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Jun 18, 2009 08:22 AM

The best make your own salad spots?

For the last couple of years, make you own salad places have been popping up all over Toronto. They've been big in the US for a long time...just starting to become widespread.

I've been to several and for sure have my favorites:

Sandwich Box (yonge and eg or richmond and spadina) is by far the best IMO. Incredibly fresh ingredients (the chick peas and lentils they use are not canned - they are fresh) and they have some really lovely options - sauteed bok choy, kale and beet salad, steamed asparagus, hearts of palm etc. Plus their soups - one vegan and one not are always really good.

Lettuce or now Freshii - used to be really good....but their ingredients have gone downhill fast. They don't have beets anymore...their tuna is always stale. And the scoops that they use are soooo teeny that you barely get a decent amount in your salad.

Salad Spa - the worst of them by far. Factory chopped ingredients. Very run of the mill options. Looks like a bad cafeteria.

What about all of you? What are your favorites and which ones to avoid?

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  1. My favourite is Salad Creations on Yonge between Carlton and Gerrard. For $7.99, you get unlimited use of 40+ toppings, including cheeses, dried cranberries, avocado, egg, etc. They have really creative dressings (Pear and Blue Cheese is an example) and the staff is really nice and cheery. I love it there.

    7 Replies
    1. re: canadianbeaver

      I second Salad Creations. They also have seasonal toppings and frozen yogurt also.

      1. re: ellebelle

        Sadly, just a few days later, I have to take back the praise I made. After posting on this board, I got a craving for Salad Creations, so I went there after work. I got there at 5:20. There was already someone at the cash standing around, but I figured his card wasn't working or something. I placed my order - keep in mind it's an individualized salad - and then shuffled down to the cash. Two ladies (separate from each other) came in after me and also ordered. Then we all met at the end, where one of the young ladies who worked there was on the phone. The guy in front of me told me their whole system was down - no cash, no credit, no nothing. OK, happens to the best of us. So we stood around waiting for her to try and fix it. Not only did they not fix it in the 45 minutes I then spent standing in the store, but they didn't offer us any sort of help -- they suggested we stand around and wait to pay. Finally, the girl said the guy was coming to fix it and it would be about another 45 minutes. Why did they have us order then? We were prisioners! They didn't even give us coupons or a free cookie or anything. One lady paid in cash (without being able to receive her $4 change) and left, but I only had credit and debit, so I told them, "Why don't you take my credit card number and charge me later?" to which the girl replied, "Can we do that?" I left after over an hour in the store. Today I looked at my credit card bill - and they did indeed charge me the $9.03 after the fact. I would have thought perhaps at that point they should have just left it.

        1. re: canadianbeaver

          I really can't imagine why you would wait around for that long! You should have not taken the salad, and left! What a waste of time...

          1. re: focioncroci

            I left so bad for the people working there...I guess I have a soft spot for retail workers. Since I customized the salad, I knew it would be thrown out if I just left.... I regretted it later!!

            1. re: canadianbeaver

              I want to add that I emailed Salad Creations with my concerns. They immediately responded, apologized and rectified the situation right away. They were polite, helpful and beyond apologetic. I am excited that they have restored themselves and I can go back to enjoying their delicious salads!

      2. re: canadianbeaver

        I went yesterday and they have added (still part of the unlimited throw-ins!) goat cheese. I also got the grilled steak ($2.50 extra). They give you a ton and it was delicious. And now they have loyalty cards so you can earn points when you go there.

        1. re: canadianbeaver

          wow, this is a great place. tried it for the first time today, the salad is enormous and very fresh. lots of great toppings. the best was the avocado, the guy opened a new avocado and spooned half into my salad. also super nice and clean in there with lots of tables to sit. very impressed.

        2. Good topic. Used to go to Fast Fresh Foods (Commerce Court). Portion sizes got too small (not as bad as Freshii though) so started to bring my own to be honest - not been in six months. Acceptable quality to me. Can be a long wait if you go at 12:15 or so.

          Freshii tastes ok to me but quantity is not acceptable.

