Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on June 12, 2012
i am healthy. let’s just face it – i’m a healthy guy! i eat well, as evidenced by my instagram feed. i meditate/sleep in upwards of 7 hours per day. i drink plenty of water in the form of dr. pepper. i have multiple semi-healthy stools every day. and i play ddr to keep in shape. it is not an exaggeration for me to say that i am the paragon of perfect health. hell, i used to kick for the bulldogs!! so yeah, you could say i’m pretty healthy.
that’s why i wasn’t surprised when i was contacted by our local saladworks and invited to have a meal and review their restaurant.
it is called saladworks. it is a chain. and apparently it’s huge in philadelphia. and other assorted new englandy type places. it is similar to subway in setup, but nicer and “eat fresh”er. you go in, you ask for a salad, they make it, and you eat it. well, you are not required to eat it. it’s recommended.
this iteration of saladworks is the only one currently present in florida, and it is located in brandon, east of the mall in the same plaza as outback steakhouse. it just popped up recently, and is set back a little bit, so you have to KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN for it when driving by. …you should probably always keep your eyes open when driving.
the store is owned and run by an extremely friendly, pleasant, and accommodating couple, who have had a good amount of experience in operating other chain restaurants. and one of their children is a carrot, which really worked out for them. the store is deceptively large, reaching much further back than one might expect. in the front, there is a little “lounge” area, in which… lounging occurs, i suppose. there’s free wifi, so you can lounge and poke an ipad. or something.
this is how it works: you get in the queue, you grab a drink (all bottled beverages), and then you are able to either pick one of the pre-invented salads they have displayed along the bottom of the case, or do a choose-your-own-adventure and make the salad yourself, selecting all the toppings you enjoy and none of the crap you don’t. start with a base of different types of greens, choose your toppings (veggies, cheeses, meats, and a few dry options), then choose your dressing. the worker behind the case puts it all together for you, and even mixes it up with the dressing so you’re not left with a giant puddle in the middle of your plate. you are then presented with your new salad baby. salad, baby.
the genius is in the variety of options. the restaurant concept is basically a salad bar, but you are given so many choices that you will probably end up getting overwhelmed and picking a pre-built salad. they have four different types of chicken. eight cheeses. croutons, chow mein noodles, tortilla strips. sun-dried tomatoes, mandarin oranges, nicoise olives, corn, apple slices, edamame! they’ve separated out eggs and just egg whites, if you’re into that sort of thing! seventeen different dressings!! AUUGH!
[check out the salad creator on their website to devise your own salad, and see its nutrition information updated in real time.]
so yeah, you can make any salad. any salad imaginable.
i got overwhelmed and picked a pre-built salad. /: i went with the bently, a pretty standard, AMERICAN salad with turkey, ham, swiss cheese, tomatoes, and chopped eggs. i went with the dressing that caught my eye, known as the “green goddess“. this is basically a ranch, but garlicky. and amazing. also, it’s green, so that’s a lot of fun. i also got a cup of loaded baked potato soup.
the salad was a badass. the first thing i noticed was how fresh the ingredients were. having been dicked over by open salad bars in the past (i’m looking at YOU, shoney), the freshness of the ingredients really stuck out to me. the “secret” is actually just preparing the ingredients fresh every day, in house. the lettuce was crisp, the tomatoes were sweet and juicy, the eggs tasted like real eggs(!), the cheese was a perfect swiss for salads, not dominating the taste, but playing well with others. the meats, turkey and ham, were delicious; the ham was sweet and salty, and the turkey had a nice seasoned flavor. and, again, the dressing was incredible.
the soup i was less impressed by. the flavor was good, but its texture seemed a bit off by comparison with the potato soup that i’m used to… not as thick or “grainy”. and for a loaded baked potato soup, i was expecting chunks of bacon, and melted cheese on top. i guess there was bacon in there, but i didn’t see it or really notice it at all.
i was able to sample all the other soups they had, though, and of the five, their tomato bisque and butternut squash soups stood out as the best. the tomato bisque was creamy and well seasoned, with a bit of a spice. the butternut squash was my favorite, with a beautifully sweet, cinnamon/nutmeggy flavor, warm and buttery, and with the texture more like what i expected from the potato soup. i would order this again.
my friend got the “make yer own” salad, on which you are able to pick five toppings. she chose egg whites (and was ecstatic that they had them without the yolks), marinated artichoke, avocado, feta cheese, and bacon. she also went with the green goddess, after i ranted about its greatness. again, all the toppings were fresh and delicious, including the avocado (which is surprising, because that shit turns quick!). and somehow the avocado and artichoke make a beautiful combination, leading me to believe that my friend is some sort of salad wizard.
she chose the maryland crab stew, which had a great spice and nice whole ingredients, but uhhh crab stew is gross.
oh and the meals came with little rolls, which were good. my girlfriend sampled one of their wheat rolls, about which she said, and i quote, “i will eat only this bread for the remainder of my life.”
so… thumbs up! the place was great, the atmosphere was surprisingly relaxing (the tables in the back are near a window which overlooks a large lake, and apparently peacocks live out there and entertain the guests for money), and the food was really quickly prepared and well executed. the salads run between 7 and 9 bucks each, and you have the option of making any of theirs salads into a wrap. they also have sandwiches and pan-inis, which i believe is a sort of cocktail. i do wish they brewed their own sweet tea (because, come on, sweet tea), and the store is kind of hard to find, but those are my only problems here. oh, and that crab stew is gross. otherwise, A++ WILL EAT AGAIN.
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