SCOping out the best salad stops

Oct. 25, 2010, 8:37 p.m. | By Marjorie Fuchs | 12 years, 7 months ago

SCO reviews some of the area's hottest salad sources

Ah, salads. Some people love them, some people hate them, some people just eat them because they're good for you. But the true magic of the salad is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Through dressings and extras, your salad can mirror your favorite flavors and foods. And so this SCO salad expert has trekked the Washington D.C. area scouting out the best salad joints to see if they're really worth all the hype. And through the journey, she learned that fresh really is the best.

Greenest: Chop't
730 7 Street NW Washington D.C. (also four other locations in D.C.)

Chop't offers a new take on salad and has five locations in the District. Photo courtesy of Marjorie Fuchs.

Chop't Creative Salad Company is part of a new wave of restaurants devoted solely to salads. The restaurant's modern ambiance and focus on being environmentally friendly allow the restaurant to remain eye-catching yet simplistic. Named after the mezzaluna chopping blade that's used to "chop" each salad, Chop't puts a new spin on salad by creating it—and chopping it—before diners' very eyes. Patrons can order either a seasonal salad, Chop't classic or create their own salad by picking from five types of lettuce and over 25 toppings. Chop't is then able to create each specific order in record time using an assembly line method; this method proves extremely helpful during the lunch time rush in which the line is out the door. The Seasonal Mexicali Cobb Salad is full of color and Latin flavor, with a touch of heat. The Chop't Po'boy Salad, with mouth-watering Panko fried chicken, tomatoes, red onions, white cheddar cheese and Chop't lettuce, is refreshing and nicely complimented by the Smoky Chipotle Vinaigrette. Another must-try is the Palm Beach Shrimp Salad that resembles its namesake with grilled shrimp, avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers and hearts of palm. Though this particular combo requires more of an acquired taste, it is a delight for the adventurous. All Chop't salad bowls are made from recyclable materials, as are the utensils and bottles of Chop't lemonade and iced tea. Presented in generous portion sizes, Chop't salads range from $6 for the basic salad to $9 for seasonal salads.

Best Overall: Cosi
5252 Wisconsin Ave NW Ste 5, Washington, DC (202) 537-9300 Friendship Heights Station or 7251 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814 (301) 652-6098

Cosi's founding belief is that "life should be delicious," and that belief has certainly found its way into the restaurant's food. The restaurant, which has 10 locations in the District alone, offers a savory variety of salad choices that are sure to satisfy your cravings. One can order more than 12 different salads with influences ranging from east-Asian to the standard Cobb, and can add extra protein for a few dollars more. Cosi's proclaimed Signature Salad is a true standout with an interesting combination of mixed greens, red grapes, pistachios, dried cranberries and Gorgonzola all drizzled with sherry shallot vinaigrette. Although this may seem like an odd combination, all of the flavors work together to create sheer joy. Another great choice is the Shanghai Chicken Salad, which hits everything just right: the salad is fresh, crisp, has mouth watering chicken slices and compliments its Asian influence with a nice ginger-soy dressing. One of Cosi's honored flatbreads accompanies each salad; though one might find them rather bland, it turns out that the extra carbs only add to the all-around fantastic tastes of the salad.

Best Variety: Whole Foods Salad Bar
833 Wayne Ave, Silver Spring, Md 20910

The Whole Foods' salad bar offers great variety for even the pickiest of eaters.  Photo courtesy of Lorena Kowalewski.

The extensive salad bar in Whole Foods is perfect for foodies, picky-eaters and everyone in between. The Salad Bar allows diners to choose the size of their salad, what goes in it and nearly every detail of their meal! Diners can choose from spinach, mixed greens or romaine lettuce to start their salads and then venture into the rows of vegetables, dressings and extras to create their own personal unique work of art. Whole Foods also offers different takes on the traditional salad; pasta salad and black bean salad keep possibilities virtually endless. For example, the Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad held its own in a delicate cream sauce perfect for any time of year and the Black Bean Salad had just the right amount of spice to keep you coming back for more. Diners can add a wide range of both raw and marinated vegetables as well as other lesser known foods, such as couscous and forbidden rice. The Whole Foods Salad Bar, like the rest of the store, is home to a wide variety of make-it-yourself salad options and is a great choice for people on the go or just wanting to try something new for $7.99 per pound.

Best family atmosphere: Mark's Kitchen
7006 Carroll Ave, Takoma Park, Md 20912

In the heart of Takoma Park lies Mark's Kitchen, an authentic restaurant that encompasses the vibe of its neighborhood; Mark's Kitchen has a relaxed atmosphere that is perfect for the family. Mark's Kitchen, a self proclaimed "small restaurant," prides itself on presenting diners of all ages with an eclectic mix of vegetarian food, sandwiches and salads. Though their salads are not the focal point of the restaurant, it still has a wide variety gives any salad-craving diner something to try. The traditional Caesar salad lives up to its name with crisp lettuce and subtle yet tasty bits of Parmesan. Unfortunately, the bland house-made Caesar dressing makes the overall taste of the salad only so-so. For slightly more money one can add teriyaki chicken, Korean steak, or another grilled meat, all of which are exceptionally flavorsome and add something extra to each salad. The Baby Lettuce salad incorporates a variety of baby lettuce types, cucumber, tomato, onion and sprouts and is generally satisfactory, though not anything amazingly special. The alfalfa sprouts, however, are an unexpected highlight. Presentation was not the restaurant's strong suit though, the Korean streak gets plopped on top of the Baby Lettuce salad and is not enticing in any way. Mark's Kitchen has a great family atmosphere but is only middle of the road in respect to salad quality.

Marjorie Fuchs. Marjorie gets her name from a variety of sources- "Marjorie” being her Great-Grandmother's name and "Fuchs” meaning fox in German. She tends to go by Margie. Margie is keen on traveling, especially to new places, adores Europe and the American Southwest. She loves creativity, eclectic … More »

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