Almond Caesar Salad at BellyQ ($9)
BellyQ serves one of the most appetite-satisfying iterations. Intact leaves of lettuce are individually dressed with the house almond-Caesar dressing (with a texture reminiscent of a thinned-out romesco) and Parmesan cheese. Subbing in for croutons are a generous handful of seasoned fried chickpeas. Just when you think that's enough, two pieces of BellyQ's famous Thai-style fried chicken provide the heft you want when only ordering a salad.
Kale Caesar Salad at The Boarding House ($9)
Definitely the loosest interpretation of the classic. Finely shredded lettuce and kale are topped with a red wine poached egg and shaved pecorino. The addition of white anchovies adds an acidity that rounds the whole dish out.
Grilled Caesar Salad at GT Fish & Oyster ($9)
Reminiscent of a lettuce mille-feuille, the leaves are expertly layered and dressed with an anchovy-heavy (in a good way) creamy Caesar dressing. Topped off with peeled cherry tomatoes and oyster croutons and Parmesan cheese, it's a great accompaniment to all of the other GT offerings.
Shrimp Caesar Salad at The Lobby in The Peninsula ($21)
This first thing that came to mind while trying this salad was just how well prepared it was. The leaves of mixed greens are all lightly, but adequately dressed. The brioche croutons are crisp and flavorful. The white anchovies are apparent but not overbearing, and they certainly didn't skimp on the grilled shrimp. Overall, a masterful rendition well worth the money.
Celery Caesar at Old Town Social ($9)
Consider this an antidote for all the overly creamy and heavy Caesar salads you've suffered through. The restaurant accomplishes this by adding crisp slices of celery, which help to lighten each bite, thus freeing you to really dig into the Old Town's excellent house-made charcuterie.
Old Town Social, 455 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60610 (map); 312-266-2277; oldtownsocial.com
Czar Salad at Masa Azul ($10)
As Joe already covered, Jonathan Zaragoza first created this dish, which features baby gem lettuce mixed with a avocado Caesar dressing and cotija fritters, at Birria Zaragoza. Luckily when the young chef left the family operation to take over the kitchen at Masa Azul, he brought the salad, and the wonderful fritters, with him. It may be called a Czar salad here instead of a Caesar, but its intrinsic character luckily didn't get lost in translation.
Caesar Salad at Hot Chocolate ($10)
I'll admit that at first glance Hot Chocolate's Caesar salad looks straightforward and, dare I say, kind of safe. But like everything on the revamped menu, it trades flashiness for finesse. Each piece of lettuce is coated in just enough dressing to flavor it without getting weighed down in the process. Which is a good thing, because it is basically impossible to visit without indulging in a cup of one of the restaurant's namesake drinks.
Caesar Salad at Bistronomic ($8)
Bistronmic's menu is stuffed with dishes you've seen elsewhere a hundred times before. Grilled cheese. Roast chicken. Steak Frites. Yet, each time the restaurant manages to find something new to say about the dish. In the case of the Caesar salad, it tackles the thorny issue of the anchovy head on. Sure, some debate whether it should be included in the first place, but if you do decide to include it, you might as well go all the way. So, instead of shying away from the salted fish, Bistronomic proudly showcases the anchovy, treating the neglected ingredient with the respect it deserves.