We Ranked 3 Major Salad Chains & Here's The Leafy Winner

Whether packing from home, ordering in, or going out to grab, salads are a workday lunch staple. While a few years back you might have been more inclined to nosh on one as a side option with your soup or sandwich, they've now become the main lunchtime attraction. Chain restaurants dedicated solely to shelling out the leafy greens have sprouted up in major cities across the country. And each of us seems to have one company we swear by as better than the rest.

But what makes a particular salad more spectacular than the next? Specific flavor preferences aside, salads really are all just bowls filled with varied mixtures of lettuce, toppings, and dressing. So when broken down in this way, the determining factor for a truly kick-ass salad has the be the ratio between those three components (in addition to the quality of the ingredients, freshness, and flavor levels). And let's not forget price! In order to put this theory to the test, we decided to taste three of the most popular salad chains — Sweetgreen, Chop't, and Just Salad — in one of the most classic of salad flavor options: Caesar. Read on to see how each salad stacks up in terms of price, dressing, lettuce, toppings, and overall ratios — and mainly to see which bowl of leafy greens came out on top.

Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.

Sweetgreen: Kale Caesar, $8.85



Ingredients
Shredded kale, chopped romaine, parmesan crisp, shaved parmesan, roasted chicken, tomatoes, fresh lime squeeze, caesar dressing, and slice of bread (optional).

Dressing
Thin but still with a very creamy consistency and garlicky-tangy taste (would have liked a larger serving size for salad coverage, because it was very flavorful).

Lettuce
Very fresh with a fairly even ratio of romaine to kale and a varied consistency of sized pieces (not overly chopped but still bite sized).

Toppings
Chicken was flavorful and tender; tomatoes were fresh and added welcomed texture change; parmesan crisps were a delicious crouton twist; and shaved parmesan added additional creamy-salty flavor.

Overall Ratio
The toppings to lettuce ratio was well-balanced — but the overall salad could have used a bit more dressing to evenly coat.
Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.

Chop't: Kale Caesar, $8.99 (Most expensive)



(*Originally $7.29, but had to add on grilled chicken for an additional charge.)

Ingredients
Parmesan cheese, Hot Bread Kitchen croutons, kale and romaine lettuce mix, FreeBird grilled chicken and creamy caesar dressing.

Dressing
Largest dressing container out of all three salads and was also the thickest consistency — tasted very tangy and creamy with a little kick of spice.

Lettuce
Just as fresh as Sweetgreen's, but a little more romaine heavy and not as consistently bite-sized.

Toppings
The whole wheat croutons were fairly flavorless along with the shredded Parm — and although the chicken had a nice grilled flavor, it was an additionally priced topping that we had to request and was also fairly dry.

Overall Ratio
The lettuce ratio outweighed the toppings ratio here, although there was more dressing than Sweetgreen's.

*Price recorded pretax.
Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.

Just Salad: Caesar Salad, $7.99 (Cheapest)



Ingredients
Romaine, grilled chicken, shaved parmesan, croutons, and creamy caesar dressing.

Dressing
Least tangy-garlicky of the three salads, had more of a ranch flavor than a true caesar — similar thinner consistency and size to Sweetgreen's.

Lettuce
Looked very fresh but tasted and felt prepackaged (like purchasing from a supermarket shelf where it had been pre-made) — was also the only option that solely used romaine (no kale mix here), so the textures were limited.

Toppings
Chicken, although plain in flavor, was very tender; the shaved parmesan added a nice layer of saltiness that was lacking in the dressing; and the croutons were very standard (tasted like plain ones you might purchase from any grocery store).

Overall Ratio
Although the flavors and ingredient qualities were slightly lacking compared to the previous options, the topping to lettuce to dressing ratios were all on point.

*Price recorded pretax.
Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.

The Winner?



Sweetgreen. Why? Because the ratios were more or less right (sans the dressing being a bit skimpy), the quality of ingredients was far superior to the rest, and the price tag was surprisingly not the steepest (with chicken AND a slice of bread included). Although Chop't and Just Salad were perfectly fine salad options, they weren't wow-worthy — and ultimately felt like something we'd rather whip up and bring from home then splurge on.

Salads are best when the ratios are right and the ingredients are high-quality — and if you feel like you have a solid option out there that's worth your hard earned $$$, then by all means crush it (and let us know what's up in the comments below). Otherwise, crafting your own at home is a cheaper alternative. Just keep those ratios in mind!