New Haven Greens

I magine a well-stocked salad bar with six different bases, plenty of fresh veggies and other toppings, seven protein choices including fried organic tofu, more than a dozen dressings and someone to toss it all up for you. That’s Saladcraft.

Located on Whitney Avenue at the head of Audubon Street, the fast casual spot, which opened in 2020, is the creation of Thomas Nguyen, who also owns the flagship Pokémoto location across the street. The restaurant is bright and inviting, with blond wood floors and an exposed brick wall. Traditional tables are widely spaced in the dining area, with lunch bar seating in the windows, though for now service is takeout only. The serving area looked clean and well-maintained.

The only obvious problem at Saladcraft is choosing what to put in your bowl. Menu panels on the wall are packed with suggestions and ingredients. If you order online, you’ll see even more. “Don’t get overwhelmed,” the website counsels. But in case you are, some recipes have been whipped up for you.

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I chose three of these Signature Salads to take home and try for myself. First up was the Asian Crunch salad. Server Yuleimi collected the requisite shredded carrots, sliced radishes, cabbage, fried wonton strips and mandarin orange slices—all part of the recipe, though I could have added or skipped ingredients as I watched her put them together. I chose my base—mixed greens—and grilled chicken for protein. My salad was poured into a large metal mixing bowl, and I took the menu’s advice to dress it with Carrot Sesame Ginger dressing. “Light, regular or heavy?” Yuleimi asked. I chose regular.

The one choice you don’t have at Saladcraft is size. Every salad, priced at $11.99, is served in a deep plastic bowl. Yuleimi noted that customers have said they get two meals out of a single container, and it’s easy to see why. My first salad served two people with leftovers.

I also ordered the Green Goddess with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, Kalamata olives and feta cheese with a romaine lettuce base, pesto chicken for protein and the recommended Green Sauce dressing. Finally, I took home a Tex-Mex salad with tomatoes, corn, black beans, tortilla strips and cheddar cheese, which I ordered on a Saladcraft blend base of greens with bacon for protein and Avocado Ranch dressing. In all, there are 15 Signature Salads to choose from, but for the same price you can also “Build Your Own.” If you crave a larger portion of ingredients on your base, you can add extra toppings for $0.79, avocado for $1.99 or extra protein for $2.99.

Restaurant salads are often heavy on basic greens with just a few eye-catching additions to perk them up, but these substantial salads offered a nice balance of elements. When I sat down to lunch at home, I found the Green Goddess fresh and crunchy with firm vegetables. The pesto chicken was a tasty touch, though the pieces were smaller than the more generous grilled chicken chunks in my Asian Crunch.

A couple of the dressings were disappointingly bland. Most flavorful was the Sesame Carrot Ginger, sweet with a little bite. But I didn’t get any kick from the Green Sauce, even though the menu gives it one chili pepper. The colorful Tex-Mex salad was garnished with several big, crunchy pieces of red cabbage that gave it a hearty start, though I wished I had taken the menu’s advice and ordered it with the Red Sauce dressing. In fact, with so many choices, next time I’ll probably stick with what Saladcraft has tried and deemed true before attempting to tweak it to my taste.

Otherwise, Saladcraft keeps things simple, offering only Homemade Soup ($4.99), Seasonal Fruits ($4.99) and some chips and drinks. Soup may be the more traditional cold-weather choice. But on a midwinter day with fresh produce at a premium, Saladcraft gave me a healthy respite from heavy comfort food and a welcome taste of spring. Sometimes a big old bowl of salad is just what winter requires.

Saladcraft
46 Whitney Ave, New Haven (map)
Daily 11am-9pm
(203) 780-8751 | info@saladcraftco.com
www.saladcraftco.com

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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