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Salads in the Loop – AND A GIVEAWAY

This article has been several weeks in the making. I contacted several restaurants and chains with locations in the Loop (and River North, hereafter referred to simply as “the Loop”), and all of them gave me an opportunity to try their products for free in exchange for an honest review of their salads and their establishments as a whole. After finalizing details, I went in and did my testing.

Finally, it’s time to give you an unbiased opinion on where you should be getting salads in the Loop.

Protein Bar

Salads in the Loop

Protein Bar is a favorite of many of my fit friends. With 11 Chicago locations (with exponential growth planned for the next few years), it’s not hard to find one close to work. I love that Protein Bar was the brain child of a man who wanted to do better by himself health-wise… you know you’re in good hands when that’s the genesis story of the restaurant you’re visiting.

Taste:What I like about Protein Bar is it’s “flavor profiles” that can be executed in many different forms. I’m talking about taking the same taste you’d find in an asian salad (what I got, pictured below), to a wrap, to a quinoa bowl. The salad composition is what sets Protein Bar apart from anything else on this list. Each bite contains a taste of every ingredient. It’s a perfectly chopped and blended salad. Make sure to ask for your dressing on the side – these salads are big enough for more than one meal depending on your appetite.

Salads in the Loop

Nutrition: Depending on what you’ve set your macros to (they don’t call it Protein Bar for nothing), there are multiple tasty ways to hit them. They have an extremely customizable nutrition calculator to support those goals. Salads will typically set you back around 500 calories.

Price: On the affordability scale, Protein Bar isn’t the cheapest place to get a salad in the Loop, but it’s certainly one of the highest quality salads you can get from a fast casual concept. If you’re planning on being a regular, you’d better download their loyalty app, which gives you $8 after every $88 spent (and a free smoothie on your birthday). They tend to send offers via email as well.

Freshii

Freshii is the type of chain that has cracked the code to creating an association between their brand and healthy living. I walked into the River North location pleasantly overtaken by a refreshing feeling. It’s hard to put into words, but I know you’ll feel the same when you check it out.

Salads in the Loop

Taste/Nutrition: There’s a soft spot in my heart for any salad that compliments a good cilantro-lime dressing. I got the Fiesta Salad and loved every bite. While Just Salad and Protein Bar have mastered the art of the chopped salad, Freshii has mastered the art of a fresh taste in every bite. I also tried their Kefir, which is kind of like frozen yogurt, but more nutritious. Finally, I sampled one of their green juices. It was an incredibly healthy lunch and I loved every bite! Their nutrition information isn’t quite as user-friendly as others on this list, but does exist online.

Affordability: Think along the same lines as Protein Bar.

Just Salad

Salads in the Loop

Courtesy of Just Salad team.

Just Salad is a recent Chicago addition, after finding success initially in New York. They opened with a bang, offering $1 salads and wraps on their first day. I scoped out the line and it was around the block. I decided to wait to try Just Salad in a more manageable setting.

Taste: As with many other salad providers on this list, you can opt to create your own salad creation, but should definitely give their mixes a try. These guys are salad artists. Like Protein Bar, they chop up the salad very well and you can taste all of the flavors in one bite. I got the buffalo chicken salad and several jealous stares from coworkers.

Salads in the Loop

Nutrition: Salads clock in at about 350 calories (including protein) and go up from there based on the dressing. I got a simple lemon dressing that only added 5 calories and still tasted amazing. The salads are well balanced in terms of protein to veggie ratio. Use their comprehensive and interactive nutrition calculator to drill down the specifics.

Affordability: Just Salad isn’t cheap, but they have a great special worth mentioning. Buy a reusable bowl for $1, and every time you bring it back, you get free two “Essential” toppings (veggies, fruit, grains, etc) or one free cheese topping. If you’re a regular, this will definitely add up! I think it’s an interesting take on a loyalty program that takes the environment into consideration. They also have an app to offer additional savings for loyal customers.

Cosi

Salads in the Loop

Taste: Of all the featured salads, the least amount of love went into my Cosi salad. As Cosi isn’t primarily about salads, I guess I can’t be too sour about it. And they were extremely busy even when I went in after the lunch rush. The adobo lime chicken salad didn’t have anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t as special as some of the others listed.

Nutrition: Salads ring in around 400 calories or more, but come with a side of bread. Probably not the best place to go for a healthy balanced meal. I want to go back and try one of their sandwiches or bowls and review them again. But for this scope of this article, I’ll let my review stand.

Affordability: Cosi offers a loyalty program that offers you a free meal after your 10th visit. Otherwise it’s similar pricing to any aforementioned salad restaurant on this list.

Farmer’s Fridge

I will admit to a slight bias when it comes to Farmer’s Fridge, but only because I used to work for them. That’s right, their earliest social media marketing came with help from yours truly. But as you can probably guess by now, I don’t promote any brands I can’t get behind. Farmer’s Fridge is an awesome and unique concept – it’s a salad vending machine. This is where I usually lose people. Yes. The salads are refrigerated. And replaced on a daily basis. The leftovers are donated to food pantries.

Salads in the Loop

From: Farmer’s Fridge Facebook

Taste: Farmer’s Fridge salads are arranged in layers to keep as fresh as possible throughout the day. Once you shake in the dressing and distribute the different parts, prepare yourself for a flavor blast. All the ingredients are fresh and organic, so you can enjoy your salad guilt-free (is a salad every guilty, though?). The Cheater has one of my favorite flavor profiles, but look out for their monthly special salads to keep it interesting!

