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On Greenville Avenue, Crisp Salad Company and the Rise of the Fast-Casual Veg

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There's a dichotomy brewing among fast-casual restaurants. Burger places have enjoyed decades of dominance, and continue to expand in a market as saturated as their overwhelmed burger buns. If a new strip mall arises, there stands a good chance that a burger restaurant will take at least one of the storefronts. There are, however, tender shoots sprouting up from the endless swath of ground meat and grease. The salad restaurants are taking root. And they're growing.

The latest to sprout up is Crisp Salad Company, which opened late last year on Greenville Avenue. Owner Blaine Duhe conceived the idea after a long stint at Raising Canes, where he worked on team that opened new stores. Duhe traveled the country learning the mechanics of building a restaurant from the ground up while his patience for bubbling oil and chicken parts waned. It's no wonder that he broke out on his own to open a restaurant that deals in fresh vegetables.

Duhe spent some time honing his concept with his investors while looking at similar restaurants around the country. Sweet Green, a restaurant that got started in Washington D.C., was a particularly strong influence, he said. Sweet Green got its start in Dupont Circle, offering casual, healthy food based on seasonal ingredients. They now have more than 20 locations.

"Our focus is on building the concept," said Duhe, when asked if more Crisp Salad Locations could be expected in Dallas soon. He says he is focusing on perfecting his first location before he thinks about expanding. "We want to be the best."

When you step into line, the menu at Crisp offers you three basic options. The preconfigured salads run the gamut, from the truly healthy super food with quinoa and spinach to the buffalo chicken salad that stretches the definitions of healthy to include blue cheese and ranch dressing. There are specials salads that change according to Duhe's whim, and there is the treacherous build-your-own option -- picture Yumalicious but with radishes -- that turns your appetite loose on an endless array of toppings and nearly 30 dressings.

Once your options have been configured, they're dumped on a plastic cutting board and then given the once over with a mezzaluna. The curved blade with two handles makes short work of mincing herbs, but it crushes and bruises tender lettuce leaves. Opt out of this step, or your salad will not be photogenic.

But don't opt out of Crisp entirely. As Duhe points out, you don't have to eat like a rabbit all the time. Enjoy a healthy meal now and then, and when you're in the mood for a burger at the burger restaurant that opened across the street while you were reading this article, splurge. Get the bacon, an egg and cheese. Crisp will be waiting.

Crisp Salad Company, 2020 Greenville Ave., 214-821-2467, crispsaladco.com

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