It’s a noble idea: Build a quick-service eatery that’s a lot healthier than the average fast food place. The North Loop’s Crisp & Green (another branch is in Wayzata) opened its doors a couple of months ago with the idea that people want plenty of fresh vegetables in the form of salads.
If you’re thinking of salad as the sad, throwaway dish some eateries add to the menu out of a feeling of obligation, the good news is that you’ll find that Crisp & Green has put care and thought into developing its salad-based menu (along with a couple of seasonal soups). Salads fall into two categories: signature, which are greens-based, and grain bowls.
On a recent visit, we tried the No Prob Cobb ($12.75) from the Signature menu. It was a hearty mixture of spinach, kale, chicken, avocado, tomato, bacon, queso fresco, and jalapeño, tossed in a jalapeño green goddess dressing. The vegetables were all fresh, with nary a wilting, slimy spinach piece in sight. The roast chicken was tender and juicy. The dressing tasted strongly of fresh tarragon — not a bad thing — and there was a surprisingly generous amount of avocado. The only major qualm we had was that there was a high number of raw jalapeño pieces and a low number of crispy bacon (real bacon) pieces; that’s an equation we’d like to see reversed.
The Minnesoba Bowl ($10.50) was a congenial take on an Asian salad. A bed of soba noodles was topped with spinach, pickled shiitake mushrooms, Persian cucumber, carrots, and bean sprouts, sprinkled with wasabi furikake, and tossed with a yuzo-miso-sesame dressing. The softness of the noodles (cooked past al dente) paired well with the crisp veggies, giving a nice balance of textures, and the cool salad benefited from the prickles of heat from the furikake and the tangy dressing.
When ordering a salad, you’ll be asked if you want the “regular amount” of dressing; we said yes, and found the salads to be overdressed. If you like extra dressing, you’ll be fine; otherwise, ask for a lighter dressing portion, or for dressing on the side.
We had mixed results with Crisp & Green’s beverages. The Purple Rain smoothie ($6.75), with blueberries, strawberries, banana, apple, and unflavored pea protein, was not overly sweet, as its description might imply. But one in our group thought the smoothie was — well — smooth, while another found an unpleasant grittiness with each sip. The cucumber-lime Agua Fresca ($2.75) tasted aggressively of cucumber, with the lime disappearing or leaving a slight aftertaste that was somewhat vinegary in nature, and not in a good way.
Still, the salads were of good quality (overdressing aside), hearty in size, and prepared in front of the customer by friendly, knowledgeable staff. The big question is whether or not spending $10-$12 for a custom-made salad (or you can concoct your own, starting at $7.25) is something people will want to do, especially when winter returns and people look for warmer foods. There’s also the question of whether people want to pay those prices when they can go to pretty much any grocery store, from Cub Foods to the co-ops, and build a salad themselves, for less money. No, the self-built salad won’t be as good and you won’t have access to as many unique ingredients (you don’t often see furikake at a grocery-store salad bar), but there are trade-offs. Regardless, it’s nice to see another stab at quick and healthy in the food market.
Crisp & Green
Salad and soup in the North Loop and Wayzata
428 Washington Ave N
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Daily 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $7-$13
NOISE LEVEL: High
PARKING: Some free parking spots; street meters