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The Daily Illini

Salad Meister brings more healthy food options to campus

Emma Palatnik, Assistant features editor

Campustown is full of fast-food restaurants, but a new, healthier option is opening up next week — Salad Meister.

The restaurant is located at 601 S. Third St., between Latea and Ozu Ramen. It will be open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Items on the restaurant’s menu are under $10 and can be prepared in two minutes or less.

Robert Meister, the restaurant’s owner, said he uses high quality ingredients that many restaurant chains don’t.

“The quality of chicken that we’re getting is a free-range organic chicken that gets no hormones of any kind,” Meister said. “A lot of the greens and vegetables that we’re getting are all organic. None of them have any GMOs, very little pesticide use and a lot of those things that add up.”

Meister designed the restaurant so that everything is either recycled, recyclable or biodegradable.

“Our soup cups are literally recycled plastic bottles that are turned into a biodegradable material,” Meister said. “And our salad containers themselves are 100 percent biodegradable. So if you literally threw it outside, it would biodegrade in under 120 days.”

Mia Webster, freshman in AHS,     works at Salad Meister. She said the restaurant has a very small footprint in causing the buildup of trash in landfills.

“As a generation, we need to be conscious of the fact that we’re running out of space for waste,” Webster said.

Customers can build their own salad or wrap for $8.19 or select one of the signature salads and wraps like the “Hail Caesar” and “Asian Zing” for varying prices.

There are 14 different dressings and some have unique twists, like; bacon honey mustard, cranberry citrus, roasted red pepper and garlic and chianti basil vinaigrette.

General manager Brett Lehmann joined Salad Meister because of the unique idea.

“It struck me as odd when I started thinking about how there really isn’t a place to go build a salad or a wrap except for a grocery store,” Lehmann said.

“But if you go to a grocery store, they do it by weight and you end up paying 15, 16, 20 bucks for a salad.”

Lehmann said there are the build-your-own salad or wrap places like Freshii or Choppe, but they haven’t moved into the college markets yet.

When Meister was in college, he had his own struggles finding healthy food for an affordable price.

Since he was paying out of his own pocket, at the end of every semester he found himself without any money left and went three or four days without fresh food.

He said his personal experiences were part of his motivation for creating the restaurant.

“Healthy food is fairly frequent, but it’s usually expensive and it doesn’t usually taste that good,” Meister said.

“So we’ve used things in our dressings like agave nectar and fresh honey that are things that aren’t concentrated sugars that are bad for you.

So that creates a good flavor without having a negative impact on your health.”

Webster said although the restaurant’s prices may seem expensive, they’re about the same as going anywhere else on Green Street.

“And honestly whenever I go out to eat, even for lunch from something at Chipotle or Panera, it ends up being about that price when you add it all up,” Webster said. “And if anything, the salad is a pretty big portion.”

Starting in June, the business will offer delivery so anyone off-campus with a time or travel constraint can have Salad Meister come to them.

The restaurant is launching their own app with delivery and pre-order options, so a student with 10 minutes to eat in between classes can order a grilled chicken Caesar wrap right as they leave and have it ready to go before they even get to Salad Meister.

The restaurant will have their staple items and signature salads year round, but they plan to introduce seasonal specialty items.

Salad Meister is having  its soft open next week.

Facebook page followers will be invited for a half-priced menu.

The grand opening will be either late next week or the first week in May.

They are planning a four-day event with DJs, special lighting and free tastes of menu items.

The restaurant is not stopping in Champaign.

They have plans to grow and expand to other college markets in Illinois as well as across the country.

Every Salad Meister will have its own identity depending on what territory it is in.

Lehmann said he can’t wait until they open more stores and hopefully franchise the restaurant.

“This is the first of its kind. Hopefully it’s going to grow into a company that will never sacrifice its integrity, and as it evolves, so will the menu,” Lehmann said.

“If someone franchises out in Florida, they’ll most likely have grilled shrimp and grouper on the menu because they’re on the coast. But the concept, the design, everything will be the same.”

With its extensive menu options, Salad Meister aims to appease every customer’s appetite.

“This place, it’s not pretentious. It’s welcome to everyone, and anyone can come in here and find something they like,” Lehmann said. “Vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, which I am, and carnivores. We’ve got something for everyone.”

emmacp2@dailyillini.com

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