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BITE: Underground Salad
Pay Chen discovers salad worth getting excited about in the Financial District

Anyone who says they are excited about an invitation to eat salad is probably not the most fun person in your life. I love salad…a lot. But I don’t do happy-jumpy claps because a friend texts, “how about salad?” I reserve that excitement for the text that reads, “how about pizza and fried chicken?”

I eat salad most days of the week. I like it, but mostly I know I need it. I usually make my own and, when I’m too busy (lazy) to wash and chop, I’m very fussy about where I’ll purchase a bowl of vegetables. Iceberg lettuce and grated carrot won’t do it for me if you’re charging $8. So when a friend asked me to try a new underground healthy place in the Financial District, I went because I think I am a stellar friend.

Crave Healthy Habits occupies a small spot on the concourse level at King and University. It sits next to a healthy shake place and almost kitty-corner to a food court pumping out giant plastic bowls of salad.

Owned by three young men in their 20’s, Crave was three years in the making. The menu is currently divided into hot boxes and cold boxes — most of them with a quinoa or brown rice base and a mix of vegetables and fruit. Prices average $9 and $10 for lunch.

The Golden Rhythm is a hot meal that mixes quinoa or brown rice with corn, asparagus, chicken, a dollop of Western cream cheese with a butter-lime oregano dressing. On the cold side, I try the Unagi — potatoes, smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, dill, a bit more cream cheese with roast garlic vinaigrette, and creamy Thai dressing.

Crave intentionally avoids produce with little or no nutritional value (no iceberg lettuce or celery is found on the menu) and many people who are watching their calories often do damage with the gallons of dressing heaped onto their otherwise healthy meal. Crave includes dressings on the side that allow you to control how much you use, and they also hired a chef (Chef Jono) to create healthy, low-calorie dressings.

Here’s an insider tip that’s not advertised on the menu: you can do halfsies on your lunch. You can actually mix two different salads in a bowl. That’s right, half and half.

The thing with combining two salads is you also combine the number of dressings from two salads. My friend ended up with a box of salad and four dressing containers. Our table was two salad boxes and six containers of dressing. We looked pretty high maintenance.

I’m happy to see more healthy options available downtown. For a city that’s been on a delicious fried chicken craze, some greens will ease the guilt.

Follow Crave Healthy Habits on Twitter: @CraveHealthy


Pay Chen is a TV and radio host, writer, and producer who puts a lot of things in her mouth. If you have a favourite spot in the city to share, follow her on Twitter at @PayChen.

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