Within a few blocks of where I live is a trendy salad shop called Crushed Red. At first, I found the ordering system a bit cumbersome. But now I’m on top of it. (I’ve not mastered the routine at Lona’s Lil Eats yet, so I order the same thing each time to mask my inadequacies.)
My favorite of Crushed Red’s many offerings is the Health Nut Salad with broccoli, edamame, carrots, almonds, cranberries, chickpeas, spinach and romaine drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette. Other house-designed salad bowls like Welcome Back Cobber, South of the Border, Wild Spring Salmon and Tunapalozza give you an idea of the imaginative nature of this St. Louis-based chain.
To expedite things during the lunch hour, there’s often a “traffic monitor,” who points you to the order station and explains the wall-mounted menu to newcomers. After getting a number indicating your selections, you move along the salad bar, where workers place your ingredients in the proper size bowl—the size you selected when you ordered moments earlier.
Salads are chopped-to-order by men wielding dual-bladed mezzalunas. The arc-shaped knife rocks back and forth across each salad until it’s nicely shredded. A splash of dressing and you have a colorful, and healthy meal in a bowl.
If you want to carb up your salad meal, there’s always the flatbread pizza made with hand-stretched, whole grain crusts and organic tomato sauce. Craft your own pizza or choose from one with a cute name like Mona Lisa, Queen Margherite or Big Island. Or go for one of the soups: black bean, mushroom, broccoli-cheese, chicken noodles, butternut squash, red pepper, and potato.
Proceed through the line to the cashier to pay and pick up your tracking device, if needed, for table delivery. Choose beer, wine or a bottled beverage. Or merely get a glass and fill it with water or a soft drink from the spiffy beverage area. This all goes fairly quickly once you get the hang of it.
Find a seat in a booth, or at a table—inside or out. This is harder to do at lunchtime, so I try to arrive either before or after the rush hour. Place your tracking device on the end of the table, so your server can locate you electronically. I’m happy to report that I’ve got this procedure nailed down, so I don’t appear as fuddy-duddy as I first did—well, at least, not in this particular restaurant.
There are some feel good features to ponder while you eat hearty and healthy at Crushed Red. The restaurant is a member of the Green Dining Alliance and their employees are digitally monitored to ensure 100% hand washing compliance. If you dine outdoors on the covered deck in the shadow of St. Joseph’s church, you can almost imagine being in the town square of a quaint European village.
Crushed Red: Three St Louis-area locations: 8007 Maryland; 11635 Olive Blvd; 140 S. Kirkwood Road and 2540 Broadway Bluffs Dr., Columbia, MO. Open: Sun-Thu 11a-9p; Fri-Sat 11a-10p.