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Jul 18, 2008

Rants & Raves: Welcome to Just Salad... "you want attitude with that?"

Once the big and little hands on your analog watch/clock rendezvous over the 12 marker during the workday, you automatically feel a familiar grumbling in your midsection... translating into either, "what's for lunch", or, "maybe it wasn't a good idea to scarf down that heavy breakfast burrito with extra black beans." In this post I will address the former... with my opinion on what I had for lunch today.

Being the 'health-conscious' person that I am... *cough*BS*cough*... I decided to make my way to the local 'Just Salad' joint at 100 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan. I've always been impressed with the concept; blending the salad bar at any local deli with the barista concept at Starbucks. In fact, the concept may have also been derived from the set of rules posted at the original Soup Nazi's storefront... although not as restrictive or enforced.
  1. You step through the front door and wait for your turn in line
  2. A designated order-taker yells out, 'next guest', and you give him/her your order.
  3. When it comes to ordering, you have a few options. You can either order from the menu of 11 chef designed salads, or opt to make your own ala carte.
  4. You may also order a wrap-sandwich, which is basically a salad in a wrap (so the place technically doesn't offer 'Just Salad'). There are 10 varieties of chef designed wraps currently available.
  5. After placing your order and providing the 'saladista' with your name, your salad bowl is then passed down the chain of saladistas, who hastily add the rest of the ingredients of for your order.
  6. Your salad then exits stage left, and is picked up by the 'dispatcher', usually the manager of the establishment, calls out your name and then assigns you to one of several 'salad choppers' arranged in a row at the back of the restaurant.
  7. The 'salad chopper' immediately takes your salad bowl and dumps the contents onto the long chopping counter, as you stand in awe watching him chop vigorously away at your greens and other vegetables. You are then prompted to choose from about 26 different salad dressings or elect to go with the chef's recommended dressing for the menu salads.

Pretty neat, huh? The concept is especially impressive, coming from a pair of twentysomething entrepreneurs, who thought up the idea after scouring the city for healthy food options. A brief article features the two owners in Inc. Magazine. The place may even double as a pick-up spot, since the clientele are usually young, upwardly mobile indviduals.

Where 'Just Salad' fails for me is not the quality of the ingredients or the taste of the menu items... but in the quality of the service. Other reviews I've read compare some of the salad staff to rejects from your local DMV... I can see why. Most of the time, if you are not deemed flirt-worthy, the staff treats you with a certain indifference and you feel brushed off once the salad process is over. Now, I for one, can understand that a hectic 2 hours of catering to the lunchtime masses can take a toll on one's positive demeanor; but everytime I fork over the cost of the salad(on average $9 with what I assume is a $1 premium for the chopping concept added on), I can't help but think, "I didn't want to pay extra for attitude!"

Recommendations: If you can't decide what to order, I would recommend trying the Just Salad Signature - prepared with baby spinach, apples, bacon, red onions, walnuts, white cheddar, and topped off with sherry shallot vinaigrette. It's a good choice to sample the place, but if you want a little more interesting, try the Far East Salad.

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