I’ve worked downtown for a few years, long enough to have my handful of lunch places I frequent. By handful I mostly mean Bendoya sushi on 5th. But for weeks and weeks this spring I noticed as my #2 bus crept down Market that an interesting new place was under construction. “Chop Shop Salads” read the sign. It looked like a place my fellow non-meat eating co-workers and I might dig. But it never seemed to show any sign that it would actually open soon.
Then I went on furlough. And vacation. And the day I came back the shop was open. I made a lunch date with a friend and we stopped in last week.
First thing you need to know: Don’t plan on dining in. It’s a tiny little place with tables and chairs enough for maybe six or eight people. Luckily we lurked long enough on the rainy day we visited that a guy finished up his wrap and removed himself. The next thing you need to know: Study the menu before you go in (hard to do since their Web site is still under construction, but pick one up next time you’re out and about).
It’s a simple concept but you’ll see what I mean when you get there. You stand in front of the first salad guy and state your choice – wrap or salad. Then you choose your lettuce (iceberg, romaine, baby spinach or mesclun). So far so good. Now if nobody is behind you there’s no need to panic. But four people queued up behind me when I got to this point. This is where you choose your toppings. You get four for free, but at least half of the choices come with an upcharge. A pretty hefty one for some of the best, most frou-frou ingredients, namely the ones I wanted. You can add meat (for a price) to your $4.99 salad starter price, or cheese, including fresh mozzarella (one ball) and goat. Only sharp cheddar is free. You can have “crunch” in the form of nuts including toasted pine nuts, walnuts or almonds. (Peanuts are free.) Then you have about 30 toppings, ranging from apples to strawberries, fried onions to grilled asparagus. It’s stressful making those decisions with hungry diners waiting behind you. I went with mesclun, fresh mozzarella, grilled asparagus, chickpeas, and grape tomatoes with a green goddess dressing. They chopped it up, dished it into a big plastic bowl (didn’t see recycle bins anywhere) and served it with a couple pieces of flatbread.
The verdict? A tasty salad a little less expensive than a sit-down restaurant, and definitely quicker – essential for us worker bees. I’ll return – next time with my decisions already made.
The Chop Shop Salads
436 W Market St.