For weeks now, I’ve been eating my way through the Baltimore area’s top salads, searching for ones with the freshest, most imaginative ingredients that also offer the best values.

This salad hunt has taken me to some places I didn’t expect, like Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian steakhouse chain that just so happens to have one of the best salad bars I’ve ever seen. It took me to some places I did expect, too, like Atwater’s.

When I sought recommendations from friends and readers on Instagram and in a recent dining newsletter, I received dozens of often impassioned responses. It seemed people were describing treasured meals that do more than satiate hunger: Eating salads makes us feel like we are doing something good, even if there’s bacon on top.

Here are some of the best ones I found.

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The Green Revolution jk from Artifact Coffee

When I have been living off meats and sweets, I feel restored to health whenever I eat the ironically named Green Revolution jk at Artifact Coffee in the Woodberry neighborhood. I admire a salad that can compensate for a week’s worth of nutritional deficiencies. Served with a wedge of bread from Motzi, the Revolution hits all the right notes with a combination of greens, veggies and a hard-boiled egg, all livened up with some pesto and salsa verde. It’s also a surprisingly reasonable $12, a practically pre-inflation price in an era when some local salad chains are charging $15 or more.

1500 Union Ave., Baltimore

The tossed salmon apple salad from Neopol Smokery is a salad worth writing home about. (Christina Tkacik)

Tossed salmon apple salad from Neopol Smokery

Have you ever had a bad dish from Neopol? I have not. Their tossed salmon apple salad is no exception, with the best smoked salmon of my life, complemented by tart and crunchy green apples atop a bed of greens. The smattering of capers is your reminder that the salty buds really make every salad even better. Best of all might be the price: $12.95. Pick one up at their branch in Hollins Market or at Belvedere Square.

529 E. Belvedere Ave. and 875 Hollins St., Baltimore

The generously portioned large kale salad is enough to share. (Christina Tkacik)

Large kale salad at Atwater’s

Perhaps you’ve missed the Neopol salad because anytime you are craving a healthy reset you just go to Atwater’s. I get it. The local chain with outposts at Belvedere Square, Kenilworth and in Canton and Catonsville deserves the keys to the city for its ability to bring reliable and nutritious fare to the masses, and fast. My coworker Julie Scharper is a big fan of their large kale salad with pickled beets and lemony buttermilk dressing ($13.95). She makes it a more protein-heavy meal with a scoop of chicken salad, which costs an extra $4.95.

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529 E. Belvedere Ave. and three other locations in Catonsville, Kenilworth and Canton

Warm and crunchy, light yet indulgent, the frisée salad at Petit Louis in Roland Park manages to be all things at all times. (Christina Tkacik)

Frisée aux lardons from Petit Louis Bistro

You know that sign, “You can’t make everyone happy, you’re not a taco”? They could change it to “You can’t make everyone happy, you’re not the frisée aux lardons salad from Petit Louis Bistro.” Within the span of minutes, I heard from two readers about this dish from the a la carte menu at Roland Park’s favorite French bistro.

“It’s not exactly spa cuisine,” wrote Jim Cumbie, but it “knocks my socks off every time.” At $16, this salad is an indulgence that could stand on its own as an entrée. The lardons, or cubes of bacon, are nestled in curly endive, which provides a firm structure for light and tangy Dijon vinaigrette. A warm poached egg tops it all off. Take a tasty bit of reader advice and request some Roquefort cheese, too.

4800 Roland Ave., Baltimore

The falafel salad at the Corner Pantry on Falls Road is a Middle Eastern-inspired party in a bowl. (Christina Tkacik)

Falafel salad from the Corner Pantry

Falls Road’s tastefully British-themed restaurant the Corner Pantry wins high marks from Anglophiles and foodies alike for, well, just about everything. Where else in Baltimore can you get a griddled crumpet with treacle butter? But if you can tear yourself from the pastry counter, the Pantry’s abundant salads, made with local greens and seasonal vegetables, are a particular highlight. I liked the filling $16 falafel salad, which includes four crispy golden orbs that taste fresh out of the fryer — the way falafel should. The addition of avocado and Middle Eastern-inspired pita bread croutons, sumac and a spicy tahini dressing bring the whole flavor party together.

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6080 Falls Road, Baltimore

The BlueStone Salad with added shrimp at BlueStone Restaurant in Timonium. (Christina Tkacik)

The BlueStone Salad at BlueStone Restaurant

Very good salads should have an element of surprise. Unexpected and delectable brown sugar bacon atop the Bluestone Salad at Timonium’s BlueStone Restaurant separates this plate from forgettable side to main character contender ($13). For an extra $12, I added spicy blackened shrimp, which was delicious and filling, though not quite enough to justify that price tag. A light honey mustard dressing is the perfect accent to the flavors without overpowering any of the elements. Reader Lisa Mason likes it for a first course or full lunch on its own.

11 W. Aylesbury Road, Timonium

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The salad bar at Fogo de Chão

If anything can get me back in the post-pandemic buffet line, it’s the well-stocked, all-you-can-eat salad bar at Fogo de Chão, which features a colorful array of veggies, cured meats, cheeses and more. Check it out during the “gaucho lunch,” available weekdays during lunchtime. In addition to access to the salad bar, the $18 meal comes with a few hot sides, including an order of Brazilian cheese buns called pão de queijo. The whole thing is such a steal you may look around and wonder how much longer Fogo can afford to keep this up. Haven’t I eaten $18 worth of manchego and smoked salmon already? When I posted about it on X, one commenter jokingly urged me to keep this insider lunch tip to myself. Wrote another: “I’ve been trying to gatekeep this since it was only $15.”

600 E. Pratt St., Baltimore

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