The salad restaurant is not a novel concept. Just look at the proliferation of chains such as Chopt, Just Salad and Sweetgreen.
But Verde isn’t just any old salad restaurant. The fast-casual weekday lunch spot, which opened in December in NoMad at 22 W. 25th St., diverges from the DIY model of most salad places in favor of “curated” greens.
“We saw how places like Sweetgreen or Dig Inn that have good healthy options, they have this customization factor, which I think works great for certain concepts, but for a salad, you really want this composed thing,” said Gonzalo Gout, previously a general manager at Cosme, who opened Verde with his childhood friend, Alejandro Porteny. “For me it was more of wanting to have people realize they can eat fantastic food that is good for them but can also taste really good.”
The menu, designed by chef Mariana Villegas, features six salads that use fresh, seasonal ingredients.
“We don’t even have a freezer — everything is as fresh as it can be,” Gout said.
With the cheapest salad coming in at $11, it’s a little pricier than most salad spots. But the end result is a meal you’d pay double for in a more fine-dining setting, Gout said.
“We’re not here to be the most affordable option in town, but here to to be the best quality of food you’ll have at that price,” he said.
Here’s what Verde’s all about:
Each salad has a different base, such as Italian frisee, spinach, rainbow Swiss chard, kale, mache (a bitter green) and the radicchio-esque castelfranco.
“We don’t think all these greens are a blank canvas — they all have a flavor in themselves that we explore in putting together with something else,” Gout said.
As is, none of the salads have typical proteins, like chicken or beef. Instead, they feature grains, nuts or seeds — think bulgur wheat, Israeli couscous, sunflower seeds or hazelnuts.
“They’re all composed salads that are delicious on their own and are hearty and filling,” Gout said.
Other ingredients used in the unique salads include winter plants like cauliflower and Romanesco, several types of mushrooms and root veggies such as carrots and beets.
“All have root vegetables in them because it’s the winter and we’re really committed to sourcing locally,” Gout said.
Verde also plans to start a big pickling and preservation program this summer for goods like concord grapes and gooseberries.
For those looking to beef up the salads, there are a handful of protein add-ons ($4-$7), including coconut shrimp ceviche, skirt steak, guajillo-hibiscus chicken and smoked arctic char “that we proudly cure in-house.”
“We do recognize that there are a lot of people that like to have their protein at every meal, so we do have proteins available for them,” Gout said.
In addition to its salad selection, Verde just launched vegetable broths, using ingredients such as mushroom stems and onions.
“It’s a play on this bone broth movement, but it’s completely vegan,” Gout said. “We’re playing around with it and having fun.”
It also plans to add fresh juices this month.
The restaurant is green in more ways than one. Verde reduces food waste by using cuts that reduce the amount of unused vegetable and repurposing discarded parts — such as for the broth.
“The broth was really born out of that,” Gout said. “Mushroom stems have so much flavor — just throwing them away at the end of the day made no sense.”
All of the restaurant’s packaging is also compostable — save for the glass bottles and beverage cans, which are recyclable.
“Nothing is wasted,” Gout said.
MORE TO COME
As the seasons change, Verde plans to add more salads that rotate out more often. For now, though, it just expanded its hours beyond just lunch, to 8 p.m. It also plans to open for breakfast at some point this year.