MAD Greens is all about the quickies, what, the quickies, what
As the meat-eating members of the Simpsons once taunted Lisa: “You don’t win friends with salad.” But MAD Greens is giving it a shot.
The Colorado chain has been slinging spinach since 2004, steadily growing from a single saladteria in Denver to a dozen locations statewide, with company owners saying they are looking to open as many as 50 more outlets in the next five years. MAD Greens may not be winning friends by The Simpsons’ metric, but it’s certainly influencing people. There are two locations in Boulder, one on the University of Colorado Boulder campus and another in the 29th Street Mall. Both are part of the growing trend of restaurants that combine the rapid-service model with higher-quality preparation and ingredients, with company founders saying on the eatery’s website that they built their practices around the idea of a 20-minute lunch. MAD Greens even locally sources many ingredients and list their origins both on their website and on a whiteboard in the restaurant. That’s something you certainly don’t get with McDonald’s.
The layout for the 29th Street location is similar to a Subway, with salad artists tossing on command. Preexisting recipes are available, all named after famous weirdos like Edgar Allan Poe, Crazy Ivan and Ty Cobb, or you can build your own.
The Don Quixote I ordered ($6.85 small, $7.50 large) came with baby greens, mango and avocado tossed with roasted corn and jack cheese. As per the menu’s suggestions, I went with the creamy ginger dressing and added southwestern grilled chicken. Like most salads: it tasted like the sum of its ingredients. But since those ingredients were all good, then everything worked out.
I added a cup of the daily soup (green chili), and a cookie. It was a rich enough green chili, though not an epically spicy one — “salad people,” amiright or amiright? — but at the end I was still a bit hungry (#SaladProblems, amiright or amiright?), and resolved that on a return trip I’d augment MAD Greens’ greens with a MAD panini in order to avoid leaving MAD Greens hangry, or, you know, “mad.”
The panini menu continues on the famous lunatic theme, though some of the choices’ nuttiness may be overstated. Mona Lisa (pesto, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, balsamic and onion)? Was she even a person or DaVinci in drag? Marilyn Monroe (turkey, sun dried tomatoes, cucumbers, goat cheese and pesto)? Since when is one crazy for starring in Some Like it Hot, and lapdancing a Kennedy? Veggie Hamlet (portobellos, jack, artichokes and red onions) works though. Seriously, suck it up Hambone. You’re the Prince of Denmark. Show some dignity or else you’ll end up with a sandwich named after you. Thankfully, none of the veggies on that sandwich are rotten. You know, because “something was rotten in the state of Denmark”? Anybody? No? Shoot... (#FoodWriterProblems.)
My dining companion went for the MAD Molly Brown, with mozzarella, tomatoes and grilled sweet onions on spinach. True to legend, it didn’t sink in either of our stomachs.
Like most rapid-service establishments, the restaurant’s interior is a bit sterile, designed for efficiency of cleaning more than ambiance. But it’s by no means uncomfortable, and the elevated patio features a stellar view of the flatirons. So sit outside if you’re feeling as mopey as a certain emo Prince.
MAD Greens isn’t perfect — few places are — but it’s focus on combining the efficiency and pricing of fast food with the taste, health and sustainability elements of the foodie movement is exactly what chain restaurants need more of. Maybe you can win friends with salad after all.