When I walked into CHOPCHOP Fresh Salads, at the newly-revitalized University Place shopping center on the southwest corner of University Drive and Research Park Boulevard, I thought “this is the sort of place in which I ought to spend more time.”
I don’t mean because it’s a nifty space or because it’s staffed by pleasant people, though it is both of those things. I mean because nutritionally, it’s difficult to misstep very badly in here. There are plant-based foods and lean proteins everywhere you look. All of it is pleasingly presented, and the straightforward menu lists calorie counts for signature salads.
(You could still be naughty in here. But it’d be a lot harder than in many other places.)
The CHOPCHOP Experience
It’s a fast casual place that feels very polished, as a national chain might. However, Huntsville is apparently the only location so far. Salads are prepared to order on an assembly line reminiscent of Subway or Moe’s. They’ll ask you whether you want your ordered salad “as it comes” — those are $8-11 as specified — or whether you want it customized. Additions are $.50 each (more for premium ingredients) or you can specify a custom salad from the start for $6.35, which is a base green plus a warm grain, four toppings, and a dressing.
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They put your salad bowl inside a larger stainless steel bowl to prevent excessive mess-making—an elementary and ingenious solution. I asked my salad preparer whether she got to keep anything in the stainless bowl after my salad was done; alas, no.
The Wholey Moley ($10, 540 cal) sounded good to me, so I went with that. That’s organic mesclun, tomatoes, red onion, tortilla chips, avocado, roasted chicken, fresh lime juice, and lime cilantro jalapeno vinaigrette. It was a marvelous fusion of sights, smells, and tastes. I’m looking forward to having it again, and maybe increasing the heat a little bit.
My lunch companion ordered a Cobb Boom ($11, 705 cal), with organic kale and romaine, bacon, tomatoes, corn, avocado, roasted chicken, and bleu cheese dressing. Hers looked as good as mine did. She pronounced it “the best salad I’ve ever had,” and know that this is not a person prone to gratuitous hyperbole.
Other signature salads include Levantine ingredients like hummus and falafel. There are also choices that go in Thai and Korean directions. There is a seasonal portion of the menu that, for winter, includes a roasted Brussels salad, an apple + walnut, and a Mexican elote bowl. Presumably that section will click over to spring soon. There is also an heirloom tomato basil soup available.
Beverage selections include house tea, as well as local Piper & Leaf tea selections, Mexican Coca-Cola, and Bai infusions. The menu also says available beverages may vary, so there may be some changes from time to time.
CHOPCHOP for Kids?
As lovely as CHOPCHOP is, it is rather inhospitable to young children with limited palates. There are no highchairs or booster seats available. The for-everyone, single-seater restroom is clean, but does not include a changing table. Finally, there is no children’s menu in evidence. Essentially, your youngest party member needs to be 8 or so, and a somewhat adventurous eater to boot. That said, the healthy choices here earn you an automatic Parenting LEVEL UP.
CHOPCHOP looks like a great lunch stop from Research Park or Redstone Arsenal, or a good stop for a healthy and somewhat offbeat family dinner (again, minding the caveats about truly small ones).