The Ultimate Chopped Salad Chain Showdown (Slideshow)
August 23, 2013
Plenty of places are chopping salads these days, but whose reign supreme?
Yes, amazingly, Subway has hopped on the chopped salad bandwagon. You can make any sub into a salad, or you can choose from their six predesigned salads: grilled chicken with baby spinach, Seafood Sensation, Club salad, tuna salad, Veggie Delight, or grilled chicken salads. Prices range from $5.50 to $6.75 depending on what you order. There are unfortunately only two lettuce choices, spinach or iceberg, but you can choose any toppings without being charged extra, just like on a sub. Their method of chopping is a little strange; it looks like a double-bladed pizza cutter, as seen here. Asking for organic options at Subway is a stretch, but while they don’t offer organic, they do offer eco-friendly. The majority of their packaging is made from recycled materials, and 100 percent of it can be recycled. At the very least, they have affordable options that include low-calorie Veggie Delight salads (110 calories) and more substantial options like the Chipotle Steak and Cheese with Avocado (470 calories).
9) Simply Salad
A grilled chicken Caesar will cost you $7.50 at Simply Salad, a Los Angeles chain with two locations in the city. Their 13 signature salads range from $6.50 to $10.50, and start at $6.50 plus add-ons to build your own. Points to them for offering a range of lettuce, including romaine, iceberg, baby spinach, Simply Salad mix, arugula, and kale. Minus some points for charging extra for the more nutritious ones; they charge $0.50 extra for arugula and kale. They provide 34 simple add-ons, and their premium add-ons, meats, cheeses, and seafood all cost extra. To build your own mezzaluna-chopped snack, you get to choose five toppings and any extra are $0.50 per.
8) Chop It Salad Co.
To give our rankings an even spread across the country, we included Chop It Salad Co., a small chain based in Ohio. You can get your chicken Caesar or another of the 10 other signature salads for $8.49, or you can fire up your creative juices and dream up your own creation for $7.49. Picking from iceberg, romaine, spring mix, or baby spinach, you can have any of the free toppings you want, while meat, goat cheese, and tofu are extra. While you watch the staff chop up that salad with a mezzaluna, you can take a gander at their smoothie menu for dessert!
7) Choppers Custom Salads
Colorado has a chain called Choppers Custom Salads that looks like it could rival anything on the coasts. Their chicken Caesar is one of 12 predesigned salads, and it comes in at $7.99 for a small and $8.99 for a large, still pretty good for a big healthy lunch. When building a custom chop, you have four lettuce options and four free add-ons with 34 to choose from. Unfortunately all cheeses and proteins are extra money, so you might end up shelling out a bit more for those. All salads are chopped by hand with a mezzaluna.
6) Hale and Hearty
Hale and Hearty is a lunchtime favorite in New York, best known for its wide selection of soup, but it’s quickly becoming well-known for its salads as well. Any salad can be ordered as a chopped salad, and you can customize any flavor combination you like. They offer three lettuce options and 46 premium add-ons. Amazingly, Hale and Hearty only offers four predesigned salads (chicken Caesar was one of them, costing you $7.09), which cost it a few points. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to point and say "I want number 10" and not have to think about all the options. They also only offer four free add-ons and they aren’t great: carrots, cucumbers, croutons and red onion. If you want more things that you would normally find on a salad, you have to pay $0.70 extra per topping, which could add up pretty quickly if you like your salad to be filling. They also offer more protein options and primo toppings like artichokes, bacon, goat cheese, and roasted red peppers, which are priced between $1.25 and $1.85.
5) Fresh & Co
Fresh & Co has tons of lettuce choices for build your owns, including mesclun mix, baby spinach, Italian blend, iceberg, Oriental blend, romaine hearts, kale, and a romaine/kale blend. Thirty-one simple add-ons are offered, along with 22 premium and 12 proteins, and you get four to start. They also have 10 signature predesigned salads and rotate three seasonal choices. But where Fresh & Co started to lose points was with the price. Meats and proteins tacked on an additional $2.75 to $3.95 per item, which seemed excessive. This option isn’t terribly cost-effective and if you are looking to build a custom, filling salad with a lot of protein, you might want to check your other options. However, their salads sound delicious and if you choose a pre-designed option you might do better. If you’re looking for a lower-calorie option, the Asian Chop-Chop checks in at 314 calories, while the California Cobb is a little heftier at 629 calories. Our trusty chicken Caesar showed up at Fresh & Co for $9.75, since you have to purchase the chicken separately.
4) Chop Stop
Skipping to the left coast, Los Angeles boasts its own answer to the chopped salad craze called Chop Stop. Their chicken Caesar will run you $8.49 (we’re guessing they charge extra for the sunny weather?) or you can pick from 13 other pre-planned salads. If you’d rather get more creative, you have four lettuce options and 42 add-ons, including more fruit than any other option (strawberries? Yes please!). You are also allowed to pick six add-ons to start, which seems generous to us! Those wanting light fare would do well to choose the 290-calorie Greek Chop, while those with a heartier appetite might like the 900-calorie Chop-Zilla. A huge point in Chop Stop’s favor is their eco-friendly approach to packaging their food. The salads are packaged in 100 percent compostable containers, the cutlery is made from plant starch, and the to-go bags are Earth-friendly.
3) Just Salad
Just Salad, with locations in New York and Hong Kong, offers up a range of chopped salads, wraps, smoothies and frozen yogurt. Your "chef-designed" Caesar salad will cost you $7.29, or you can pick from 13 other pre-designed salads or four seasonal creations. If you choose the make-your-own route, you have seven lettuces to pick from including baby spinach, romaine, iceberg, mesclun, kale, red cabbage, and arugula (points for more options!). You get four regular toppings (or if you use their eco-friendly reusable bowl, you get two extra or a cheese!), with extras coming in at $0.59 each. They also offer six premium toppings, seven protein options, three seafood options, and eight cheeses. The variety offered for these mezzaluna-chopped salads bumped them up high in our books.
Saladworks is an institution in the salad-for-lunch world. Founded in 1986, it quickly started outselling the burger and pizza joints in the mall where it started. A chicken Caesar salad will run you $8.29 and is one of 13 pre-designed salads on the menu. If you want to build your own masterpiece, you have three lettuce options and get five toppings included in the $8.69 build-your-own price, with each extra goodie costing you $0.99. If you’re looking for a light lunch, the Greek salad comes in at just less than 190 calories, but a more robust choice would be the Fire Roasted Cabo Jack, coming in at about 390 calories. While the website doesn’t specify whether any of the food offerings are organic, the company does have a new eco-friendly approach to some of their stores, including bamboo flooring, LEED-approved recycled vinyl walls, fluorescent and LED lighting, and live herbs in pots. Yelpers also approve, noting the cleanliness of the restaurants and the freshness of the ingredients.
Chop’t, arguably the most recognizable chopped salad chain in America, comes in number one on our list. The price point is reasonable, with a chicken Caesar salad running you $7.09. When you build your own salad, you have five kinds of lettuce to choose from, and a list of more than 50 add-ons. The first four add-ons are free, and you get one mezzaluna-chopped lettuce and one dressing. The sheer number of Chop’t outposts in both New York City and Washington, D.C., is a big point in its favor, making it a convenient stop for a healthy meal. The calorie loads are lower than some other chains, with the high being their Cobb salad at 670 calories, and the low being their Palm Beach Shrimp salad at 240 calories. While they don’t specify if they use organic produce, they do note on their website that they use locally sourced vegetables when necessary and use "responsibly raised" chicken and turkey. You also get a great amount of variety, since there are 11 chef-designed salads and three rotating seasonal salads.