For the Vegan Wannabe: HipCityVeg
Friendly, vegan, and laid–back HipCity personifies the chill Cali girl I secretly aspire to be. This gem tucked away on 40th Street offers light, plant–based twists on fast food and several stellar salads. I ordered the Udon Noodle Salad, which comes with spicy glazed chick’n, sprouts, arugula, carrot, cabbage, daikon, scallions, peanuts, and Chinese black bean dressing. Chewy udon noodles balance out the sharp arugula, making for a satisfying salad experience. Initially I was wary of the “chick’n,” as I'm generally not one for weird meat substitutes, but its rich texture and well–seasoned umami flavors won me over.
TL;DR: Go for the sweet potato fries.
Location: 214 S 40th Street
Monday–Sunday: 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
For the Creative Soul: Gia Pronto
If you happen to be a control freak, like yours truly, then BYOB (build your own bowl) at Gia Pronto. Famished and armed with a sharpie, I proceeded to tick everything off their extensive customized salad menu. For $4.50, you get a bowl of lettuce (kale, spinach, spring mix, or hand–cut romaine) then pick as many toppings as your heart desires. Toppings range from the usual suspects (tomatoes, cucumber, chicken, etc.) to the unexpected (pecorino cheese, cashews, hearts of palm). A word of caution: with over 25 options, it’s easy to overboard. My friend ordered a reasonable $8 bowl whereas mine rang in at an alarming $13.50…whoops. Kinda worth it. Not feeling salad? Try one of their six homemade soups (especially the chicken noodle). Afterwards, linger and enjoy the ambiance. Wood–paneled, comfy booths and natural lighting makes Gia Pronto the cozy, hipster cousin of Sweetgreen.
TL;DR: Make your own salad, get the curried cauliflower, try not to cry when you see the bill.
Location: 3716 Spruce Street
Monday–Thursday: 6:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Friday: 6:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
For the Food Truck Fanatic: Magic Carpet
Whether you’re rushing between classes or need that falafel fix, Magic Carpet is the go–to. With two locations, one at the Upper Quad gate and the other on 34th Street, this vegetarian food truck offers a variety of Middle–Eastern inspired delights. I recommend getting the combo salad with Tabbouleh and Falafel. For $7, it comes atop a bed of lettuce drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, and tahini dressing, and is sprinkled sesame seeds—perfectly sized and portable for sneaking bites during lecture.
TL;DR: Be the kid in class eating falafel.
Location: Upper Quad Gate and 34th and Walnut Streets
Monday–Friday: 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
For the People-Pleaser: Sweetgreen
Please spare yourself this overpriced addiction. Healthy, trendy, and dangerously convenient, Sweetgreen will rob you blind and keep you coming back for more. Offering a plethora of creative bowls and rotating seasonal salads, Sweetgreen has something for every lettuce lover. Don’t like what’s on offer? Simply request to substitute ingredients or dare to build your own.
My personal go–to is the Hummus Tehina salad, sub onions for cherry tomatoes, and add portobello mushrooms.
TL;DR: The most basic of salad shops—popular and expensive, but essential.
Location: 3925 Walnut Street
Monday–Sunday: 10:30 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
The Honorable Mention: Thai Singha, BYO on a Diet
Don’t let Friday night ruin your summer body. Although this popular BYO joint isn’t your standard salad spot, Thai Singha offers lighter options so you can down that Sunset Blush Franzia practically guilt–free. Get the tofu peanut salad: airy, crispy tofu coated in rich, spicy peanut sauce atop a bed of cool, crisp lettuce leaves. If you’re still feeling hungry, order the steamed crab dumplings to share. Good luck keeping it all down when you slap the bag.
TL;DR: Although untraditional, know that Thai Singha has some greenery tucked in between the pages of pad thai.
Location: 3906B Chestnut Street
Monday–Thursday: 11:00 a.m.–1:45 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m.–1:45 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.–9:30 p.m.
Saturday: 11:00 a.m.–1:45 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.–9:30 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m.–1:45 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m.