Must-Order Kale Salads from Coast to Coast

Kale is the new black. Across the country, these kale salads remain on the A list.

©2009

Photo By: Michael Grimm ©2014 by Michael Grimm

Kale's Big Comeback

Kale, with its fibrous, cabbage-like leaves loaded with beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C and calcium, was once the nerd of the vegetable drawer — obscure, super-healthy and wildly underappreciated. But the nation's top chefs have revitalized this beautiful green, using it in all sorts of powerhouse salads and turning it almost famous. Here are some of our favorite kale salads from coast to coast.

Photo by Anjali Pinto/Stella Barra Pizzeria

Atlanta: The Optimist

If you want to eat your kale, but you're kinda hungry for something big and hearty, try Chef Ford Fry's kale salad at The Optimist. This is a kale salad that eats like a meal. You'll want a big appetite for this oversized bowl of beautiful greens topped with bright Calabrese peppers, smoky chorizo and frizzled shallots in a zippy sherry vinaigrette.

Photo courtesy of The Optimist

More About: The Optimist

Chicago: Little Goat

Chef Stephanie Izard of Little Goat makes one of Chicago's best kale salads. Her Chickpea Salad is made with a kale base, tossed with fresh chopped veggies, Montamore cheese, tzatziki and Izard's signature "chee" vinaigrette — her spicy, saucy take on kimchee. Feel free to add chicken, but you really don't need it.

More About: Little Goat

Dallas: CBD Provisions

Chef Richard Blankenship reaches for goat feta, golden raisins and Aleppo pepper for his kale salad at CBD Provisions in Dallas. It's a rather unexpected combination of ingredients that works beautifully.

Denver: Acorn

The kale salad at Chef/Co-Owner Steve Redzikowski's Acorn restaurant is something out of the ordinary. The chef doesn't shy away from bold flavors and jazzes his salad up with shaved Honeycrisp apples, Parmesan, togarashi chiles and candied almonds.

Photo by Jen Olson

More About: Acorn

Evanston, Ill.: Found

Found, the New American kitchen in Evanston, has a kale salad on the menu all year long. Chef Nicole Pederson changes up the garnishes depending on seasonal and local produce. These days as the weather warms up, she’s offering a kale and Swiss chard salad topped with nuts, seeds and fresh rhubarb.

Photo courtesy of Galdones Photography

Glen Ellen, Calif.: Glen Ellen Star

Chef Ari Weiswasser is all about international flavors, and he's not shy about challenging diners to expand their comfort zone to incorporate new foods and spices. His kale salad gets tossed with Vadouvan-spiced walnuts, pickled green strawberries and a spicy peanut dressing. It's the most-exotic kale salad you'll have this year. 

Los Angeles: Hinoki & the Bird

The kale salad at Hinoki & the Bird in Los Angeles is one of those salads that surprise with every bite. The leaves are both crispy and raw, curried almonds give it some warm heat, shaved pecorino adds a bit of nuttiness, and a splash of red wine vinaigrette brings it all together.

New York: il Buco

If you're looking for the most-authentic expression of a classic Italian kale salad, look no further than il Buco, the seasonal Italian-Mediterranean spot in New York City's NoHo neighborhood. The salad has been on the menu since the restaurant opened its doors 20 years ago and will, quite frankly, never come off it. Try Chef Joel Hough's Cavolonero Salad — Tuscan black kale in a garlic-anchovy-lemon vinaigrette, with filone croutons — and you will immediately understand why.

Photo by Michael Grimm

North Bethesda, Md.: Stella Barra Pizzeria

At Stella Barra Pizzeria, Chef/Partner Jeff Mahin focuses on the beauty of the greens. His Heirloom Spinach & Purple Kale Salad is a rather simple affair. It gets topped with just a flurry of shaved radishes and a couple of Medjool dates, for one fine lunch.

Photo by Anjali Pinto

More About: Stella Barra Pizzeria

Portland, Ore.: Nostrana

At Portland's Nostrana, owner and Executive Chef Cathy Whims — a six-time James Beard Award finalist — goes the traditional route with a Tuscan kale salad topped with housemade ricotta and raisins plumped in Marsala.

Photo courtesy of Michael Ernsting Photography

Hinsdale, Ill.: Vistro

The Harvest Salad, at four-time James Beard Award finalist Chef Paul Virant's Vistro restaurant, is one of those dishes the chef cannot remove from the menu. So he changes it seasonally, always with a base of kale. The spring version features shaved fennel, radish and carrots, tossed in a green goddess dressing.