Tom tries it: NCC salad showdown

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With the opening of Au Bon Pain on campus, I felt it was time to do a comparison of the options that students have for dining. For this week, I decided to see what salad options students have. On the menu are the Southwest Chicken Salad from the brand new Au Bon Pain and the Southwest Chipotle Chicken Salad from the recently relocated Freshens. Lettuce dive in.

Au Bon Pain 

Complete with a beautiful segmented presentation, an anything but belt-busting 350 calorie count (add 80-160 calories depending on your dressing choice) and a price tag of $8.47, Au Bon Pain’s Southwest Chicken Salad seems fairly balanced in all aspects. 

Photo by Tom Miller

Stunningly divided on a bed of fresh lettuce are tender pieces of chipotle seasoned chicken; fresh, thick cut avocado; beautifully charred corn kernels; juicy cucumbers; black beans; tomato wedges and an optional packet of crispy tortilla strips. The amount of time (and chicken) that appeared to have gone into this pre-made salad seemed astounding. While I opted for the tart and tangy Lite Citrus Lime Vinaigrette (at 150 calories), Au Bon Pain has a selection of about 10 other dressings for diners to pick from.

All in all, Au Bon Pain delivered on everything that could have been expected from them: a nice healthy lunch or dinner option at a fair price with very high-quality ingredients—however, the fact that swipes are only accepted for certain menu items may be a deterrent to some. All things considered, I give Au Bon Pain’s Southwest Chicken Salad a rating of four out of five swipes.

Freshens 

Upon my arrival at Freshens I walked up to order their freshly made Southwest Chipotle Chicken Salad—immediately after which, the attendant leaned out over the salad bar to look at the menu. Warning lights began to go off in my head… did she not know the menu items?

Photo by Tom Miller

I walked over to the cashier and paid while I waited for my salad; what was handed to me after payment can only be described as an abomination. It was nothing other than Freshens’ signature 560 calorie, $8.69, mayonnaise-drenched, cheese, lettuce and chicken salad. Now don’t get me wrong there was a plus side here, if only one: this salad had red onions! Freshens’ Southwest Chipotle Chicken Salad didn’t even have pre-seasoned chicken, the chipotle came solely from the thick, overly sweet, mayonnaise-based dressing in which the entire salad was tossed.

Freshens’ salad was chock full of canned corn, an ungodly amount of processed cheese, far too many black beans and highly suspect lettuce. While this salad offered none of the positives of Au Bon Pain’s salad: avocado, high-quality vegetables or crispy tortilla strips; it came with all of the negatives: 210 more calories, a higher price tag (albeit only 12 more cents) and absolutely none of the eye appeal. Freshens may be more convenient for students on the south side of campus but the walk to Au Bon Pain is absolutely worth it. Freshens should be happy with their one swipe out of five.

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