The Best & Worst Menu Items at California Pizza Kitchen
When you think of California Pizza Kitchen, it's inevitable that warm, cheesy, and tasty pizza comes to mind. But who knew the casual dining restaurant chain's menu goes far beyond the Italian culinary staple?
That said, we checked in with Kelli McGrane, MS, RD, of the food tracking app Lose It!, to educate us on some of the best and worst items available on the California Pizza Kitchen menu. To our surprise, some of the healthiest and unhealthiest picks aren't even pizza! Hopefully, this helpful breakdown of the CPK menu will expand your mind—and palate—while dining at CPK.
Here are the worst and best meals you can order from the California Pizza Kitchen menu.
Small Plates and Flatbreads/Appetizers
Worst: Crispy Mac 'N' Cheese
According to McGrane, this gooey and cheesy deliciousness sadly has "nearly 700 calories in just four small bites, as well as over 1,000 milligrams of sodium, and nearly five times more saturated fat than a large order of McDonald's French fries." If you're watching your sodium levels, it's best to avoid this dish, as it's just a starter to your meal.
Worst: Avocado Club Egg Rolls
You may be thinking you're making a good choice by going with avocados, but at more than 1,000 calories, this fried appetizer filled with tomatoes, cheese, bacon, and chicken has "more fat than the [California Pizza Kitchen] Fire-Grilled Ribeye and nearly as much saturated fat as Shake Shack's Double SmokeShack Burger," McGrane says.
Best: Asparagus & Arugula Salad
Filled with greens, sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, and tossed in a homemade lemon vinaigrette, this is an ideal order to place at California Pizza Kitchen. "It's hard to beat the Asparagus & Arugula Salad, as it has less than 200 calories, is low in saturated fat, and has a good amount of fiber," McGrane says.
Best: Szechwan Chicken Dumplings
These Chinese-style dumplings topped with sesame seeds, scallions, and cilantro may be high in sodium, but McGrane advises that they're a much healthier alternative to the Avocado Egg Rolls. "One order has a reasonable 340 calories, only one gram of saturated fat, and 19 grams of filling protein," she says.
Soups, Power Bowls, and Salads
Worst: Waldorf Chicken Salad (Full size; Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing Included)
Not nearly as healthy as it looks, this salad—which includes, grapes, green apples, candied walnuts, crisp celery, baby greens, gorgonzola— is tossed in dijon balsamic vinaigrette and contains "nearly twice as much saturated fat as a McDonald's Big Mac," McGrane says.
And that's not the worst of it. "It also has a shocking 55 grams of sugar, which is more than the Belgian Chocolate Souffle Cake [on the California Pizza Kitchen] menu," she says.
Worst: Tomato Basil Bisque, Bowl
Surprisingly, one bowl of this warm, velvety soup topped with garlic croutons has "more than half a day's worth of sodium, over 500 calories, almost 40 grams of fat, and only six grams of protein, so it's less likely to keep you full for very long," McGrane says.
But the high amount of sugar is what really sends it over to the worst menu items list. "It also has 26 grams of sugar, which is about the same as drinking three cups of tomato juice and more than a scoop of Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream," she says.
Best: Banh Mi Bowl With Chili Lime Vinaigrette
A colorful collection of quinoa, baby kale, fresh cilantro, and mint topped with grilled chicken, watermelon radishes, fresh avocado, cucumbers, carrots, bean sprouts, scallions, and sesame seeds, this power bowl is one of the healthiest options on the menu, according to McGrane. "It's high in fiber and lean protein, thanks to all the veggies, quinoa, and chicken in it," she says.
Best: Half Caesar Salad (Caesar Dressing Included)
Who knew a creamy, delicious Caesar salad could be one of the healthiest ways to go with when dining at California Pizza Kitchen? "It's the lowest in calories, sodium, total fat, and carbohydrates. Plus it still provides four grams of fiber and eight grams of filling protein," McGrane says of the crisp romaine mix.
Worst: Fire-Grilled Ribeye
Containing a day's worth of fat, McGrane advises against the 12 oz. Fire-Grilled Ribeye, which comes topped with housemade Pinot Noir sea salt and bleu cheese compound butter.
"It also has almost 75 percent of your daily sodium needs and nine times more saturated fat than the 6 oz. sirloin from Outback Steakhouse," she shared.
But that doesn't mean you should go for the Chicken Tequila Fettuccine either. "While lower in saturated fat than the ribeye, the Chicken Tequila Fettuccine has 500 milligrams more sodium and almost twice as many carbohydrates as the Crispy Mac 'N' Cheese," McGrane says.
Best: Cedar Plank Salmon
In addition to the reasonable amount of sodium and saturated fat in this paprika lime seasoned salmon, the popular fish is "an excellent source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids," McGrane says.
Worst: Garlic Cream Fettuccine
While garlic Parmesan cheese sauce sounds and tastes delicious, it, unfortunately, contains "one and a half times more saturated fat than a Triple Whopper from Burger King and more than half your day's worth of sodium," McGrane says.
On top of that, "it also has 97 grams of carbohydrates, which is about the same as six slices of bread," she says.
Best: Shrimp Scampi Zucchini
At just 30 grams of carbohydrates, eating these zucchini ribbons tossed with lemon, garlic, and white wine compares to consuming about two slices of bread.
"Plus, with 27 grams of protein, it will help keep you full," she says.
Worst: Thin Crust Spicy Milano
You may think you're making a smart decision ordering this pizza due to the thinner crust, but McGrane says that "thanks to the sausage, pepperoni, and cheese, the Thin Crust Spicy Milano pizza is the highest in calories, as well as total and saturated fat."
Additionally, "just two slices provide as much fat as a Whopper at Burger King, and three slices provide enough sodium for the entire day," she says.
Best: Original Hand Tossed Wild Mushroom
This yummy pizza is the lowest in saturated fat and sodium on the menu. Plus, it's loaded with shaved cremini, shiitake, portobello, and white mushrooms, "which are high in antioxidants, fiber, and selenium, and are also one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D," McGrane says.
Worst: Butter Cake
Served with homemade whipped cream, we understand why this Butter Cake is so hard to pass up. But it's important to note that "one order of the Butter Cake provides more than half a day's worth of calories and as much saturated fat as an order of Garlic Cream Fettuccine," McGrane says. "It also has about the same amount of sugar as six glazed donuts."
Best: Salted Caramel Pudding
"The Salted Caramel Pudding is the lowest in calories and second-lowest in sugar of the dessert options," McGrane says of the sweet and salty treat.
But that doesn't mean you should consume an entire order. "However, with over 500 calories and 41 grams of sugar, it's still best to share an order with the table," McGrane says.