have discovered, not all salads are created equal. Whether it’s a fast food salad, or a sit down restaurant salad, the choices are endless, and some are not quite up to par.

I decided to put various salads from various restaurants to the test in searching for the very best. I would like to say my criteria is the health/low calorie value, but that isn’t quite true. I am judging purely on taste/quality/price value. I try to choose salads over burgers and pizza for the most part, but I realize when cheese, bacon, and ranch dressing is added, the healthy advantages suffer a bit. But, I use minimal amounts of dressing, and I still believe that a salad must be a better choice than a bacon cheeseburger and fries, right?

So…each week I am featuring three different salads and giving them a rating based on my own personal criteria. Feel free to share your opinions about these salads or others, whether you loved or loathed them.

This is the rating scale I am using (because these are the elements that are important to me 🙂

(25 points possible)

1) Freshness: You can tell when a salad was made way earlier and just pulled from the cooler rather than prepared freshly. [1 through 3]
2) Type of Lettuce: I don’t care for iceberg lettuce, I love the really green stuff, and if a salad has brownish yellow lettuce, it’s a HUGE fail. [0 through 3]
3) Overall taste. [1 through 5]
4) Crispies. These are things like croutons, sunflower seeds, etc. Very important to me in a salad. Some salads have great ones, some have none, and some have sub par ones. [1 through 3]
5) Value for the $ – [1 through 4]
6) Variety of vegetables/ingredients: Some salads have lettuce and nothing else. I like a few other things thrown in like carrots, cucumbers, olives, etc. [1 through 4]
7) Cheese. A salad can have too little cheese or so so cheese, but it cannot have too much cheese, in my opinion. [1 through 3]

Chick-fil-A Cobb Salad

Chick fi la Cobb

1) Freshness: 3 out of 3
2) Type of Lettuce: 3 out of 3
3) Overall taste. 4.5 out of 5 – I’ve tried it with the grilled chicken and wasn’t a fan (their grilled chicken has an odd ‘fake’ taste to it that doesn’t quite work for me), but with the chopped up chicken nuggets and the combination of flavors, the overall taste is great.
4) Crispies. 2 out of 3 – Comes with these little red pepper bits which are okay, but I prefer the sunflower seeds they used to serve.
5) Value for the $ – 3 out of 4 – It’s a decent size and has plenty of taste and variety to make it worth the going price.
6) Variety of vegetables/ingredients: 3.5 out of 4 – With tomatoes, eggs, cabbage, carrots, and roasted corn kernels, it’s almost perfect, but not quite.
7) Cheese. 2 out of 3 – The cheese is good, but there’s so little of it.


Jason’s Deli Chicken Club

Jason's Deli Chicken Club no Avacados

1) Freshness: 3 out of 3
2) Type of Lettuce: 2 out of 3 – They have the darker lettuce, which is great, but there’s a bit of iceberg mixed in there, too much for my taste.
3) Overall taste. 4 out of 5
4) Crispies. 1 out of 3 – Zero crispies provided. And I know they have plenty of different varieties on the salad bar.
5) Value for the $ – 3 out of 4
6) Variety of vegetables/ingredients: 2.5 out of 4 – The picture doesn’t show it, but the salad includes avocado. Avocado hurts my stomach, so I had them leave it off. In addition to that, the salad has grape tomatoes, but again, with all they have to offer on the salad bar, they could have thrown in some carrots or olives.
7) Cheese. 3 out of 3 – LOTS of yummy cheese, the mixture of white and yellow is just perfect.
TOTAL: 18.5

McDonald’s Bacon Chicken Ranch

McDonald's bacon Chicken Ranch

1) Freshness: 2 out of 3 – Honestly, I thought this would get a 1 because the salads I’ve had at McDonalds before tasted as though they’d been sitting for hours. This one was a little fresher, but not quite fresh enough.
2) Type of Lettuce: 1 out of 3 – Iceberg city, but it doesn’t get a 0 because at least the lettuce wasn’t brown.
3) Overall taste. 2.5 out of 5 – It was okay, good enough I might try it again in a pinch, but not great.
4) Crispies. 1 out of 3 – Zero.
5) Value for the $ – 2.5 out of 4 – It’s a decent size but the taste is a little sub par, at any price.
6) Variety of vegetables/ingredients: 1 out of 4 – Pretty much just tomatoes.
7) Cheese. 2 out of 3 – The cheese is decent, but again, there’s so little of it.

So…what do you think? Have you tried any of these salads? Do you agree? Disagree? What are your most and least favorite salads.

