For the longest time, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would voluntarily pay the price of a comforting hot meal for a bowl of raw vegetables. However, I was determined to give salads a chance and offer my unbiased opinion on five popular, customizable salad chains based on their value, variety, customer service and taste on a scale of one to five. Also, I figured if anything, I could use this opportunity to get my health game on track. This must be what my parents meant by “eat more vegetables,” right?
($9.79 per bowl + extra for toppings)
I decided to go without any extra toppings, or “choppings” as Chopt suggests. As I ordered, I appreciated that the server promptly informed me of extra costs but was disappointed that some of my favorite veggies, such as roasted sweet potato and carrots, were a whole extra dollar. It just didn’t seem worth it, considering the extremely limited space in my bowl after the server added my two bases. I also felt that my finished salad was slightly bland, with the overwhelming amount of lettuce soaking up most of the dressing. $10 for a bowl of mostly green stuff? I’m not too sure about that.
($8.50 per bowl + extra for toppings)
For my next salad adventure, I stopped by Fresh&Co on my way to class. Perhaps because it was rush hour, the servers quickly scooped up vegetables and protein and sent me on my way, speeding through the whole process in less than a minute. In the haste, they hadn’t informed me that certain toppings, such as dried cranberries, cost an extra $1.20. By now, I was used to the meager amount of toppings salad servers tended to give, but I was still a tad outraged by this price tag compared to its value. On the plus side, the cashier forgot to charge me $3 for chicken, so I definitely enjoyed my creation more than I should have.
Service: 2 + 1 bonus point for free chicken
($8.75 per bowl + extra for toppings)
I decided to try a classic salad spot and popular choice among students — Sweetgreen. I was feeling a bit adventurous and decided to get the curry cauliflower, which was $1.25 extra and added chicken for $3.25 as well. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by these purchases — the server scooped only a few chunks of cauliflower and chicken into my bowl. At a grand total of $14.43, including tax, my Sweetgreen order boasted a good flavor, except for my saltiness over being robbed a few extra toppings.
2. Dig Inn
($10-14 per bowl)
At this point, I was getting a little tired of raw vegetables, so I must admit this bowl didn’t look too much like a salad. That being said, I promise that there were some greens underneath, so I’m grouping it in with this list. Because most of my vegetables were cooked, Dig Inn made for a filling meal on a cold day. However, when you break down this bowl, $14 for a few pieces of carrots and broccoli, a piece of salmon and a small pile of base ingredients could be easily spent on a hearty meal with more value. Perhaps I’m biased due to my relief of nearing the end of this salad journey, but I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.
($11.94 per bowl)
What I got at Cava was technically greens and grains rather than a salad bowl, but I would consider this meal a salad since half of its contents were vegetables. I found Cava’s Mediterranean ingredients to be far more flavorful and interesting than those of the basic salad bar. I also appreciated the unlimited number of toppings as opposed to the maximum of three or four at other salad places. Though the finished bowl was a bit too saucy for me (with three dips and a dressing), the flavors and service made this the best salad experience I’ve had so far.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Nov. 18th, 2019 print edition. Email Chelsea Li at [email protected]