Chopped: The 5 Best Salad Chains in America

Simply Salad boasts more than 40 salad odd-ons. Simply Salad boasts more than 40 salad odd-ons. When lunchtime rolls around, there's no end to boring, unhealthy options. There are burgers, Chinese takeout, pizza, sandwiches, and plenty of other ways to put yourself into a food coma via a sad desk lunch even before you hit the 3 p.m. wall. But according to The New York Times, it's chopped salad that reigns supreme in the Northeast, and the trend is making its way across the country.

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From Chop't to Just Salad to Saladworks and even to Subway, every week it seems like another chain comes along to offer us even more chopped salad options. But which one is the best? We put the country's most popular chopped salad chains to the test, and one emerged as a clear winner.Sometimes a salad is the perfect way to get your lunch on. Vegetables for health and wellness, protein to fill you up, and enough food to nix your hunger but not put you in a food coma are all good reasons to consider it. Plus, in mixed company, salads are allergy- and vegan/vegetarian-friendly. Everyone wins!

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Salads chopped to oblivion might sound kind of weird, but hear us out! Chopping the salad with a mezzaluna (a crescent moon-shaped blade with two handles, rocked >over produce to chop it) allows all the pieces to get coated evenly in your dressing, provides you with bite-sized pieces that are easy to eat, and allows you to get a bite of each topping in each bite. Some argue that the ideal salad is one in which there are large chunks of every component, so you can mix and match the flavors and textures with every bite, but the fact remains that there are lots of people who have jumped on the chopped salad bandwagon, and probably eat one every day of the week.

As the popularity of chopped salads has increased, the number of places that offer them has expanded nationwide. Some of the most recognizable names, Chop't and Saladworks, have gone viral up the East Coast and beyond, while many remain regional favorites. We have ranked some of the most popular chains according to pricing (using the most popular pre-made salad, chicken Caesar), variety of add-ons, chopping method, customization, and green-ness of the chain.

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5) Fresh & Co

Fresh & Co has tons of lettuce choices for build your owns, including mesclun mix, baby spinach, Italian blend, iceberg, Oriental blend, romaine hearts, kale, and a romaine/kale blend. Thirty-one simple add-ons are offered, along with 22 premium and 12 proteins, and you get four to start. They also have 10 signature predesigned salads and rotate three seasonal choices. But where Fresh & Co started to lose points was with the price. Meats and proteins tacked on an additional $2.75 to $3.95 per item, which seemed excessive. This option isn't terribly cost-effective and if you are looking to build a custom, filling salad with a lot of protein, you might want to check your other options. However, their salads sound delicious and if you choose a pre-designed option you might do better. If you're looking for a lower-calorie option, the Asian Chop-Chop checks in at 314 calories, while the California Cobb is a little heftier at 629 calories. Our trusty chicken Caesar showed up at Fresh & Co for $9.75, since you have to purchase the chicken separately.

4) Chop Stop

Skipping to the left coast, Los Angeles boasts its own answer to the chopped salad craze called Chop Stop. Their chicken Caesar will run you $8.49 (we're guessing they charge extra for the sunny weather?) or you can pick from 13 other pre-planned salads. If you'd rather get more creative, you have four lettuce options and 42 add-ons, including more fruit than any other option (strawberries? Yes please!). You are also allowed to pick six add-ons to start, which seems generous to us! Those wanting light fare would do well to choose the 290-calorie Greek Chop, while those with a heartier appetite might like the 900-calorie Chop-Zilla. A huge point in Chop Stop's favor is their eco-friendly approach to packaging their food. The salads are packaged in 100 percent compostable containers, the cutlery is made from plant starch, and the to-go bags are Earth-friendly.

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3) Just Salad

Just Salad, with locations in New York and Hong Kong, offers up a range of chopped salads, wraps, smoothies and frozen yogurt. Your "chef-designed" Caesar salad will cost you $7.29, or you can pick from 13 other pre-designed salads or four seasonal creations. If you choose the make-your-own route, you have seven lettuces to pick from including baby spinach, romaine, iceberg, mesclun, kale, red cabbage, and arugula (points for more options!). You get four regular toppings (or if you use their eco-friendly reusable bowl, you get two extra or a cheese!), with extras coming in at $0.59 each. They also offer six premium toppings, seven protein options, three seafood options, and eight cheeses. The variety offered for these mezzaluna-chopped salads bumped them up high in our books.

2) Saladworks

Saladworks is an institution in the salad-for-lunch world. Founded in 1986, it quickly started outselling the burger and pizza joints in the mall where it started. A chicken Caesar salad will run you $8.29 and is one of 13 pre-designed salads on the menu. If you want to build your own masterpiece, you have three lettuce options and get five toppings included in the $8.69 build-your-own price, with each extra goodie costing you $0.99. If you're looking for a light lunch, the Greek salad comes in at just less than 190 calories, but a more robust choice would be the Fire Roasted Cabo Jack, coming in at about 390 calories. While the website doesn't specify whether any of the food offerings are organic, the company does have a new eco-friendly approach to some of their stores, including bamboo flooring, LEED-approved recycled vinyl walls, fluorescent and LED lighting, and live herbs in pots. Yelpers also approve, noting the cleanliness of the restaurants and the freshness of the ingredients.

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1) Chop't

Chop't, arguably the most recognizable chopped salad chain in America, comes in number one on our list. The price point is reasonable, with a chicken Caesar salad running you $7.09. When you build your own salad, you have five kinds of lettuce to choose from, and a list of more than 50 add-ons. The first four add-ons are free, and you get one mezzaluna-chopped lettuce and one dressing. The sheer number of Chop't outposts in both New York City and Washington, D.C., is a big point in its favor, making it a convenient stop for a healthy meal. The calorie loads are lower than some other chains, with the high being their Cobb salad at 670 calories, and the low being their Palm Beach Shrimp salad at 240 calories. While they don't specify if they use organic produce, they do note on their website that they use locally sourced vegetables when necessary and use "responsibly raised" chicken and turkey. You also get a great amount of variety, since there are 11 chef-designed salads and three rotating seasonal salads.

Click here to see more of our ultimate salad chain showdown

-Rosemary Pantaleo, The Daily Meal