Kale Salad at Northern Spy Food Co.
One of New York's finest kale salads, this one combines raw lacinato kale, crumbled Cabot clothbound cheddar, roasted squash, toasted almonds, and pecorino for a balance of crisp and crunch, vegetal, sweet, and salty.
Homemade Tofu Salad with Special Bonito Flakes at Ootoya
Crispy Chinese Watercress Salad at Ayada Thai / SriPraPhai
Marcona and Serrano Salads at Despaña
A good salad is made by the quality of its ingredients, and Spanish food importer Despaña takes their ingredients seriously. Marcona almonds, cow's milk cheese, and cubes of salty, meaty ham adorn these two otherwise standard mesclun and cherry tomato salads, turning them into so much more.
Moroccan Carrots and Marinated Red Beets at Taïm
Taïm's well-deserved reputation has been built on its falafel, but their excellent salads shouldn't be overlooked. "Moroccan carrots" are cooked until just tender, then coated with paprika and cumin to make things interesting. The sweet marinated beets get a kick of lightness from their light lemon dressing.
Caesar Salad at M. Wells
The M. Wells crew has redefined the way we eat Caesar salad, from the use of herring in the dressing to the half inch of fluffy Parmesan on top. You think it's too much, until you realize it's the perfect salad, only bolder. Available at both M. Wells Dinette and M. Wells Steakhouse.
Spicy and Tingly Lamb Face Salad at Xi'an Famous Foods
Xi'an's lamb face salad is a joyful tangle of cucumber, cilantro, Mung bean sprouts, and celery, with all sorts of shredded lamb face meat (with all the cartilaginous bits, and the occasional eyeball), then tossed in their signature oily-spicy sauce. There's nothing particularly virtuous about it, but it's damn refreshing.
Papaya Salad at Somtum Der
As soon as you walk in the door of this East Village restaurant, the somtum station hits you with its jars of ingredients—peanuts, dried shrimp, limes and the like—and the rythmic thump of a wooden pestle crushing freshly shaved green papaya, tomatoes, long beans, and chilies marks the beat. The basic Tum Thai is the most accessible of the eight versions offered, but we're also partial to the Tum Thai Kai Kem and Tum Kor Moo Yang variations.
Ali-Baba Salad at Chayhana Salom
Salads can be more than raw greens. A deeply flavorful tangle of sautéed eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, and raw red onions is served cold at this Uzbek restaurant for a dish that's part creamy, part fresh.
Kale Salad at Chuko Ramen
You might not think of a ramen shop as a place to get salad, but Chuko makes a good case as to why you should. Small pieces of kale take on two forms—some are left raw and softly crunchy and some are tempura-fried (and also crunchy). It's all dressed in a faintly sweet white miso vinaigrette that gently soaks in. Pickled golden raisins join the greens and strands of crisped-up Japanese sweet potato curl on top.
Bulgar Salad at MP Taverna
This unassuming heap of tender, chewy bulgar is run through with dates, almonds, olives, fennel, red onion, pistachios, and pomegranate. You'll need a few bites to get it all down, and a few more to let sink in that this salad is to bulgar what roller coasters are to the merry-go-round.
MP Taverna: 31-29 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria, NY 11105 (map); 718-777-2187; michaelpsilakis.com/mp-taverna/mp-taverna-astoria/
Charred Beet and Lentil Salad at Zizi Limona
Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad with Crunchy Seeds and Citrus at ABC Kitchen
Ingredient-focused ABC Kitchen built is reputation in part on this salad, which smartly combines sweet roasted carrots with creamy avocado. There's some cumin to draw the carrots' caramelized flavors into focus, and a little greenery to lighten it up just a bit.
Burmese Ginger Salad at Crazy Crab 888
Slivers of raw young ginger have a mild pungency balanced by a lime dressing, hot chilies, and crunchy nuts and soy beans. Deeply nutty and impressively refreshing, it'll whet your appetite for more of this restaurant's fresh Burmese cooking.