Saladworks Is the Love Child of Chipotle and Quiznos

Categories: Chain Reactions
saladworks-front.JPG
Dave Lieberman
The Saladworks at the Village at Orange
The server gesticulated with one hand, palm up like Vanna White, at the long, geometrically pleasing, fanatically clean salad bar before her. "You get your lettuce and then any five toppings and one dressing included," she said. "You can add more ingredients for 79 cents each, or you can have one of our signature salads."

Dozens and dozens of small hotel pans, filled with ingredients so fresh a food stylist could have kicked back and smoked a cigarette instead of working. If Saladworks--a chain of salad-and-soup restaurants from Philadelphia that's made its first steps into the West Coast with three Orange County locations--is trying to entice patrons with the visual kick of their salad bar, it's working; I immediately created a huge chopped salad in my head, which would have cost me nearly $20 and would have been enough for three people to eat for dinner.

Then, however, the sweep of her arm came to rest on large white plastic plates wedged into the front of the display, carrying examples of these signature salads. My eyes widened in horror. A far cry from the plastic displays so common in Japanese food court restaurants, these were the actual salads, and they appeared to have been created yesterday, or perhaps last Tuesday after the lunch rush. Apples curling and browning at the edges, limp lettuce, chicken glistening with its own condensation.

saladworks-saladbar.JPG
Dave Lieberman
Don't look at the examples; if you forget and actually do this, try and force your appetite to realize that the salad will be made from the beautiful ingredients behind the Gallery of Regrettable Salad in the front row.

The salad making was a surprise; rather than throwing everything in a bowl, the staff has been trained to take care with delicate ingredients. If you order a salad with mesclun, the toppings will be tossed with the dressing and then set atop the greens; by the time you get to a table, the dressing will have shaken off the toppings and dressed the greens. A custom-built buffalo chicken salad was spicy enough and arrived fresh and perky in the bowl; the only problem was the avocado chunks, which had browned in the pan; these need to be cut fresh from avocado halves. Salade niçoise, while not quite traditional, was just what I wanted; while the Dijon lemon Capri dressing was very sweet, it dressed the tuna perfectly.

The rest of the restaurant--everything but salads--resembles a Quiznos, and that's not really a compliment; sandwiches come on ciabatta rather than that dubiously flexible wheat bread, but they still go through the same process, still have the same processed taste, still cost about the same amount, and there are still the vats of soup sitting at the end--perhaps useful in Philadelphia, but not so much in warm, sunny California.

The main concern with this place would be the speed; while I was the only patron of the restaurant, it does get busy at lunchtime, and there's limited counter space. Bring patience, or use their online ordering and get the dressing on the side.

Three locations in Orange County: visit their website at saladworks.com.
1500 E. Village Way #2197 (The Village at Orange), Orange; 714-974-3457.
13041 Newport Ave., Tustin; 714-731-7254.
488 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa; 949-646-0800.

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Location Info

Saladworks - CLOSED

488 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant


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3 comments
Marsha
Marsha

I've dined at the Salad Works at Village Way, and found the salads were fresh and out of this world. I was greeted by the staff who provided excellent service and although it was very busy they kept the line moving along. They let me sample their choice of soups which all were excellent and so nice and hot. I found it Very Life changing as I now know you can have a proper lunch which is not piling on the calories, and is very filling. Marsha

Terrybrodsky1
Terrybrodsky1

I have also been to a number of Saladworks, but not 10 years ago, much recently. It looks alot different from 10 years ago, like everything else, so many restaurant don't last 10 years.

I've always had a great experience there, and for less than $10, it's a great deal, Sorry JB you want life changing for 10 bucks...you can never compare it to Subway, chipotle or Quiznos. The food is fresh chopped produce, the place is bight and clean.You should give it a try...and let's not forget, all the people they employ.

JB
JB

I've patronized Saladworks a number of times, in Philadelphia in the early 2000s (there is/was one inside 30th Street Station, among other places) and in Terminal 1 at O'Hare in Chicago.  Californians: don't go out of your way to dine here.  As the tone of this review seems to convey, it's adequate, but nothing special.   The Salade Niçoise the author references is filling (pasta included with greens) and enough to sustain satiety during the 4 hours to John Wayne Airport.  But not life-changing.  ..(*cue Fast Food Maven voice)

My take:Like Subway and most other assembly-line eateries, Saladworks is awesome in a pinch, but not exactly a destination resto. 

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