It has come to this: chopped salad in a drugstore. It’s the final frontier for a lunchtime fad that started in the city’s fine-dining restaurants, spread to delis and cafes, and took a downward dip to fast casual restaurants like T.G.I. Friday’s, Quiznos and Arby’s. Subway recently announced that it would serve any of its six-inch subs as a chopped salad, minus the bread. In other words, New Yorkers can now get a chopped salad just about any place except a gasoline station.
The ceaseless chop of the curved two-handled blade known as a mezzaluna provides the background music for lunch in Manhattan these days. Chains like Chop’t Creative Salad Company and Just Salad cater to fussy throngs looking for an alternative to fast food that is still fast and that offers choices. Many, many choices.
Ordering a chopped salad is like buying a car. You start with a base price that includes a limited number of toppings, usually four or five. After that, each addition costs extra. How much depends on the ingredient. At Chop’t, tomatoes, black beans and chickpeas each cost 59 cents, feta cheese costs 99 cents, smoked bacon costs $1.49, and steak tops the list at $3.49.
The full list of toppings is mind-boggling. At Duane Reade, it runs to nearly 40, which means that customers opting for a $6.99 five-topping salad, or $7.99 for five toppings that include one protein, could eat a different salad every day for the next century or so.