Salad Makers, which opened last month at the Streets of Brentwood and is located between Talbots and DWS Shoes, is a healthy alternative for diners looking to enjoy tasty food without expanding their waistlines.
“All you see around here are burgers and burritos,” Akbar said. “I wanted to offer something healthier. Salads are simple and they provide nutrients that your body needs. The ingredients are fresh and the raw foods are good for you. Eating salads helps lower your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, and it helps you lose weight.”
Akbar, who has previous restaurant experience, traveled to the East Coast to check out other salad shops and glean ideas for his own place. He chatted with chefs in Napa Valley to learn more tricks of the trade for making hearty salads that are flavorful as well as nutritious.
Akbar enlisted his parents and siblings to help him run things and relies on other relatives volunteer at the restaurant when they have the time. Together they’re learning the business as they go, and if things go well, the Akbar family hopes to open a second Salad Makers in Walnut Creek.
Akbar said business improves each week as people begin to spread the word about Salad Makers. Many of his new customers discover the restaurant by chance as they walk the outdoor mall, peering through the window to see what’s inside.
“It kind of feels like a zoo sometimes,” Akbar said. “People stop and look in, trying to figure out what we’re about, or they’ll come in and look around and leave – but at least they know we’re here.
“We actually see a lot of families come in with their kids, and it’s encouraging that they’re trying to get their kids to eat healthy. You can normally tell by the look on the kids’ faces that they’re not too excited to be here, but once they see they get to make their own salad, they get into it. Kids like having the freedom to pick what they want in their salads. It’s fun to see what they ask for. Some kids ask for broccoli, which I find surprising. I never thought I’d hear a kid ask for broccoli.”
While Salad Makers offers a menu of salads such as chicken apple crisp and Greek salads, guests can customize their salad by following the five-step Salad Makers process. Customers get to pick everything from the type of lettuce to the toppings. Each salad comes with four toss-in ingredients, but you can add more for 59 cents per additional topping.
The toppings include vegetables, fruits and nuts, and Akbar encourages guests to ask for whatever they want. For example, if you don’t see apples or pears at the salad bar, they’re probably in the back refrigerator to ensure freshness.
Add a little protein to your salad – separate from the four toss-in ingredients – such as grilled chicken, bacon, beef or pepperoni, and complete your order by selecting a dressing to tie the salad together.
“The dressing is what makes the salad,” Akbar said. “Some chefs say the bread is what makes the sandwich. That’s how it is with our dressing. It gives the salad the flavor and brings everything together. Plus, we offer some of the healthiest dressings on the market, so it doesn’t take away from the nutrition of the meal.”
If you’re looking for something more than a salad, Salad Makers offers gyros, panini sandwiches and wraps on the menu. Indoor and outdoor dining, plus take-out orders, are also available.
Salad Makers, 2565 Sand Creek Road in Brentwood, is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 925-240-2835.