Garden party

Salads at Chomp can be ordered chopped, tossed or wrapped. PHOTO/ALLISON YOUNG

Salads at Chomp can be ordered chopped, tossed or wrapped. PHOTO/ALLISON YOUNG

Chomp is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Learn more at

Built in 1933 and recently restored to highlight its art deco heyday, the old downtown post office houses a high end home furnishings store and office space upstairs, but if you’re looking for an eclectic collection of shops in a mashup of trendy design with rough brick walls and exposed infrastructure—pipes, ducts, etc.—you have to descend into The Basement.

It’s a marketplace full of locally owned shops. There’s plenty of table space and power outlets for those working on their screenplays. But there is currently just one option for food, a white-tiled, made-to-order salad and frozen yogurt bar called Chomp.

We ordered from a menu of pre-designed salads named for other downtown landmarks; you can also create your own from a large list of a la carte ingredients. Salads are available three ways, which we discovered as our youthful server rolled her eyes, heaved a sigh and asked, “Tossed, chopped or wrapped?”—very welcoming.

My buddy stuck to the basics with the Interstate Bank ($9.23), tossed with romaine lettuce, kale, cucumber, grape tomato, red onion, Kalamata olive, feta cheese, pita chips and lemon basil vinaigrette. The ingredients were fresh, the presentation was inviting, and I thought the dressing was a nice balance of herb and citrus. The only thing amiss was the substitution of Mission black olives for the Greek variety. When asked, the server shrugged and said, “Haven’t changed the menu.” That’s too bad, as the bold flavor of brined fruit would have worked better, and mention of the change would be helpful when ordering.

My wife ordered a chopped Mackay salad ($12.97) and an 8-ounce cup of soup ($6.45)—curried carrot over quinoa. Romaine, red bell pepper, grape tomato, an avocado half, red onion, shaved white cheddar and organic, roasted, free range chicken were well-coated in lime cilantro dressing. The poultry chunks were seasoned and savory, and the dressing had a lot of cilantro with a bit of a kick on the back end. After a couple of spoonfuls, we agreed the hot puree was literally not our cup of soup. The texture was OK, but the mild curry spice and sweet carrot didn’t play well with a very sharp, sour lemon note and perhaps something else hidden in the mix.

A wrapped Riverside Hotel ($13.90) was perhaps the most adventurous order—with arugula, cucumber, shredded cabbage, carrot, ginger chili grape, roasted wild salmon, super seed mix and miso tahini dressing. The wrap was huge and cut in half, allowing one to get a good look at the ingredients. At first, I thought it was definitely new and interesting, but that wore off quickly. The grapes’ flavor muddied that of the dressing, and rather than enticingly fresh chunks of salmon meat, the fish was pungent and mushy, reminiscent of cheap canned tuna. The last straw was entirely too much arugula, adding an unwelcome level of bitterness. I hate wasting food, but I couldn’t finish the second half, and no one else wanted it.

We thought about trying some of the vegan yogurt, but my heart just wasn’t in it. A nice, strong cup of joe from next door perked up our moods as we headed up the stairs, back into the light.