Society is reopening and Portlanders are drinking vaccine in the streets, but the question remains: Will we ever get salad bars back? The restaurants that respect salad are few and far between. You've heard me rant into these column widths before that the only place I think makes a good salad for your money is actually a pizza place—Sizzle Pie.
Sun Salads in the U.S. Bancorp building? Grocery store salad bars? They seem lost to our reasonably germaphobic society. But what about Garden Bar, the seemingly unstoppable local salad shop chain where cheerful workers assembled salads behind plexiglass?
Just before 2020, you may have noticed a "by Evergreens" showing up under your Garden Bar signage. That's because Washington State salad company Evergreens purchased Garden Bar in August of 2019.
Now that we're on the other side of the pandemic (I mean, I hope we're on the other side), Evergreens has seemingly rebooted their salad network of stores without the Garden Bar name at all. Recently opening stores at Cedar Hills Crossing and the Portland Airport, Evergreens aims to offer fresh, customizable salads with tons of fixins and flavor.
Here's the thing: I am yet to be convinced that Evergreens will live up to those delicious, somewhat bougie salads that Garden Bar churned out on the daily. BUT if you can't be with the salad you love, perhaps loving the salad you're with is all you can do.
I do like Evergreens' "salad three ways" approach. Any salad on their menu can be made as a wrap or a grain bowl, for those who need a sturdy bed of starch to maintain energy levels. Their Spicy Kale Caesar—which is customizable but in its natural state comes with a FULL SCOOP of jalapeño—worked wonderfully as a wrap. I ate it pretty soon after I got it, so the garlic croutons inside didn't sog up. Instead those croutons provided a delightful CRONCH.
The main thing that I must critique about Evergreens is that some of their items (like the gorgonzola cheese on the Kale-Gate Party) had a noticeable warehouse or fridge taste, which never happened at Garden Bar. Receiving a sad delivery salad is a hugely depressing affair because sad salad is so utterly sad. Pizza can be reheated. Stir fry can be sauced. But what can you do with a fridge-taste cheese salad?
I'm willing to chalk it up to growing pains though, as Evergreens hesitantly expand into Oregon. Also, Evergreens basically has us by the salad balls. There aren't a lot of choices out there. Evergreens is still knocking every other to-go salad out of the park (other than Sizzle Pie) in terms of availability, size, and vegetable freshness. So if you're at PDX and you've been eating like crud because you went to see your family back in the midwest—a sojourn many of us must soon make—Evergreens is a salad purveyor that will get your guts back in line.
The other Evergreens hiccup is that they opened their far out stores first—all the way out at the airport and at Cedar Hills Crossing in Beaverton. But locations in the Lloyd and Pearl districts will follow this summer. And Evergreens is working on a system where you can have an Evergreens salad delivered to your gate! So look for that, if you have to visit the midwest and get all that midwest cheese soon. I would absolutely give Evergreens another shot to facilitate my kale reentry.
Evergreens, 2725 SW Cedar Hills, Suite 120, (503) 521-7920; PDX Airport, evergreens.com