A year or two back, it seemed like salad related places were sprouting up across Changzhou. It was likely a fad, and like all trends, the sudden spread of salad shops came to an end. For a while, it seemed like Max and Salad was one of the casualties. It used to be located in the basement of downtown’s Injoy Plaza. Then, one day, there was a lock on the door. It’s a typical restaurant closure — one day it was serving patrons, and the next it wasn’t.
A few weeks ago, I discovered that it hadn’t really gone away. It was simply relocating to a smaller, cheaper space on the exterior of Laimeng. The difference between this place and, let’s say, Eco or Evergreen, is that this is a true salad bar where you can pick your ingredients.
The set up is the same as before. You choose what you want by grabbing tokens that correspond with ingredients on display. These tokens have internal RFID chips inside. Once you have made your selections, you hand your pile of tokens to the cashier. She runs them over a scanner, and an order for your own, special, unique salad is generated. Obviously, you pay after that. The other places have set menus. They are good, but they do not allow you to indulge in whatever whims you may have in created something personalized. The other thing is this: Evergreen is a locally owned, and Max and Salad is a chain with locations in other Chinese cities. Either way, some vegetarians and vegans might be glad to know one of their dining options didn’t exactly just go away for good.
As stated earlier, this is on the exterior of Laimeng and on a side street that is very close to Nandajie. It’s not that far from where the old Base Bar used to be, and the Band of Brothers DVD shop is across the street.
Vegetarians may have one less dining option in Changzhou. Green Salad was one of three actual salad bars in the city where a patron could pick and choose their own ingredients. The other two were Salad Stuff in Xinbei and Max and Salad in the basement of Zhonglou’s Injoy shopping mall. Most of the other salad eateries in Changzhou are menu orientated or strictly for delivery.
It usually is sad to see a western-friendly eatery disappear. But some of the people who ate at Green Salad could possibly understand how it could have gone under. Every time I went there, the tables were empty. No customers equals no profit. Quite often, I ordered a salad and the prep cook added stuff I didn’t ask for. The menu had lots of really bad Chinglish that made it hard to comprehend, and some of the prices per portion size were too high for something skimpy. For example, a few RMB for two slices of tomato. However, perhaps the biggest thing could have been competition. For a time, Green Salad was the only salad bar downtown. It’s closest competitor was near the media tower in Xinbei. However, Max and Salad opened less than a city block away, and Green Salad was clearly of lesser quality. Also, Eco — a menu orientated salad place — relocated from Wujin to across the street from Injoy. If you have three salad places clustered together, the nature of business suggests one of them will likely not last.
Some people have told me that salad bars are all over Changzhou, and recently, armed with Baidu Maps and the characters 沙拉 shālā, I started to hunt down these other salad places. Turns out, many of them are not salad bars in the real sense — they are small little holes in the wall that pretty much cater to Meituan and other Chinese food delivery apps. These are not places where the ingredients are on full display and a patron can pick what they want.
So far, I’ve found and enjoyed Salad Stuff in Xinbei, but recently, I found a new actual salad bar. While I don’t think the place is as good as Salad Stuff, there are a few things going for it. First, Green Salad is in a really good location — Yangliu Alley just off of Yanling Road in Changzhou’s city center. The Zhonglou Injoy Mall and Bar Street are not that far away. The selection of both meat and vegetables is very good. You can choose between chicken, duck, pepper beef, steak, seafood, and more. They have the standard set of veggies and dressings to choose from. While this is a salad bar, they also make money through delivery apps. A friend used to order lunch from here without many complaints.
While that is well and nice, there are a few things that are drawbacks here. My biggest problem with the place is their printed ordering menu. When you come in, you are supposed to grab it and tick off your ingredient choices. This menu is riddled with English language errors that are utterly confusing. For example, “Mixed Greens” is beneath the Chinese characters for “cucumber.” That’s just one example of many. Plus, something oddly named “screw powder” is also on the menu. Another issue is pricing. If you pick “tomato” you are only rewarded with a few meager slices, which seems unfair seeing that you could buy a whole tomato for what you are being charged.
This place is fairly new, and it has been open for about two months now. So, while there is some room for improvement, it’s good to have another option — especially if you are downtown and don’t have the time to go to the salad bar in Xinbei.
The name “Italian Duck Salad” strikes me as a little odd. Being half Italian-American, it is something I have never, ever heard about growing up. It’s never been mentioned in conversation with Italians, either. Duck is a meat I have seen more of in China than in the USA or Europe in general. When I saw this on a menu in Hutang section of Wujin, I was a bit perplexed. So, I ordered it.
This was at Eco, a new salad specialty place in the Grand Metropolis Mall. This is the part of the Golden Eagle center that didn’t shut down once Golden Eagle exited Wujin. For another point of reference, RT Mart shares the same premises. Eco is on the upper most floor and in the Spade Street thematic area. But enough of that. Was the salad any good?
Apart from the weird name, yes. The only thing remotely Italian here may have been the rotini pasta noodles and the dressing. The rest was a mix of greens, tomatoes, and corn. Oh, and there was the duck meat. It was served tender and cold, which suited the salad nicely. The more important question would be: would I order it again? Yes, I would.
Places like this are important for Hutang. There are not a lot of options in the area beyond Jagerwirt, Kaffa, and others. This is often something that people in Xinbei take for granted. I know this because of having lived in Wujin for two years. So, whenever a new place like this opens, it feels like a major event. Try the place out. The ingredients are fresh and low in sodium. The menu has pictures and is in English. The manager also has excellent English skills.
So, a friend of mine recently told me, with much excitement, that there was a new place to get ready-made sandwiches in downtown Changzhou. And since I like a good sandwich, I felt the need to check it out. The place turned out to be Paris Baguette, and while sounds extremely French, it’s actually a Korean chain that specializes in French style baked goods.
The place offers a lot of tempting sweet things in display cases. There is also an open-air refrigerated unit also showcases a variety of wrapped sandwiches and boxed salads. I opted for a sandwich and a salad. The sandwich — with sincere apologies to my friend — left me unimpressed. I just won’t get into it. The salad, on the other hand, was okay.
But let me qualify that “okay,” these salads are better than Starbucks. The city center has like six Starbucks, and all of them serve takeaway salads. Those usually seem relatively skimpy. For example, the pepper beef one his like two rubbery slices of meat and a lot of lettuce. At least, the last one of those I had was like that. Paris Baguette’s salads seemed a little bit better.
However, let’s be real for a moment. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, than these salads are simply not for you. The might just be another frustrating example of how Changzhou doesn’t have a lot to satisfy particular dietary needs. The one I had featured bits of shredded chicken and Chinese bacon. The other option had cheese in it. As for me, it’s just fast food salad on the go; and sometimes I find that appealing. It’s better option than McDonalds or Burger King when you do not have a lot of time.
As for the lackluster sandwich, I will return someday and try a different one. The location is selling-point convenient, however. It’s on Beidajie 北大街, near the Luqiao Market and the New Century department store. That means its across the Yanling Road from Nandajie.