Chef Salad

For a company that specializes in pie (especially Australian-style pasties and savory pies), Pacific Pie Company does the classic American chef salad right. This omnivore's delight is a plate of mixed greens groaning under a generous wad of thickly sliced Niman Ranch ham and hunks of sharp white cheddar, and instead of a simple sliced hard-boiled egg, there are deviled eggs daintily topped with pickled red onion. There are sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and shredded carrots, but in lieu of the standard sliced black olives you'll find cool radishes. Seriously, it's like a bunch of Amish grandmas were in charge of making this thing. A large is a full meal, or get a small and save room for a pint and a slice of pie. HEATHER ARNDT ANDERSON

Pacific Pie Company, 1520 SE 7th, $7/$10

The Wedge

The Wedge salad at Foster Burger is already highly regarded, and for good reason. This monstrous head of iceberg lettuce is topped with a litany of yumminess—including pork belly, blue cheese, chopped egg, cucumbers, radishes, olive oil-poached tomatoes, croutons, and a Green Goddess dressing that was probably concocted by the head goddess herself. It would be a shame to visit Foster Burger solely for their (admittedly awesome) meat-bread concoctions. This brightly flavored salad has just enough pork belly to augment the other ingredients without overwhelming them or sending you to the food-coma couch for the rest of the afternoon. Take one bite and you'll never sass-mouth iceberg lettuce again. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

Foster Burger, 5339 SE Foster, $9

Tuscan Cavalry

Riding to your salad rescue is the Tuscan Cavalry—a beloved vegetarian entry on Ava Gene's and Roman Candle's menus. Even those who would disparage the mighty kale would be hard pressed to diss on one of my favorite Portland salads. Topped with a generous portion of SarVecchio parmesan, garlic, chilies, lemon, and breadcrumbs are lovingly intermingled with raw kale to produce a smooth and decidedly classy salad that easily soothes the palate. Boasting a nutty texture, it tastes clean on the backside (that sounds dirty), and lightly administered dressing pulls the dish together. Eat up, you'll feel healthy for days. WSH

Ava Gene's, 3377 SE Division, $13; and Roman Candle, 3377 SE Division, $11/$18

Chopped Salad

Oh, the 1950s diner classic, chopped salad: lettuce, salami, cheese, and maybe a few other bits for color, all finely mulched and dressed in a straightforward oil and vinegar. With this formula for success, Savoy's version (a carryover from the old Aalto menu 10 years ago) doesn't disappoint. The dressing, enlivened with shredded basil, is bright enough to bolster the iceberg, carrots, and peppers, and still subtle enough to allow the real stars—the cubed salami and cheddar—to shine through. The great thing about this salad is that it's fancy enough to order while out on a date, yet you can recommend it to those relatives who call it a "davenport" instead of a "couch." HAA

Savoy Tavern, 2500 SE Clinton, $8

Salade Niçoise

Sometimes when you say you want a salad, what you really mean is "I want to eat a big tuna steak and a potato with some other veggies, and what the hell, put a little handful of mixed greens next to it." If this sounds familiar, go to Chez Machin and order the Salade Niçoise. You'll end up with a generous portion of perfectly seared rare tuna, a sliced potato and tomato, a little bundle of haricots verts, roasted red pepper, and a hard-cooked egg, all seasoned simply with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. Two glaring omissions are the Niçoise olives and the anchovies, which are two-thirds of what actually defines the salad as Niçoise, but regardless, order this with a glass of bubbly and it's a lovely lunch. HAA

Chez Machin, 3553 SE Hawthorne, $13.95

Papaya Pok Pok

Yet another longstanding Portland fave—but newbies beware: This classic Thai dish (called som tam in the old country) wields enough spice to kick you firmly in the pants. But even if you fear the heat, this cold, sweet 'n' sour endeavor has enough calming ingredients to cool the fire on its way down your throat. (That is, with a helping hand from a side order of recommended sticky rice.) If you're a fan of "subtle," go elsewhere, because there's a lot going on here: shrimp, Thai chilies, garlic, peanuts, tomatoes, and long beans swim in a shallow pool of fish sauce, lime juice, tamarind water, and of course, noodle-shaped shredded papaya. The small wedge of cabbage is mostly there to look pretty—which it does. So if you don't mind a little heat in your salad, throw in the sticky rice, refill your water glass (a few times), and go to town. WSH

Pok Pok, 3226 SE Division, $9, pokpokpdx.comfor other locations

Insalata Nostrana

This salad is phenomenal—yes, phenomenal—and all without falling back on bacon, Portland's favorite food-crutch. Everything you love about a Caesar is here: a rich dressing of egg yolk, anchovy, olive oil, lemon juice, just the right amount of garlic, and a bit of added creaminess that's a welcome foil to radicchio's bitter nudge. Nostrana's day-old bread gets a 1UP as savory rosemary-sage croutons, which are buttery, perfectly toasted, and just porous enough to soak up all that exquisite dressing. And don't forget the addition of Parmigiano-Reggiano, which provides a final gilding of umami. One order is enough to share, as long as you get a pizza for the table. HAA

Nostrana, 1401 SE Morrison, $5/$11

Caesar con Ceviche

While the people I smooch may not appreciate it, there are few things in life I enjoy more than an expertly prepared garlicky Caesar. There are many classic examples to appreciate (try Gino's in Sellwood), but if you're hankering for an off-kilter Caesar, give Taqueria Nueve's Caesar con Ceviche a try. Crispy hunks of romaine are lovingly ladled with garlic-packed anchovy dressing (as the best are), but Nueve veers off the beaten path by adding tortilla strips, cotija cheese, and lime-marinated seafood. Now, if you think about it, the combination of these ingredients could lead to an overpowering disaster in the wrong hands—and even here you can smell the dish coming from 10 feet away. But the result is tart, fresh, and surprisingly subtle for all the strong flavors you know are hiding within. WSH

