Brown rice, spinach, and shredded kale topped by assorted veggies, buffalo chicken breast, and tahini dressing
As I drove into Mission Valley to try out a new salad restaurant, I found myself two kinds of conflicted. On the one hand, this was fast-food territory, which didn’t augur well for my well-being. On the other, I was about to eat a salad for lunch, which didn’t bode well for my happiness. This wasn’t tricky calculus: the odds were long that I would enjoy The Greenspot Salad Company.
2075 Camino De La Reina Suite B,, San Diego
And yet, ten minutes later, there I sat, chomping my way through a seven-dollar Caesar salad, strangely satisfied by a bowl featuring little more than romaine lettuce, parmesan shavings, and croutons.
It probably bears mentioning up front that, contrary to its name, Greenspot Salad Company does not restrict its menu to salads, or even to vegetarian fare. The menu includes grass-fed steak, antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken, and seared ahi tuna; these proteins are mainly applied to salads, wraps, and grain bowls.
Caesar salad, washed down by some local Kombucha
And though the layout of its order and prep counter resembles that of a Subway or Chipotle fast-food restaurant, it’s probably more appropriate to call Greenspot fast casual, if only for the lack of microwaves and deep fryers in its kitchen. But also because the place prepares everything from whole, unprocessed ingredients, all the way down to its house-made salad dressings. It even claims to buy organic and locally sourced produce when possible — they told me the salad spring mix is always organic, and since all orders are assembled to order, it’s easy to ask about other ingredients as you go.
Getting back to that Caesar, the house dressing doesn’t include the traditional raw egg or anchovies, so it stood zero chance of being a true standard bearer for the classic salad. But that didn’t stop me from emptying my bowl, and happily calling it a light meal.
A mural of San Diego in Greenspot Salad Company, reminiscent of 80s drawing show The Secret City Adventures
Most times, however, I demand something a little more substantial, and that brings us into the semantics of the “bowls” on the menu. As with the salads, several signature recipes are available, along with the option to create your own. Some of the signature offerings correspond between menus. So, for example, the $8 Ensenada salad tops romaine and spring mix with corn, roasted red pepper, and avocado, with an optional $4 steak add-on. Meanwhile the $13 Baja bowl incorporates several of the same ingredients, but serves it over your choice of rice.
Whichever bowl, wrap, or salad you order, the exact same assortment of ingredients are culled from the exact same stainless steel bins, forcing the conclusion that a “bowl” is a salad served over rice, or quinoa, if you prefer.
A fast casual salad counter
I can get behind this mental trickery if it helps me eat better. I decided to put together a custom bowl, which starts at $8.50 for greens and grains, plus four vegetable ingredients, and three or four dollars to add on a protein. I chose the buffalo chicken add-on, and quickly lost track how many veggies I was choosing, so I got a few extra at 50 cents to a buck apiece, landing on a $13 total. Atop organic spinach, shredded kale, and brown rice I added roasted red peppers, roasted carrots, steamed broccoli, chickpeas, edamame, and (for some reason) alfalfa sprouts.
The rice was served warm, the rest of the ingredients cold (which confirms my salad versus bowl theory), but paired with sesame-rich house vegan tahini goddess dressing, I enjoyed a substantial, filling meal that tasted fresh and good. The only bigger surprise to me was that Greenspot isn’t new. The local business launched nine years ago in Sorrento Valley (9450 Scranton Rd #112, then followed up with a second location four years back in 4S Ranch (16625 Dove Canyon Rd #109). Only this Mission Valley location, which opened in December, is new.
So to recap, I supported a local business, ate healthy, fast-casual salads, and drove away happy from Mission Valley. This must be a leap year.