          I guess the one thing to keep in mind with these places is you are buying time and convenience at least as much as the product. I feel like I'm sounding cheap, but its not hard to get to 10.00 with extras at these places.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cimcanada

            When I worked at BCE place I used to be at Fast + Fresh almost every day! The line ups got longer and longer and I found the salad quantity varied depending on who made it. Compared to the other underground options (Lettuce back then) I found F+F to be much better.

            I have tried Freshii now a couple of times - at Richmond/Spadina as well as First Canadian - both were ok. Not in love with the checklist set up of ordering - I prefer seeing the ingredients and choosing. Havent tried the sanwiches or burritos though - wonder if they're any good?

            I agree with your comment about buying time/convenience. If I had the gumption to get up earlier and make my own salad I would!

            1. re: JaclynS

              Haha, too true about your salad depending on who made it. The best was when it opened with the sort of eccentric server guy... he would pile it on with reckless abandon! On the other side of the coin, sometimes it got to the point where I'd actually look to see who was slinging and if it was the owner guy or one other guy I would skip it for lunch cause they were quite miserly.

              You could always tell when they'd had a talking to about portion control.

              1. re: JaclynS

                Jaclyn the wraps and burritos have gone the same direction as the salads at Freshii. They used to basically just wrap up a saled and it was huge and filling. After menu overhaul they added burritos and downsized the wraps quite a bit. They taste pretty good but don't justify the $9 or so they charge for them. Taste is still good but price went up and portions went down, seems like a bad move in a tight economy.

            2. i like going to Whole Foods and Longo's. They both have pretty good salad bars. I don't mind Freshii at all but i heard it varies depending on location.

              2 Replies
              1. re: helen0505

                Problem with both WF and Longo's is the cost! You can easily pay $15 for the same amount of food you'd get for $8 at other chains.

                1. re: helen0505

                  freshii at york mills is aces. their wraps and salads are delicious with decent portions and their rice bowls are very filling too. price wise its ok. ive had much worse.

                2. I was just posting yesterday on another thread about how Lettuce Eatery in TD (before it became Freshii) went downhill about six months ago and I stopped going. At that point, the beet and roast potato pieces had been downsized to the proportion of Tic Tac candies and the scoop of toppings they put on seemed to get smaller. Funny to hear that now there are no beets at all :)

                  I don't love it but I would sometimes hit the Kitchen Table salad bar in First Canadian Place. I liked that at least it HAD lots of variety (not very creative, but all the basics), and you only pay for what you take (and you choose exactly how much you take of each item).

                  1. If you're in the mood for a more substantial salad and something a little different, one of my regular haunts is Est West Cafe in the food court underneath the Hydro building at College & University. I always get the "protein salad" which runs about $8 and is topped with a piece of grilled salmon and a hard-boiled egg, but there are other options. I say substantial because they don't start with a foundation of lettuce or greens - the options are things like big asparagus spears, chinese broccoli, brussels sprouts, glass noodles, pasta and potato salads, big chunks of fruit, etc. It's more like a cold stir-fry than a salad and a ridiculous amount of food for the price - I always get tired of eating about halfway through and save the rest of my veggies for the next day. There's always a line, but it moves incredibly quickly - the ladies behind the counter have a sort of Soup Nazi-esque efficiency about them.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Wahooty

                      Yes! I completely second the Est West recommendation. I used to go there quite a bit when I worked at the Frost South building but now my office is farther away so I don't make it down there as often. It's only $5 plus tax (or close to it) if you just get a "create your own" type salad without protein. I used to load up half my container with full strawberries and pineapple. Awesome value!

                      1. re: maritimah

                        I, on the other hand, always decline the fruit, so whichever lady is making my salad always goes back and loads up the leftover space with anything else within reach that I HAVE asked for. I sometimes wind up with half a container of cabbage, but I never go hungry. ;)
                        And I think they changed the menu/pricing structure recently - they now have a couple of sizes, so I think you can do a small build-your-own without protein for even less.

                      2. re: Wahooty

                        This is a great place, excellent value and the food is always fresh.