New 'fast salad' restaurant brings fresh taste to the table

By Lindsey Scullen, Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 12, 2014

A new local joint is hoping to provide a healthy option in Ann Arbor.

Salads UP — a locally focused, quick salad restaurant — opened last Tuesday on East Liberty Street. Created by University alums Robert Mayer and Max Steir, the restaurant provides customers the option to choose a “signature salad” from its blackboard list or to make their own creation starting with a base of romaine, spinach, arugula or kale.

From there, they can “build it UP” by picking from a spread of ingredients, like organic dried cranberries, black beans and chickpeas.

“I hated salad before and I had to start liking it, because of this,” said LSA freshman Rachel Steir, the owner’s sister. “And now I like it. I like being able to see it and then pick and choose.”

Mayer said he and Steir saw a demand for fast, healthy food in Ann Arbor and thought they could deliver. Both are from the Northeast, and Mayer added that New York City is home to restaurants similar to Salads UP.

Because neither founder had previous restaurant experience, they consulted numerous professionals to ensure a top-notch menu and access to food that met their standards.

“We realized and felt out an obvious demand for a place where students and locals could come, in a relaxing, modern environment serving good food quickly, with health consciousness,” Mayer said. “There are all these factors that you could find, but not centralized in one location. We really thought that Ann Arbor would be an awesome place to bring something like that to.”

In addition to salads, Salads UP offers “bottoms UP” cold-pressed juices and “froyo cUP” Greek-style frozen yogurt, to which customers can add a variety of toppings.

Mayer said the business, in all of its menu items and endeavors, likes to “think locally.” The restaurant purchases all of its produce from Frog Holler Produce, an Ann Arbor-based distributor.

“Since it’s winter, a lot of the produce is out of season,” he said. “So as the seasons change we’re going to have a local list on the wall with all the farms we’re working with. The local distributor emphasizes getting from local farms whenever possible.”

In addition to local food, Salads UP’s wooden tables and interior walls were recovered from an Ann Arbor house that was torn down on Spring Street. Woodworker James Willer of Workshop Detroit built the pieces from the reclaimed wood.

In addition, Mayer said over Thanksgiving, Salads UP was able to donate 50 pounds of produce to Food Gatherers, Washtenaw County’s food rescue and food bank program working to end hunger.

“We’ve had our hands full this past grand opening week, but as we go we really want to do events with different partners in the community,” Mayer said.

Salads UP is also focused locally in another way — on University students.

“A place like this here, this is easy for college kids because it’s really fast and you can get it to go,” said LSA freshman Sadie Rutman. “And the get-it-to-go things are really good.”

Mayer and Steir graduated in 2013, which Mayer said helped them to consider what exactly students might want from a new restaurant. He added that their vision extended beyond catering to students, but also to employing them. Eight students currently work behind the counter at Salads UP, and Mayer said the restaurant is planning to hire more.

“We built this place from the perspective of what students specifically might want and enjoy because we could understand that best,” he said. “And we think that model works best when students are behind the counter, interacting with each other and serving.”

And the restaurant’s name is meant to encapsulate the atmosphere of college life.

“The name came from three weeks of lists and lists and lists, and eventually my mother actually texted me ‘Salads UP,’” Mayer said, adding that “UP” is meant to represent the restaurant’s healthy lifestyle and “youthful excitement.”

“We had a great opening week, it was a lot of fun, and busy and crazy and I think everyone enjoyed it,” Mayer said. “We’re eager to do some new things, and stay fresh, and keep people coming back.”