As a dietitian, I love scoping out the new restaurant scenes and trying the new options. I feel a bit spoiled, having spent most of the fall in Portland where local food is ubiquitous, and you can find gluten-free, paleo and/or vegan options at nearly every food establishment. However, I do applaud Charlotte as the local food scene and variety is continuously growing and working to keep up with the consumers’ demand.
While I’m a proponent of packing your own lunch 80% of the time, I like to check out the lunch scene in Charlotte the other 20% of the time. It’s pretty easy to eat healthy in Charlotte and here are some of my favorite lunch spots for a creative or personalized salad.
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Locations: 4125 Park Road and 9844 Rea Road
You may be aware of the Chopt cult – they have a bunch of salads to choose from, or you can customize your own, and then watch them chop it up and mix it all together. They are always coming up with seasonal combinations, such as the spicy Peruvian salad or Andean grain salad.
It’s pretty easy to eat vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free, since you have so much control over what goes on the salad. Don’t miss out on the greek yogurt tzatziki and lemon tahini dressings, either. Ask for extra on the side.
Download the app prior to going in and you save $3.00 on your first order. It’s a zoo during the lunch hour, so I recommend ordering online and skipping the line. Your salad comes in an easily portable plastic container so you can get right on your way.
Location: 2000 South Blvd, Suite 300
Luna’s is known for their variety of creative, vegan options, and not to mention their modern, open restaurant area with beautiful wood and ample light. For a fun twist on a salad, try the Living Burrito with sunflower seed refried beans, cauliflower rice, and cashew sour cream, wrapped in a collard leaf, and pair it with the kale salad.
The sprout it out salad is awesome too – with spiralized root vegetables, avocado, brazil nut parmesean and a homemade hemp dressing.
Location: 1609 Elizabeth Avenue
Earl’s Grocery is a must. Not only do they offer great pre-made foods, but they have a fabulous breakfast, lunch and dinner menu and coffee bar. I love coming in and spending the afternoon, munching on their delicious menu items and getting some work done.
My go-to salad choice here is the Harvest Salad with smoked farro, roasted beets, kale, onions, fennel, pumpkin seeds, currants, and feta cheese. The currants give it such a good flavor profile and give some sweetness to the savory aspects. I opt for the chili vinaigrette dressing on the side when I’m getting it to go so the salad doesn’t get too soggy.
If you’re wanting to branch out from the typical salad, though, you should also try the “warm bowl” with fried rice, kimchi collards, and turkey meatballs. Kimchi is high in probiotics, which help populate our intestinal tract with good bacteria, so major plus.
Location: 1531 East Blvd
If you haven’t tried the Mayobird, and you love chicken salad, you’re in for a treat. You’ll find chicken salad in a variety of flavors and additions, ranging from dill, to nuts and berries, southern with pickles and eggs, loaded with bacon, sour cream and chives or greek yogurt. And they offer a special flavor of the month based on customer feedback. Opt for your chicken salad over a bed of fresh greens, or if you’re feeling bold, you can get your chicken salad on a brioche bun, whole wheat bread, a croissant, pita or mini buns.
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Locations: 1961 E. 7th St., 1412-F East Blvd, and 320 S. Tryon St.
Crisp is similar to Chopt in that you can customize your own salad or choose from some of their options, but they also have sandwiches, soups and pizzas. While Chopt seems to have more options for toppings and veggies, I haven’t had a salmon topping that compares to Chopt. The proteins are made to order, so they are extremely fresh. Each time I’ve been, the customer service has been top notch and quick. Also, they have the best homemade dressings – I particularly recommend the roasted lemon vinaigrette and the honey dijon vinaigrette.
Location: 274 S. Sharon Amity Rd.
If you have the time to sit down and enjoy lunch, check out Namastay Kitchen in the Cotswold Shopping Center, attached to Y2 Yoga. The menu is full of fresh, unique salad options, smoothies, wraps, flatbreads, and sushi. The dressings are all made in house, and you’ll want to try the coconut milk ranch first because it’s so good you can drink it by itself. Don’t try that though. One of my favorite salads here is the The New Harvest with roasted beets, cabbage, apples, walnuts, cranberries, and goat cheese. Don’t miss out on adding extra protein – you can choose from the sweet potato chickpea cakes (to die for), marinated chicken or salmon, or a beet burger.
Sarah is a Registered Dietitian and the blogger behind Bucket List Tummy.