Mad Greens comes up maddeningly short in Cherry Creek
I learned about Mad Greens, the Denver-based, salad-serving fast-casual chain shortly after I moved to Denver. I spotted one of the stores on the 16th Street Mall, and figured the eatery catered to on-the-go, single health nuts and people who made lunch dates for reasons other than eating. So naturally, I passed it by.
J. Wohletz The Crazy Ivan salad at Mad Greens.
But one day recently, I finally stopped in at the Mad Greens location in Cherry Creek. I won't make that mistake again.
Mad Greens was planted in the south suburbs -- the first location was near Park Meadows Mall -- in 2004 by business partners Marley Hodgson and Dan Long. There are currently eleven locations along the Front Range, with out-of-state expansion plans that have yet to sprout.
J. Wohletz The Ty Cobb salad at Mad Greens.
The concept behind Mad Greens isn't bad: quick-fast-in-a-hurry, healthy meals offered in a clean-but-spartan environment should appeal to a decent-sized demographic of young, hip, health-conscious (there are vegan and vegetarian options) urban diners. But how this concept plays out in real life is maddening.
When I walked into the store during a post-lunch lull, the place was hideously unclean. Almost all the tables were dirty, and there were wadded napkins, bits of croutons and lettuce scattered on the tables, the chairs, the benches and the floors. Except for two employees manning the counter, the restaurant was deserted.
The menu features every conceivable salad combination, as well as a CYO salad for folks who want what they want but want someone else to craft it for them -- cool and convenient. The list of available proteins includes marinated grilled or crispy chicken, marinated tuna, portobello mushrooms and tofu, flank steak and salmon -- all for a $2 to $3 upcharge. You can top the salad with dressings ranging from the standard ranch/bleu cheese/Italian/French lot to lemon-curry, cherry vinaigrette, horseradish ranch, roasted red pepper and sherry-molasses vinaigrette. Toppings are the usual suspects, plus quite a few fresh choices like cannellini beans, mangoes, sugar snap peas, pears, edamame and couscous with dried fruit.
I ordered a big Crazy Ivan salad with baby greens, roasted beets, pumpkin seeds, house croutons and goat cheese, and added portobello mushrooms with sherry-molasses vinaigrette, as well as a regular-sized Ty Cobb with romaine lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, bacon, red onion and eggs, with bleu cheese dressing, and added salmon, with bleu cheese dressing. And I went for a small bowl of Italian wedding soup -- the de jour for that day.