Battle of the bowls: Chopt and Roots face-off

Which restaurant offers the superior salad?


 I started my salad tasting at Chopt, located on Barracks Road. 

Ally Donberger | Cavalier Daily

Nothing beats the satisfaction of eating a deliciously-made salad. The fresh crunch of veggies and flavorful dressing always leave me feeling healthy and refreshed. Chopt and Roots both offer University students a delightful selection of fresh salads, but when the craving hits, which one is the best option?

I started my salad tasting at Chopt, located on Barracks Road. As a first-year, reaching Chopt is quite a lengthy bus ride away, so my standards were set pretty high for a salad worth a 30-minute trip. Chopt did not disappoint.

There was hardly a line when I arrived, so I walked right up to the salad bar after perusing the menu. I decided to order the Santa Fe salad with chicken because it was recommended as a favorite for first-time customers. The chicken was moist and seasoned with what tasted like chili powder and paprika, giving a little spice to the salad. It also had perfectly ripened avocado, grape tomatoes, corn, pepper jack cheese and fried onions. I topped it with the suggested Sweet & Smoky Chipotle Vinaigrette.

All the flavors from the variety of toppings blended very nicely together. What made it even better was that the servers actually chopped — as the name suggests — the salad into the perfect bite-sized pieces so a knife was not necessary when eating. They also mixed up the salad so that every piece was covered with the dressing and all the toppings were evenly dispersed throughout.

Everything about this salad worked. The dressing paired well with all the ingredients, although it was unexpectedly spicy. I enjoyed the crunch of the fried onions on top, and the avocado was the ideal consistency. All the ingredients expressed the southwestern flair of Sante Fe.

Next up was Roots. After a long morning of classes, the prospect of a fresh salad was too tempting to pass up. Conveniently located on the Corner, Roots is just a short walk away from the Rotunda. The popularity of this University favorite was evident by the line out the door when I arrived. However, the wait was not bad and the salad bar staff was very efficient in keeping the line moving.

I decided to order a custom salad when I reached the front of the line. I got kale, chicken, grape tomatoes, avocado, cheddar cheese and corn with the red wine vinegar dressing. Compared to my Santa Fe salad from Chopt, this was a much lighter option. It did not have any spice to it, but still had a nice flavor due to the grilled chicken on top. The toppings were all very fresh and crisp and the kale added a nice crunch to the salad.

I wish there were a wider selection of dressings to go with my own salad creation. Due to the Mediterranean theme of the ingredients, my somewhat southwestern-feeling creation didn’t seem to match any of my choices, leaving the red wine vinegar as the safest option. Also, the tomatoes were not plump or crisp and had a rather mushy consistency. However, the chicken was perfectly grilled and gave much needed flavor to my rather bland salad.

My salad from Roots reflected the healthy and simple theme Roots promotes — nothing overdone or fancy, just fresh ingredients and a natural atmosphere.

Both Chopt and Roots preach a quick and healthy means for fast food. However, Chopt had a wider variety of options, providing everything Roots had and more. Both locations allow customers to build their own salad, but Chopt had such a diverse selection of menu options that I didn’t feel the desire to branch out. 

Roots also did not chop up the salad greens before serving as Chopt did. Nothing is more annoying than trying to jam a huge piece of lettuce into my mouth because it isn’t bite-sized. Chopt’s salad was the perfect cut and allowed me to enjoy my salad without feeling impolite. Also, Roots had fewer beverage options. While the absence of sugar-filled drinks is not necessarily a bad thing, Chopt substituted the typical soda fountain offerings with light lemonade and tea as well as water.

The atmosphere at Chopt was more open and laid-back than Roots. Roots is confined into a tiny storefront with limited seating on the floor above. Chopt felt very open and light without the worry of finding a seat in a smaller area.

On a day full of classes and homework, Roots is definitely the more practical option for University students. The salads taste great and Roots provides an easily portable bite to grab on the way to class or during a break. However, if time permits, I would recommend going to Chopt instead for a wider variety and a less hectic environment.

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