Stuffed Avocado at Nickel Diner ($8.50)
You can get Nickel Diner's stuffed avocado filled with either chicken or quinoa salad. And while you'll hear no complaints from this end about moist chicken salad freckled with candied pecans and pickled onions, we have to admit to being partial to the vegetarian version. Nickel's quinoa medley combines pintos, red peppers, squash, and the sweetest fresh corn we've had so far this year, with the nobbly, earthy ancient grain. It's topped with a subtle vinaigrette that accents the flavors without overpowering. A perfect bite brings all of these textural components together with the creaminess of its ripe avocado bowl. It's a kind of salsa/guacamole/salad hybrid.
Citrus Chicken Salad at Clementine ($11.50)
It may not be the most seasonal salad on the list, but there's something about the combination of peppery greens, tender morsels of sweet-citrusy chicken, long curls of carrot, salty pops of edamame and spiced almonds, and tiny tart Clementine wedges that nudges you out of that June gloom funk. The flavors pop, the textures are spot-on, and it's just a downright vibrant, filling salad.
A Modo Mio at Culina ($14)
When it arrives at your table, this re-constructed caprese is a gorgeous, sculptural sight—whole Rosso Bruno heirloom tomatoes topped with a mound of silky, rich, unctuous Di Stefano burrata, a smattering of basil, a splash of Manni extra virgin olive oil, and a dusting of black sesame seeds. It's pretty enough that you want to be delicate with it, for fear of destroying the artful presentation (and because it would be embarrassing to get tomato all over your face at Beverly Hill's new power-lunching star spot), but dive in anyway, and make sure you get a little bit of everything in each bite, because what looks like a precarious piece of edible art is really a perfectly balanced flavorful masterpiece.
Market Ribbon Salad at Cube ($10)
If it weren't so darn beautiful, Cube's market ribbon salad would be the simplest on the list. It's just threads of asparagus, zucchini, and squash with a dollop of goat's milk feta, a sprinkling of thyme and mint, and a straightforward lemon vinaigrette. But proving that knife skills really are an art, the veggies are exquisitely cut, shaved, and mandolined into thin, twisting ribbons and flat razor thin coins, creating a tangle of what can only be described as pure platonic vegetable-ness. That intense freshness is made all the more acute by the luscious, but slightly sour creaminess of the feta, which infiltrates each bite somehow turning the palate's focus even more toward the unadulterated vegetable flavor.
Hiyashi Chuka at Asahi Ramen ($7.50 with ham, $7.95 with chicken)
Asahi may have lost its top ramen status to hotter spots' steaming bowls of slurpy, salty, porky ramen, but for the summer ramen salad specialty, hiyashi chuka, we're still fans of the Little Osaka stalwart. Cold, slightly springy noodles, piled high with crisp julienned cucumbers, wide chewy ribbons of seaweed, crisp bean sprouts, and bright yellow strands of sweet egg (and your choice of shredded chicken or ham). Served with a side of sinus-clearing wasabi-like karashi mustard, and a thin, cool, sweet-sour sesame dressing (gomadare). It brings the best of pasta salad and hearty ramen together into one refreshing bowl.
Grilled Prawn Salad at Tender Greens ($10.50)
Whiffs of summer emanate from this generous salad, available at the various Tender Greens outlets around the city. There's a crisp char on the tender, sweet shrimp. A spicy, almost smoky heft from the discs of Spanish chorizo. Soft, creamy butteriness from the lima beans. And a sunny tartness in the lemon vinaigrette. While not overtly summery, the components, when laid on a bed of peppery arugula and soft butter lettuce, offer just enough to make you anticipate summer's warmth and relaxation, as you happily stuff your face with sweet salad goodness.
3 Signature Salad Combo at M Café de Chaya ($9.75)
At M Café de Chaya, the standard signature salads in the deli case are a pretty safe bet; the kale with spicy peanut sauce seems to have as big a following as the mini-chain's brown rice and veggie burger, the Big Macro. But keep your eyes out for the rotating seasonal special salads, which benefit greatly from the special macrobiotic fifth season (late summer), meaning the offerings change up not four but five times a year (!). From now until the end of June, the spring menu is on hand. Be sure to try the Spring Seaweed Salad (middle right), which like most of the restaurant's salads is a masterpiece in textures, combing supple wakame seaweed with tart, crunchy green apples; crisp celery; and radishes with a sweet, slightly spicy soy-ginger dressing. You also shouldn't miss the Chickpea Dandelion Salad (bottom), a mix of chewy red Bhutanese rice; celery hearts and leaves; and slightly bitter, tangy dandelion greens, and topped with a tahini-lemon dressing. A smattering of toothsome frizzled onions gives the salad a pleasing softness and sweetness, bringing all of the components together.
Watermelon Radish, Ahi Tuna, Snap Peas at Lemonade ($4.25)
Crunchy and crisp, Lemonade's watermelon radishes, sliced into delicate paper-thin discs, are flush with enough brilliant pink and green to cover a Lilly Pulitzer catalogue circa 1985. This pretty in pink salad is mixed with well-seared ahi tuna, snappy snap peas, and a dusting of black sesame seed, all topped with a tart, gingery vinaigrette. It's available in Lemonade's deli case throughout the year, but we love the splash of color and brightness that it brings to June.
Chinese Chicken Salad at Joan's on Third ($9.95)
On a recent visit to Joan's on Third, five out of six diners in front of us in line ordered the Chinese Chicken Salad. We followed suit, naturally. Of the city's many, many versions of this salad stalwart, Joan's is our favorite this time of year because the crisp chicken is as good as almost any old fashioned finger-licking fried chicken. When taken to go (with the dressing on the side to preserve the crunchiness of the requisite wontons, rice sticks, and almond slivers) it is the perfect one dish picnic.
Pad Thai Salad at Esaan A Taste of Thai ($10 for shrimp)
Pad Thai it ain't. But Esaan's "salad" homage to the classic noodle dish is a pretty delicious and truly colossal portion of perfectly cooked al dente spaghetti-like pasta topped with protein (shrimp, chicken, or steak), a mix of fresh shredded veggies, and lots of sweet, tangy, spicy, dressing. Midtown Lunch suggests asking for the dressing on the side, and we agree because like everything in this salad (even the jumbo shrimp), it comes in generous quantities with reckless abandon. It's the cold mess version of pad Thai, and we mean that in the very best way.
Fattoush Salad at Sunnin ($6.95)
There is many a fattoush salad in these here parts, but we like Sunnin's best—a mix of lettuce, tomato wedges, circles of Persian cucumber, and of course, morsels of fried pita. The intense herbal flavor comes courtesy of a hearty helping of parsley. The sumac sprinkled on the pita and the lemony dressing adds a zippy tartness, and there's always a miraculously perfect balance of pita chips that retain their satisfying crispness and those that give in to the soggy goodness that those of us with a soft spot for moist, dressing-soaked bread so enjoy.