Walking by the big window of the new Salads UP on Liberty this winter, I wondered why it’s so often so crowded. Wasn’t this the warm soup, roasts, and potatoes time of year?
After a couple of early February visits, I think the answer is in the concept and execution of these big custom salads. They feel like virtuous meals, packed full enough of the customer’s own choice of grain-, bean-, and meat-based proteins to be filling, but not so loaded with hidden-vice foods as to cross over into extra calories (and pounds and inches) territory.
The formula begins with a base of spinach, arugula, romaine, or kale (your choice). You then pick any four of twenty-eight standard add-ins for $6.50 total, or keep upgrading into premium protein territory. It all gets finely chopped and lightly dressed while you watch. Maybe a quarter of the veggies were labeled “organic.”
The chopping can be positively transformative, bouncing sweet (citrus, yam, cranberry) off onion, pepper, or salty olives, and getting some nut or lavash chip crunch into most every bite. It worked less well in the Yia Yia, their signature Greek salad, which emerged as a funny-tasting mush of feta cheese and tahini dressing. Neither the weak-broth vegetable soup nor the big wrap version of a salad was particularly exciting. But my custom mix of kale, roasted beets, edamame, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh “cobbed corn,” and toasted almonds with shallot vinaigrette was absolutely the bomb.
I may have gotten lucky with that, but I expect I’ll get better at the customizing with practice. I suspect that’s already true of the clientele, which in my visits skewed toward fit young women, several with sorority T-shirts or bags, and other healthy-food fans. Offerings like cold-pressed juices, tart frozen yogurt, and free, minted cucumber water keep the California vibe going.
Chopped salads aren’t a revolutionary concept, but Salads UP’s rendering, with compostable plasticware, youthful soundtrack, and truly vast assortment of high-quality ingredients empower your creativity and sense of discovery. It’s a one-off right now, but who knows? There might be a franchise future somewhere down the line.
611 E. Liberty
Salads and sandwiches $6.50 and up, soup $3-$5, desserts $3 and up.
Open daily 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.