Lake Minnetonka Salads

Salads impress with interesting flavors while keeping your cardiologist happy.
Fried chicken picnic salad at Birch's.

Our first salad was the first course in a pretty mediocre meal. Perhaps catering to our Midwestern sensibilities, for ages it seemed one couldn’t find a creative salad that departed from the ubiquitous dinner salad. They typically consisted of iceberg lettuce, some shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers, a single cherry tomato, run-of-the-mill croutons and topped with grocery store variety ranch dressing. Thankfully, the salad has evolved into something so much more than that.

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

Homemade Pizza Company

We stopped at Homemade Pizza Company one quiet Saturday afternoon not knowing what to expect. The gourmet pizzas sounded interesting, but staying on task, we ordered a small pear and blue cheese salad to go. The portion is what you’d expect if you were splitting a salad between yourself and one other, but what was completely unexpected was the all-around high quality of the ingredients. The blue cheese is creamy and distinct, the matchstick-like pear slices are ripe and tasty, and the tang of the balsamic vinaigrette is spot on. But the real prize in this salad is the generous morsels of candied walnuts. They manage to round out an already solid salad with hints of sweetness, cinnamon and just a bit of heat from what we suspect is a smidge of cayenne pepper. $4.35/$7.75. 11313 Hwy. 7, Minnetonka; 952.933.1100; 830 Lake St. E., Wayzata; 952.404.6404

Fried Chicken Picnic Salad


Does anything say summer more than packing up a bundle of goodies and making your way to the park for a picnic? At Birch’s this summer, you can recreate that feeling with the Fried Chicken Picnic Salad. Multiple skewers of their signature fried chicken—amazing for its crisp, light coating and tender, juicy meat—rest on a bed of fresh, tender greens alongside everything that makes up the perfect Minnesota picnic. Next, the greens are topped with a homemade BBQ ranch dressing. This includes a side of roasted corn, an organic potato salad, a couple of slices of juicy watermelon and a small pile of house-made pickles. This pretty dish risks making the homemade picnic obsolete, but based on the thoughtful combinations, the quality of the preparation and the flavorful result, worse things could happen. $15.95. 1935 W. Wayzata Blvd, Long Lake; 952.473.7373

Ahi Tuna Salad


If the expansive patio at Maynard’s isn’t enough to bring you to Excelsior Bay, their wide and varied menu should do the trick. The menu is jam-packed with a variety of mouth-watering appetizers, more than 20 burgers, sandwiches and wraps, meaty chops and several delectable salads. A personal favorite is the Ahi Tuna Salad. A good-quality portion of seared sashimi-grade tuna is sliced thin on top of a mountain of mixed mesclun greens and crunchy jicama that has been tossed with a tangy-sweet balsamic vinaigrette. The cool salad greens are light for a summer evening while the meaty qualities of the tuna leave you satisfied, happy and full. $14.95. 685 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior; 952.470.1800

Table Side Spun Salad

Gianni’s Steakhouse

Exactly as it sounds, the Table Side Spun Salad is not a lesson in restraint. The folks at Gianni’s Steakhouse have created a wonderful way to make salad exciting again. After ordering, prepare yourself for a new experience. This salad is justifiable in its claim to be Wayzata’s most popular salad. They start with a bowl of leafy romaine and begin to incorporate a smorgasbord of ingredients. Some are standard, like tomatoes or hard boiled eggs, but others like bay shrimp, black olives and blue cheese really raise the bar for house salads all around the lake. Of course, the professional staff will be happy to oblige if you decide to pass on anything that doesn’t suite your tastes. When you are satisfied, your custom creation is dressed with a tasty house-made Caesar vinaigrette. $12; $6 with an entrée. 635 Lake St. E., Wayzata; 952.404.1100

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Bayside Grille

It was in college that we first attempted to survive on buffalo wings, blue cheese dressing and beer. Thankfully that didn’t last because we quickly realized that it is important to eat a more balanced diet: Enter the buffalo chicken salad. The version from Bayside Grille provides that fond flavor combination with crunchy bites of fried chicken that have been tossed with their fiery house-made buffalo sauce and accompanied by large chunks of blue cheese in a creamy dressing. Add bacon, tomatoes and red onions all atop a generous platter of romaine lettuce and we may have to revisit that previous college experiment. $10.75. 687 Excelsior Blvd., Excelsior; 952.474.1113

Strawberry Champagne Chicken Salad

Jimmy’s Food and Cocktails

The most popular salad at Jimmy’s is only available during the warm summer months when they can get high-quality fresh strawberries. We’ll lament the passing of this salad come winter, but for now we can enjoy it while it’s here. This dish has just about everything: tangy goat cheese, sweet bits of dried cranberries, a sliced herb chicken breast, tart green apples and fresh strawberries. Toss this with mounds of baby spinach and a tasty strawberry champagne vinaigrette results in a tangy sweet-yet-savory summer salad that most anyone will crave for months afterward. $12.95. 11000 Red Circle Dr., Minnetonka; 952.224.5858

Chopped Salad

BLVD Kitchen and Bar

We’ve tried several chopped salads throughout the Lake Minnetonka region and we think this one tops them all. If you can get a seat at this popular Minnetonka restaurant, we suggest you try this tasty version. Much like most chopped salads, this one includes many of the usual ingredients, but the bacon pieces are smoky and thick, the dressing is a tangy and light mustard vinaigrette, the tomatoes are locally sourced, and the blue cheese has just enough of that signature blue cheesiness that compliments the rest of the salad without overpowering. Add it all up and you’ve got a chopped salad that stands above the crowd. $10; $14 with chicken. 11544 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka; 763.398.3200

Punch Salad

Punch Pizza

The pizza or the salad? The pizzas at Punch are delicious while their signature Punch Salad is transcendent. The flavor is robust without too much effort. We suspect that’s because the good people at Punch are using high-quality ingredients, sourcing them locally when they can and sourcing from Italy when local sourcing doesn’t meet their high standards. The tender mixed greens more than support the tangy vinaigrette and the salty Italian prosciutto. They top the salad with a high-quality grated Grana Padano parmesan and sprinkle in buttery pine nuts. All of their salads are also complemented with their pizza-crust-based focaccia loaded with sea salt and dried rosemary. Ultimately, you will be happy if you choose their authentic Neapolitan pizzas or one of their fresh salads, but best to play it safe and order both we think. $4.25/$7.65. 1313 Wayzata Blvd. E., Wayzata; 952.476.7991