Taqueria Nueve, 727 SE Washington, $10.25

Taco Salad

Is there anything more satisfying than a taco salad? It scratches the itch for something kind of greasy and nacho-y, and thanks to a pile of crispy-cool iceberg and tomatoes, it all comes under the guise of "salad." Usually a taco truck isn't the top destination for such a mélange, but El Nutri Taco specializes in vegan and vegetarian options for their authentic dishes. Even carnivores will find soyrizo in a taco salad to be a welcome change from the grease of the real thing (plus there's still plenty inside the delectable fried tortilla bowl). Go balls to the wall with chipotle aioli to top the beans (choice of black or refried), rice, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cheese, avocado, and sour cream, choose a protein like grilled tofu, soyrizo, or carnitas, and then forget about eating anything else for the rest of the day. HAA

El Nutri Taco, 8438 SE Woodstock, 2124 NE Alberta, $7.50

Tex Cobb

You love Podnah's barbecue, but sometimes your duodenum just doesn't feel up to it, know what I mean? BUT YOUR MOUTH WANTS! Soothe both mouth and duodenum with Podnah's Texas Cobb salad, which sports a beautiful bed of romaine, topped with avocado, bacon, green onion, blue cheese, two deviled eggs, pico de gallo, and long, handsome strips of perfectly cooked and tender beef brisket. It truly is a gorgeous sight to behold, and while you won't exactly feel healthy for taking it on, you will eat the ever-loving crap out of it, and still feel like you could do some light housecleaning or rudimentary algebra. IT... IS... SO... GOOD. WSH

Podnah's Pit, 1625 NE Killingsworth, $11.50

Endive with Blue Cheese, Apple, and Hazelnut

Going into Café Castagna at happy hour, it's easy to gravitate directly toward a sumptuous burger and any variety of fried viands, but don't overlook this salad on the dinner menu. A neat haystack of finger-length endive leaves, all light-deprived albino and perfect for scooping up nuggets of creamy-pungent blue cheese, slivered tart-green Granny Smith apples, and sweetly toasted hazelnuts. The salad is a flawless high-wire balance of salty/rich, earthy/sweet, sprightly/tart, and bitter/crisp. It's a springtime toe-curl on a plate, but light enough that you'll still have room for that juicy burger and fritto misto. HAA

Café Castagna, 1752 SE Hawthorne, $12

Park Kitchen Sandwich Salad

The sandwich artists at Meat Cheese Bread are known for the miracles they wedge between two slabs of bread—but what if you just want to taste the miracle? Well, you're in luck, because these guys are more than happy to transform practically any sandwich of your choice into a salad version... and I'd recommend you do so! Following their sage advice, I went for the cold sandwich side of the menu, and chose to turn their Park Kitchen sammy into a breadless salad delight. And dig this lineup: paper-thin slices of tender, juicy flank steak tossed among pickled onions, blue cheese aioli, and vinaigrette in a gorgeous pile of mixed greens. The flavors blend perfectly and the size is heaping enough to happily sustain a growing boy's (or girl's) appetite for the rest of the afternoon. Perfect for the days when bread just gets in the path of righteousness. WSH

Meat Cheese Bread, 1406 SE Stark, $9

Salad World/Player's Zone/Garden Bar Salad Co.

The battle for best downtown salad bar shouldn't be a competition—but of course it is, because EVERYTHING is a competition. Currently there are three major players: Salad World, Player's Zone, and Garden Bar Salad Co. (Grocery-store salad bars are not included in this list because they split their focus between salad and other things... like Cap'n Crunch and tampons.)

For many, Salad World is the classic choice for downtown workers desperate for a massive container of greens 'n' fixins. Salad World carries all the veggies and dressings you like, as well as hot and cold Asian faves like potstickers, sushi, and a surprisingly good teriyaki chicken. At $6.25 a pound, it's the cheapest of the three, and the most savory—but while everything tastes decidedly fresh, the room is a bit on the shabby side, and could use a paint job, which I think would go a long way to boost buyer confidence.

Meanwhile, Garden Bar Salad Co. is the relatively new kid in town (established 2013) and definitely the fanciest—though not necessarily in price. True, you do have to purchase certain add-ons (such as avocado, egg, tempeh, or meat), but for $7, you can order any of six lovely, fresh lettuces, topped with up to six other yummies of startling variety (one could pair soba noodles with black beans and candied walnuts, for example) which will then be plopped into a bowl huge enough to drown inside. It's uniformly fresh and delicious... the only downside? The employees fill your bowls for you—which means they know if your "salad" is actually just a cheese, salami, and honey mustard soup.

However, when push comes to shove, I'm more likely to choose Player's Zone over the other two in this list, because... PLAYER'S ZONE! C'mon! Who calls their salad bar "Player's Zone"? Geniuses, obviously. But other than their awesome name (AKA "Puh-Zone"), their flavors are more consistent across the board than Salad World (focusing more on varied pastas than Asian fare), and they don't charge extra for boiled eggs or meats. At $6.99, the quality is high, the ingredients are fresh, and when they all get mooshed around in your container, the flavors become hard and fast friends. WSH

Salad World, 837 SW 2nd, $6.25 a pound;

Garden Bar Salad Co., 25 NW 11th, $7 (extra for add-ons);

Player's Zone, 555 SW Oak, first floor of "Big Pink," $6.99 a pound