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A Caesar salad might initially sound quite simple. It’s a classic combination of romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese, croutons, and creamy dressing. Although the ingredients are seemingly straightforward, this beloved dish has more nuance than one would expect.
Since its creation in Tijuana, Mexico, back in 1924, the Caesar salad has earned a spot on restaurant menus all over the world. But despite sharing common ingredients, not all of these salads are created the same.
For Michele Casadei Massari, executive chef at Lucciola, an Italian restaurant in New York City, and U.S. brand ambassador for Parmigiano Reggiano, a standout Caesar salad must include several elements.
For starters, the base should consist of fresh, crisp lettuce, while the croutons should be house-made as opposed to store-bought. He notes that the dressing must include anchovies because “they add a salty depth.” Other ingredients commonly found in Caesar dressing include egg yolks, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and parmesan.
“The balance between the tangy lemon, sharp garlic, and rich oil is crucial,” Massari tells Eat This, Not That!
The chef adds that a high-quality Caesar salad should also be made with Parmigiano Reggiano as opposed to parmesan. Parmigiano Reggiano hails from Italy and abides by certain quality standards and aging requirements—like aging for a minimum of 12 months. Meanwhile, parmesan cheese isn’t regulated and only needs to age by at least 10 months.
While not every restaurant chain follows Massari’s specific formula, many of them still draw raves for the flavor and freshness of their Caesar salads. From upscale steakhouses to casual eateries, here are 10 restaurant chains that have generated major buzz about their Caesar salads.
PER SERVING (LITTLE GEM CAESAR): 740 cal, 77 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 550 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 9 g protein
Operating 33 locations across the United States, this Cheesecake Factory-owned chain serves a selection of Italian restaurant staples like pizza, pasta, and chicken parmesan. Also making an appearance on the menu are multiple salad options, most notably the Little Gem Caesar. Served with chicken or salmon for an additional charge, North Italia’s Caesar salad is topped with grated Grana Padano, a hard, crumbly cheese from Northern Italy. It also comes with herb breadcrumbs and cracked pepper.
Nutrition information unavailable.
Another chain where you can score a Caesar salad alongside steakhouse favorites is Ruth’s Chris Steak House. This menu item is made with romaine hearts, parmesan and romano cheeses, and creamy Caesar dressing. Customers may also top this dish with their choice of chicken, blackened fish, blackened filet, or shrimp for an additional charge.
While one Yelp reviewer called this menu item “spot on and delicious,” a Twitter user went as far as calling it “the best Caesar salad,” adding that they want to return to the restaurant solely for this dish.
CAESAR SALAD (PER Order): 420 cal, 27 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 690 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 13 g protein
If you’re seeking an even more upscale steakhouse experience, the Capital Grille could be the chain for you. Standing alongside menu items like lobster bisque and New England clam chowder are a few salad choices, including the chain’s Caesar option. “Excellent” and “crisp and refreshing” are just a couple of ways Yelp reviewers have described this menu item in the past.
The Capital Grille highlights how the salad’s croutons are made with crumbly Grana Padano from Northern Italy. To elevate the salad further, customers may also top the Caesar salad with their choice of protein, such as grilled shrimp, grilled chicken, or a four-ounce filet.
Nutrition information unavailable.
Operating just 10 locations across the country, upscale restaurant chain Hillstone has been praised by chefs and customers alike. In addition to serving steaks, burgers, and other American fare, the chain offers a Caesar salad that has some unique qualities. For instance, unlike traditional Caesar dressing, Hillstone’s is made without eggs. The rest of the salad contains baby gem romaine, croutons, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Customers can choose to top this with grilled chicken, too.
SIDE CAESAR SALAD (Per Order): 390 cal, 33 g fat (8 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 750 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 10 g protein
Before sinking your teeth into your Chicken Pasta Toscano or Fettuccine Carrabba, consider digging into the chain’s Caesar salad, which can also be ordered as a side with any entrée.
“I know it’s a chain, but I’m a huge Caesar salad fan and try them everywhere I can. For my money you can’t beat the one at Carrab[b]as,” one Redditor wrote in a Caesar salad-focused thread. “I came here to say the same thing. Had one last night,” another one added.
SIDE CAESAR SALAD (Per Order): 350 cal, 30 g fat (8 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 700 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 12 g protein
Popular seafood chain Red Lobster currently houses two side salad options on its menu: house and Caesar. Unlike many Caesar salads, which are topped with shredded parmesan, Red Lobster serves this menu item with shaved parmesan.
For one fan, the chain’s Caesar dressing is the star of the show, prompting this customer to seek out the recipe on Reddit. “They have the best Caesar dressing known to man [in my opinion]. I even dip my cheddar bay biscuits in it,” the Redditor wrote. “I’m seriously addicted to the stuff, but haven’t ever come across anything like it in the grocery store (and I’ve tried a ton!).”
Entrée CAESAR SALAD WITH DRESSING (Per Order): 400 cal, 36 g fat (8 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 500 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (4 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 7 g protein
This seafood restaurant chain gets customers talking about more than just its famous Bang Bang Shrimp. One salad reviewer on TikTok, @caesarsaladratings, gave the chain’s Caesar a score of nine out of 10, highlighting its well seasoned croutons and “good amount of dressing,” which “tasted light.”
As noted on Bonefish Grill’s menu, the Classic Caesar Salad is tossed with garlic croutons and parmesan cheese. To make it an entrée, guests can top it off with a protein, such as wood-grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp.
SIDE CAESAR (Per Order): 260 cal, 20 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 560 mg sodium,14 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 6 g protein
Known for its creatively named, Australian-themed menu items like Kookaburra Wings and Tasmanian Chili, Outback has also received compliments for its Caesar salad. The salad consists of romaine lettuce, homemade croutons, traditional Caesar dressing, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Caesar Salad Appetizer (per order): 860 cal, 75 g fat (16 g saturated fat), 1100 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (8 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 15 g protein
Thanks to its famously long menu, the Cheesecake Factory can satisfy a plethora of cravings—including one for Caesar salad. Giving this dish a score of nine out of 10, TikTok user @caesarsaladratings wrote, “One of the best salads I’ve ever had,” adding that “the hype was worth it.” The chain even gained heightened attention back in 2021 when one TikTok user shared a hack for enhancing the Cheesecake Factory’s Caesar salad: adding Louisiana style chicken and caramelized onions. The viral dish was even added to the menu for a limited time.
Nutrition information unavailable.
This six-unit Italian restaurant chain boasts a family-style dining experience, so don’t expect any small side salads while eating here. Carmine’s Caesar is complete with romaine lettuce, parmesan romano cheese, homemade garlic croutons, and house-made Caesar dressing.
“Caesar Salad was one of my favorite Caesar salads that I’ve had this year. The croutons are to die for,” one Yelp reviewer raved a few months ago. “I’ve been here a few times, and it honestly has the best Caesar salad I’ve ever had in my life,” another fan wrote.