Nutrition: Starting this week, each salad has updated nutritional labels! A good feature is that most salads separate dressing nutrition facts from the rest of the nutritional information, so you can weigh using theirs (you should, it’s delicious) versus your own if you’re on a super low-calorie diet. Plus, as previously mentioned, only high-quality ingredients go into each jar.

Affordability: A regular salad will cost $6-8, a protein add-on is another $2. After 6pm, all salads are $1 off, and Farmer’s Fridge tends to offer promotions over their social media channels and through their email newsletter. You can return the mason jar it comes in to the kiosk, or upcycle it. I use mine to hold jewelry, tea bags, trail mix, and granola bars.

The above represents just a sampling of the places to get salads in the Loop. I think the major takeaway is that you should try a few and pick your favorite to rack up some loyalty points. Or stay in touch with the brands that tend to offer special promotions over their own channels!

Finally, Farmer’s Fridge has generously offered a free salad as a giveaway! Enter below if you’re a Chicago resident (can’t get them anywhere else… for now), and I’ll announce the winner by June 15!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game
CheapWeek,

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game

5/11 – Cosi and Geja’s Cafe

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game

If you read last week’s #CheapWeek, You’ll know that I’ve been systematically trying the best salads the Loop has to offer for a future post. Today I went to Cosi and had their Baja salad for free! Blogging definitely has it’s perks. They sent me a few extra free entree cards, so I’ll be back soon!

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game

Today was a great day for food. Beatrix had a text offer for BOGO cookies. These things are as big as my hand (and way more delicious).

I’ve had my eye on this set of pantry organizers for awhile. They’re $100 for a set of 10 different sized containers, and I was just waiting for a good reason to pull the trigger. Even Amazon couldn’t offer a better price. Then I thought outside of the box… They have these organizers at Bed Bath & Beyond, and Bed Bath & Beyond always has 20% off coupons. Score! The moral of the story, if you’ve got your eye on a product that never goes on sale, find a place that has non-exclusionary sales.

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game

I owed my boyfriend a nice dinner out and it just so happened that a Groupon I bought for Geja’s Cafe was about to expire. After he took me to RPM Italian last week, it was only fair that I should return the favor with a romantic date night experience. The restauranteur behind Geja’s Cafe came into Groupon while I still worked there, and I was inspired by his passion for the restaurant. Anyways, we had a blast. The food was incredible. I’ve never been to a fondue restaurant before so it was a treat. The Groupon covered $65 worth of the food, and Spring Rewards kicked me back an additional $15. It would’ve been quite expensive, but careful planning made it less so.

5/12 – Postmates Panera Deal and Cemitas Puebla from DoorDash

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game

Postmates has awesome freebie deals all the time, I’m guessing, as an attempt to raise awareness for the brand and acquire new users. This week, they offered free Panera “You Pick 2” and I happen to have a lot of free delivery credits available. Lunch never tastes as good as when it’s free.

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game

I was not feeling awesome today, and was lazier than usual, so I decided to pull the trigger on checking out DoorDash. GiltCity frequently has free offers to try new companies, and I managed to score $15 off. DoorDash apparently also gives you a free $5 credit on your first order. So I got a cemita from Cemitas Puebla and some kick-ass guacamole and chips with delivery for free! My delivery guy was a little late (though nothing ridiculous), so they proactively credited my account with another $10. Great customer service, all around – I will use it again.

5/13 – Free Ubereats from DMK and Sopraffina

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game

This week was one of the best weeks for free food to date. I hope you have an account with Uber, because they’ve been sending out free promo codes for their new service, UberEats. If you haven’t heard about it yet, basically, Uber curates a menu each week with selected items from a couple restaurants each day. You might have read about how much I love DMK Restaurants – so I used my free promo on a patty melt they offered this week. Also a turkey sandwich from Sopraffina. Just paid $5 after saving $20!

5/14 – Krewella concert!

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game

So every once in awhile, something truly amazing happens. This time, it was Krewella coming to Chicago for a free show, sponsored by Pandora. But that’s not all. There was a FREE OPEN BAR. And, we left the show with a free portable phone charger. Yes, there are miracles.

Also worth noting is my second blog post for Choose Chicago went live today. Check it out of you want an in-depth look at Wine Festivals coming to Chicago this summer.

5/15 – Rest

I spent today recovering from the craziness from the rest of the week. Nothing terribly exciting happened, but it was a much needed break.

5/16 – Cubs Game

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game

One of my best friends from college came to Chicago to visit this weekend, and wanted to check out a Cubs game. It was the first one I attended of the season, and I was trying to find the best price for tickets. I ended up waiting until the last minute, when what I should’ve done was wait until a day or two before. Tickets costed $35 where I could’ve got them for $20. Oh well, live and learn. My sources tell me that since school is out, tickets will be harder to get at great prices closer to the game, so plan accordingly!

5/17 – iO Theater

#CheapWeek: Krewella, UberEats, and a Cubs Game

My beautiful best friend is making her way up in the modeling/acting/improv world and I was privileged to see her in her element. I went to see her student show at iO Theater, and it was only $5 for multiple acts of student talent. Check it out! They have good food and drink to complement the comedy.

Don’t just read about good deals – get them yourself! Find of-the-moment updates by liking Chicago Cheap Ass on Facebook.