SARATOGA SPRINGS “It’s not that easy being green,” sings Kermit the Frog.
Eating your greens isn’t always easy either.
I love salad, and at restaurants I usually order it as an entree, but often the choices are few and the serving is skimpy.
When I heard that Albany’s Greenhouse opened at a second location in Saratoga Springs, I hopped over with my friend Wendy, a serious salad eater who is known for her homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
From the first step inside the door, it was obvious that something fresh and different is happening. You hear the sound of chopping and, behind a long counter, bins billow with different kinds of lettuce and greens.
Greenhouse: A Chopped Salad Company
WHERE: 33 Railroad Place, Saratoga Springs, www.eatgreenhouse.com, 450-1036.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
HOW MUCH: $21.13, with two bottles of water and tax
MORE INFO: Credit cards accepted, takeout and delivery available, wheelchair-accessible, parking on street or in Division Street parking garage
The menu board is humongous, with about 100 ingredients posted.
In the summer, when the Saratoga Greenhouse opened, my husband walked in and out the door without ordering.
“Can’t deal with all those choices. It’s like Starbucks,” he grumbled.
Ready-made or your own
But it’s really quite simple. Choose a salad from a list of eight, like Autumn, Greek Islands or Chinatown, or be creative and concoct your own by picking ingredients from the board. Then decide if you want your salad in a bowl or tucked into a whole-wheat wrap.
Iceberg, romaine, mesclun mix or baby spinach?
“Baby spinach,” I told the young woman behind the counter.
I paused and studied the board intently. For a basic $7.50 build-a-salad, you pick four items from an alphabetized litany of 32 that starts with artichoke hearts and asparagus and ends with water chestnuts and white beans.
“Broccoli, pea pods, celery and tofu,” I continue. “Oh, and feta cheese.”
Cheese, meat, chicken, fish, nuts and seeds are extra, $1 each.
As we watched, the young woman heaped a mountain of spinach, plus scoops of the other stuff into a gorilla-sized bowl.
Wendy and I were dumbfounded. We’re green goddesses, but we had never seen such a gigantic salad.
But the fun was just beginning. The young woman dumped the greens on a marble-like surface and grabbed a mezza luna, a curved blade with handles on each end. With quick, vigorous motions of both arms, she rocked that big blade through the spinach.
Like a hibachi chef slicing and dicing or the smashing of candy into ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, the live action was a cheap thrill for two middle-aged women looking for a healthy lunch.
“If I worked here, I could get my upper arms in shape,” I joked to Wendy.
After the wild chopping, my salad was smaller, but the nice white bowl the woman handed to me was still the size of a serving dish. This super salad would never fit on a dinner plate.
Wendy ordered a Taco Wrap, $8.25.
Mesclun, green peppers, red onions, tomatoes, cheddar cheese got the chop, then the mix was topped with some beef chili and tucked into the whole-wheat wrapper. With a wrap, there’s less salad, but it’s also served in the nice white bowl.
“The flavor is really good,” Wendy said. “Mildly cuminy. Sometimes the chili can be overpowering, but it’s not.”
Vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters can all be happy at the Greenhouse.
Bacon, grilled sirloin, ham, salami are on the menu board, along with string beans and sunflower seeds. Nothing appears to be organic.
Wendy and I had only minor complaints.
We like hot tea with our lunch, but Greenhouse only serves iced tea and cold bottled drinks.
Dressing too hot
My Asian dressing was too hot, burning the tongue with every bite. I expected a sesame or citrusy flavor but it seemed to be spiked with chili oil. There are 24 other house-made dressings to choose from. Fresh-squeezed lemon juice, too. Next time, I’ll avoid the Asian.
The forks are plastic. But the atmosphere is cheerful, with an orange-and-green color scheme and a dozen trendy, pub-type tall tables and chairs that have outlets for electronic devices.
“It’s nice and clean in here,” Wendy observed.
Next door to the mini Price Chopper and close to the new Criterion Cinemas movie house, Greenhouse caters to both the takeout lunch crowd and diners who want to linger and slowly munch their greens.
Soup and chili are on the menu, too. Maybe I’ll try them next time.
But maybe not. The big salad experience is what I crave, and that’s what’s going to bring me back.