Thursday, January 24, 2013

It’s a Simple Concept. Really.

And then it gets complicated.

I was leafing through the latest issue of Tucson Weekly, the local independent free newspaper, when I saw a small ad for a restaurant—Choice Greens—promoting that it is, although not exclusively so,
vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. Now we are none of those, but the restaurant’s main attraction was a “design your own salad” concept and designer salad really sounded good to both of us. And we could multi-task (although I am not sure if this is a B-school’s idea of multi-tasking) by shopping at the Trader Joe’s next door after lunch.

When you enter, you can pick up the Custom Salad Order Form and a small yellow pencil similar to those used to fill in your baseball score card. Then you are faced with a plethora of choices.

Choice One is which greens—iceberg, romaine, spinach, or spring mix. OK, pretty simple so far.

Choice Two are the “choppings” which range from eight cheeses, four nuts, and abundance of other options. Do you want crunchy? There are tortilla strips and Chinese noodles (like the La Choy ones that come in a can). Do you want fruit? How about strawberries, apples, raisins, Mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, or grapes? And then there are about thirty-three “veggie” options. For the base price of $6.75 you can choose four “choppings” with additional items costing 59¢ each.
Choice Three is protein—if you want it. For an additional $2.00 you can add grilled chicken, turkey, ham Genoa salami, shrimp, baked tofu, albacore tuna, tuna salad, or chicken salad. Or big spenders can chose the oven-baked salmon at $3.95.

Choice Four is the dressing. There are four fat free options, four reduced fat options, and seventeen other choices.

It would take a degree in higher mathematics to compute the number of salads one could eat without duplication.

You hand your order to the nice young woman at the cash register, she punches some buttons, and your choices are transmitted to what I am calling the assembly line.

Assembler Number One grabs a large bowl and dishes out the greens and “choppings.”
The bowl is handed off to Assembler Number Two who dumps the contents out onto a cutting board and, with a two-handled mezzaluna, begins to rapidly chop your greens and “choppings.”

At the end of the chopping process, the protein—unless you asked for the tuna or chicken salad—is added for a final chop, after which she (in this case) scrapes the salad back into the bowl.
The bowl is then handed off to Assembler Number Three who adds the dressing.

This is all very efficient, and given the number of diners filling the restaurant during our visit, such efficiency is necessary.

Having reviewed the on-line menu before our visit, we were ready with our choices. For me it was spring greens with sprouts, mushrooms, snow peas, and Chinese noodles. I added chicken and choose the hot Thai peanut dressing.
This was huge and delicious and the dressing had enough spice to be notable, but not so much as to obscure the taste of the greens and other fixings.

Chuck went with romaine with black beans, peas, chick peas, snow peas (See a trend here?), Swiss cheese, and tortilla chips and ranch dressing.
Like mine, his was also huge and delicious with a dressing that was only mildly herbal and not overpowering.

Choice Greens isn’t just “design your own” salads. There is a list of sandwiches and paninis, a list of house salads, and five yummy sounding soups. And, if creativity isn’t your thing, they also offer a selection of house-designed salads.

We really liked Choice Greens. Our lunch came in at under $20.00, and we didn’t see the ubiquitous “tip jar” anywhere. In fact, we liked Choice Greens so well that we award it 5.0 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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