Sweetgreen versus Chopt: Two near-campus salad mainstays go head-to-head

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor (left) Connor Witschonke | Staff Photographer (right)

The Kale Caesar salads from Sweetgreen ($10.95) and Chopt ($9.95) are different takes on a classic, but Chopt is your best bet.

It’s time to settle the score.

Sweetgreen, located at 2221 I St. NW, and Chopt, at 1730 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, are two mainstays in the District for veggie lovers looking to grab lunch or dinner. Both restaurants accept GWorld for payment and are conveniently located close to campus.

While these two franchises dominate the District’s salad scene, one must reign superior. To find out who comes out on top, we sampled similar menu selections at each restaurant. The verdict is in:

For the ambivalent salad beginner
Some foodies rule out having salad as a main course or don’t like the idea of paying top dollar for a bowl of leaves. The classic Caesar salad is an easy entry into tasty greens. And unlike your usual caesars, the kale Caesar variations from Sweetgreen ($10.95) and Chopt ($9.95) hardly pack on extra calories.

At Sweetgreen, their version of the dish comes with shredded kale, roasted chicken and tomatoes, all smothered with a fresh lime squeeze and Caesar dressing. Parmesan crisps and shaved parmesan both take center stage and pack cheese into this dish. The store ran out of romaine, so I substituted it with spinach. When I returned home, I realized that I was not given any roasted chicken.

The lime zest and tomato conjured the boldest flavors in the dish, giving it a fresh taste, but the reinventions did take away from the typical kale Caesar one expects. Instead of typical croutons, Sweetgreen offers parmesan crisps on top, but the crunchy pieces ended up getting soggy in the Caesar dressing.

Chopt’s take on the classic kale Caesar keeps the crunch throughout, however, and was a step up from its competitor. The salad comes decked in parmesan cheese, croutons, optional grilled chicken and Caesar dressing, all served with a mix of kale and romaine.

This iteration tasted creamier and crunchier, with its slices of grilled chicken more thoroughly mixed within the bowl. The lack of tomato and citrus, as well as the familiar crouton’s bite, made it taste like the classic Caesar I was expecting.

While Sweetgreen’s salad isn’t bad on its own, if you’re looking for a genuine Caesar that does not skimp on chicken, Chopt is your best bet.

Verdict: Chopt

For the veggie lover
If you’re a veggie lover, you have likely already scoured the menus of Sweetgreen and Chopt. For a meatless meal that remains hearty, a falafel salad is the perfect dish to fill you up. In this matchup, Sweetgreen’s hummus tahina salad ($11.50) was satisfying and delicious, while Chopt’s Mediterranean falafel salad ($9.99) fell flat.

Sweetgreen’s hummus tahina is set on a bed of romaine and shredded kale and is topped with tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, feta cheese and breadcrumbs with za’atar – a Mediterranean spice blend. Balls of herb falafel and house-made hummus are piled on top. The light cucumber tahini yogurt nestled all the ingredients together, and the hearty scoop of house-made hummus added texture and more sauce with garlicky hints.

The greens gave a crunchy and fresh base, while each topping added a different element to the salad – the tomatoes were juicy, the cucumbers gave it a crunch, the red onions added zest and the feta complimented it all with a slight saltiness.

Chopt’s salad starts with a mix of kale, broccoleaf and purple cabbage and is topped off with falafel, spicy peppers, celery and quinoa cauliflower rice, all dressed with lemon tahini dressing. I also added feta, which was an extra 99 cents, to match the Sweetgreen plate.

Unfortunately, Chopt’s attempt was underwhelming. The broccoleaf tasted slightly earthy, but I thought the combination of ingredients, like the celery, didn’t seem to fit the Mediterranean theme. Though I asked for extra dressing, the lemon tahini dressing was not discernible from the rest of the ingredients. The feta, which I added on myself, ended up being my favorite part of Chopt’s dish.

Chopt’s Mediterranean falafel was underwhelming compared to Sweetgreen’s hummus tahina packed with flavor.

Verdict: Sweetgreen

For the carnivore that converted

For the meat eater’s entry into the world of salad, both restaurants feature a chicken grain bowl topped with sauce with a kick – Sweetgreen’s chicken pesto parm bowl ($10.75) and Chopt’s chicken tinga bowl ($10.99).

Sweetgreen’s chicken pesto parm features a slew of ingredients dressed in a pesto vinaigrette, including spinach, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, chicken bites and warm quinoa.

When it comes to spice, both bowls shine. The chicken pesto parm’s standout ingredient is spicy broccoli, which complements a generous amount of hot sauce mixed into the dish. But Chopt’s chicken tinga packs the better punch, with tomato chili sauce and drizzles of “Mexican Goddess” dressing, which delivers hints of tomatillos and jalapeno peppers.

Chopt’s chicken tinga offers a spin on a classic Mexican dish, where mixed greens, quinoa, avocado, cotija cheese and tortilla chips are topped with warm shredded chicken cooked in the chili sauce. The cheese and avocado balance out the crunchy textures of the chips and veggies.

Sweetgreen’s chicken bites provided a nice texture for the bowl, but proved overall tasteless next to its spicy broccoli. But all of Chopt’s ingredients fit like puzzle pieces – and the standout chicken tinga deserves recognition.

Verdict: Chopt

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