By the way…feel free to call me out on my math if I got it wrong…it’s not my strong suit 🙂


Filed under Entertainment

14 responses to “Quest for the Best Salad

  1. Diane Burton

    What a great idea, Alicia. The only salad I’ve tried (from your list above) is McDonald’s. We don’t have Chick-Fil-A or Jason’s Deli here. McD’s salad is probably my go-to salad for take out. While I love the crispy chicken, I usually get grilled (healthier?). It can be hit or miss regarding freshness. Your comments are pretty much on target.


    • Wow, you are really missing out without Chick fil A and Jason’s Deli! I guess I should consider some places are regional. 🙂 Yes, the grilled is healthier. I’d gotten the grilled the time before (and hadn’t started working on this blog yet), and it didn’t quite taste right, but then, the salad itself was less fresh and flavorful overall. Definitely hit or miss. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Out of these three restaurants, we only have a McD’s here and I always get the grilled southwestern chicken salad which I like ok. And poor you on avocados, I LOVE them. And from what I’m reading in the book Trim Healthy Mama, which is fabulous but long and I’ve only read parts of it because I don’t have much time to read beyond research these days, but you can have the bacon and cheese all day long as long as you don’t add the croutons (or the breaded chicken) It’s mixing carbs and fats in a meal that apparently puts on the pounds. A high carb lowfat meal they call an E meal and a high fat meal they call an S and I don’t have the two quite straight but it’s really fascinating. Ok, well off the subject of salads a bit. 🙂


    • Ah, good info, Diana. Yeah, I had the Southwest, and it was okay, but not great. Of course, if you don’t have much choice, then what are you gonna do, right? Hmmm….that’s very interesting info about mixing carbs and fats. How long do you have to wait in between before it’s not considered ‘mixing’? 🙂


      • I haven’t read the whole book yet, but I seem to remember 3 hours. Trim Healthy Mama has got a fabulous and active!! Facebook group where you ask a question and get a flood of answers from all those who are following this plan. Really helpful.


  3. Oh, Ali-shuh… You know me and fast food places. I can hear you mumbling, “Yeah, yeah, once a snob, always a snob.” So-o-o-o, my favorite salad is and always will be Junior’s “prepared tableside” Caesar’s Salad. By your criteria, the crispiest of fresh, tender spinach leaves and freshly toasted, garlic sourdough croutons. Tossed together with the secret dressing (not so secret that I don’t have it straight from Junior himself–RIP my friend) prepared along side your table. The price? Let’s just say it’s worth every last exorbitant dollar. =)


    • Sigh…yes, I recall your snobbery in relation to fast food restaurants, or chains in general. 🙂 Sounds like a yummy salad, but it also sounds pricey. I guess they charge extra for the tableside service? 🙂 Thank you for the input…where is Junior’s, by the way?


  4. OK–I live in the boondocks and we have only Wendy’s. However, Wendy’s has a GREAT taco-type salad called, I think Baja Salad. It has tons of avocado and all the other taco salad stuff too–lots of shredded cheese on top. I’m sure it’s NOT low-cal but it sure is tasty and not too expensive. Thanks for a salad day!


  5. Boondocks, huh? 🙂 Well, if you only have a limited choice, Wendy’s is a great fast food salad place. I haven’t tried their taco salad, but it sounds great. I LOVE their Spicy Chicken Caesar (and it will be featured on a future blog). I appreciate you popping in!


  6. Good grief, how can it be that even with FOOD I’m out of the loop?? Unlike some of the others who have commented, I have access to Jason’s, Chick-fil-A and McDonalds, but I make a salad for lunch every day and rarely eat fast food, period. (Mostly because I’m too cheap to spend the money.) I’m with you though on iceberg lettuce. To me it says cheap and easy, and I can do cheap and easy myself! The other kind of lettuce I’m not big on (but that I find all over the place) is “spring mix.” I feel like I’m eating the contents of the lawnmower bag. Need to check out the book Diana mentioned. Can’t have fat and carbs together, huh? That explains the increased bulges along my hips and thighs. Fun post, Alicia!


    • Hmmmm, Leah. I guess you’re more ambitious than I am. I usually make salads at home over the weekend, but not so much during the work week. I don’t care for fast food either, but it’s so much easier. Thanks for stopping by!


      • dianalayne

        Have you seen that salad in a jar thing? You can apparently make a week’s worth of salads in jars, keep it in the fridge and then just grab one. If I still worked outside the house, I’d sure try that at least once.


  7. I have not seen that salad in a jar thing, but it definitely is something I’ll check into. I’m not sure how the jar makes a difference, but if I can find a good way to make the ‘salad during the week’ thing convenient, I’m in! Thanks. I’ll google it. 🙂


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