If you’re an average salad on a restaurant menu, you probably lead a very sad life. Restaurant-goers likely scan past you without regard. And if, by chance, you are selected, you were probably ordered out of pressure (would you like a salad with that?), or as a warm-up to a more delicious front-runner. I am definitely a salad lover, but oftentimes I find myself forking through soggy, overdressed leaves, craving something more complex. Where’s the crunch? Where’s the chew? If you can relate, you’ll be excited to hear about a new restaurant serving up a fresh take on salad. CHOPT Creative Salad Company has taken the sad salads of the world to a whole new level. By pairing fresh produce and inventive flavors, salads can now have their own deserving spotlight.
I was able to try both of North Carolina’s locations, one in Cameron Village (Raleigh), as well as their newest spot in Chapel Hill. Both locations make for an easy lunch break while you shop or run errands. During my first experience in Chapel Hill, a group of lively staff welcomed me. I was intrigued by the “Destination” salads (all $12.99), so I ordered the Spicy Sonoma Caesar and the Spicy Koreatown “Noodle” Bowl to take home.
The Spicy Sonoma Caesar was delightful (chipotle chicken, avocado, parmesan quinoa crisps, pickled cherry peppers, romaine, with kale and purple cabbage). The Creamy Caesar dressing gave balance to the heat, which may even tempt a more mild palate. I really enjoyed the Parmesan quinoa crisps (bag of those to go, perhaps?).
The presentation of the Spicy Koreatown “Noodle” Bowl was a bit disappointing; the dish is pictured as a salad bedded for carrot and beet “noodles,” but these ended up being chopped in the process of blending the ingredients. However, even with the incorporation, the flavors certainly still managed to pop. Beet and carrot spirals are combined with Korean chicken, scallions, celery, Napa cabbage, sunflower shoots, and sorrel. Sorrel is a tangy, green herb with a lemony taste (in case you, too, were unfamiliar). I was partly persuaded to select this salad based on the dressing recommendation, which is Spicy Sunbutter garnished with fried shallots. The dressing was certainly zesty; I’d reserve this option for serious spice-lovers, or opt for dressing on the side if you’re feeling adventurous. The salad infusion was crisp, flavorful, and complex.
The final salad I tried was the Classic Cobb ($10.29). I feel like you can never really go wrong with a Cobb salad. This one includes FreeBird grilled chicken, avocado, Nigman Ranch smoked bacon, hard-boiled egg, blue cheese, and grape tomatoes with romaine. The traditional elements in this creation fared very well with the recommended Dijon dressing. I also thoroughly enjoyed the plentiful avocado slices. Unlike other fast food joints, avocado isn’t extra here!
I found the process of ordering almost as fun as eating. When you walk in you’ll notice a large menu displayed on the wall. Select your dish from the menu (or you might choose to create your own). Next watch as a staff member, standing against a backdrop of bucketed greens, adds the ingredients to a bowl. They’ll give you a ticket marked with your order. Scoot down the line and watch as your salad is chopped (“CHOPT!”), using a double Mezzaluna knife (think half-moon shaped blade with two handles). A few swift movements, and voilà – your salad is perfectly pieced for easy eating. The helpful workers will then cascade your veggies with an appropriate amount of dressing (or more if you ask), until the creation is coated to your liking. Continue easing down the fresh express conveyor and hand over your ticket to the cashier. You don’t even need to remember what you ordered!
I love salads because you can’t feel bad about balancing out the meal with dessert. I grabbed a Honey Oatmeal Raisin cookie while I was paying. The honey sweetens up an already gratifyingly sweet, chewy cookie. I could have eaten another one if I wasn’t so full.
CHOPT also has some non-salad options too; the grain and noodle bowls sounded really enticing, as well as the warm kale and quinoa-based dishes. A variety of tea and lemonade are also freshly brewed daily in-house. Overall, I would recommend CHOPT to anyone looking for a light, but generously portioned, fast-paced meal. The entrees will leave you feeling full but not heavy, which is ideal for this time of year. The convenience of quickly eating in or taking a healthy meal home is something we could all use a little more of. Fresh ingredients and friendly, fast service, make CHOPT a great addition to the Triangle.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to try certain products. This meal or items are usually comped, as these was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.
Lindsey Watson has been a North Carolina resident since 2012. She has quickly become a fluent NC foodie by living in Raleigh, working in Chapel Hill, and regularly dining out in Durham. When her belly is full, she can be found exploring parks with her husband and two spoiled rescue dogs. Follow her on Instagram @919foodie for more local eats.