There are terrible names to give your restaurant and then there’s That Salad Place. It produces the same reaction of embarrassment and silent laughs that one might have when your friend tells you they named their newborn child Apple. Fortunately, after you say the name about a hundred times in your head it starts to grow on you, and the same can be said for their food.
Situated in the old Erbert and Gerbert’s location, That Salad Place shines as something just offbeat enough to attract the lunch-going crowds in a downtown La Crosse weary from one too many grills and pizza joints. Inside you’ll find a kitchen/serving area that looks much the same as before but with a new, questionable paint job and more seating. That’s about the full extent of the changes one can gleam from a casual look around the place. But what they lack in a flair for looks, they more than make up for in the menu and its flexibility.
The idea of creating your own dishes from a list of ingredients provided is nothing new, and everything that That Salad Place serves has been done before. This can’t be refuted. But their ingredients are fresh and crisp, the sandwiches are made rather than reheated, and the soup is quality. If you choose to create your own salad, you get a wide selection of toppings, dressings, meats and lettuce to choose from, as well as a list of classic salads if all those options hurt your brain. As a complement to your salad, you can also choose from a solid selection of wraps and paninis to round out your meal.
My meal consisted of a traditional cobb salad and a ham and cheddar panini, and both were pleasant surprises. The cobb salad was all hard-boiled eggs and bleu cheese, of course, but all of the ingredients were fresh, which is of the utmost importance when 75 percent of your menu is salads. Covering those fresh ingredients was a light, thin ranch dressing that was mixed with the salad rather than poured on top, which was a welcome addition in a world where salads tend to drown in their dressings. As a compliment to that salad, the ham and cheddar panini worked well. Though I put little thought into it at the time, I imagine that one could pair their salad, panini and wrap menus together to get several complimentary combinations. The panini itself was served hot and freshly made, with melting cheddar oozing over thickly sliced deli ham between whole grain wheat bread. Again, as with the salads, though the sandwich itself was competently prepared, the quality of the ingredients were what made it stand out.
When viewed through separate lenses, nothing on the menu at That Salad Place is new or all that exciting. Anybody can make a salad, grill a panini or throw some stuff in a wrap. What they do so well lies within the execution of the meals, the flexible nature of the menu, and the quality of their ingredients. All of which makes That Salad Place a new and genuinely surprising lunch destination in the city.