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Salata's Drive-Through Makes a Great Salad ...Sometime in This Lifetime

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Does the drive-through at Salata work?

The short answer: No.

I'm a major salad-lover, so the news that the local fast casual salad chain Salata had opened a drive-through was intriguing. I'm a girl on the go. I've got places to be and people to see (and food to eat). This sounds awesome! So, I can just drive up to a window, order a fresh salad off a menu and be on my merry way in less than five minutes?

Again, the answer is no, not really.

I drove about half an hour from downtown to the new stand-alone Salata location in Westchase expecting it to be a quick trip. I did wonder how long people might sit in their cars pondering the multitude of salad ingredients without being able to actually point at a pile of mushrooms and say, "I want that." It seems as tricky as the drive-through Subway restaurant I visited once, where I got all flustered that my topping choices weren't right in front of me. I needn't have worried.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I discovered that there was no menu or call box posted outside by the drive-up window. Instead, there was a sign that said "Online orders only." Huh?

Determined to pick up a salad through a tiny window on the side of a building, I parked, got out my phone and proceeded to place an order online. The online ordering process is simple and easy, and the photos of the available ingredients are mighty enticing. When it came time to pay and choose my pickup time, I was displeased to find that orders must be placed a half hour in advance. I grudgingly accepted that I'd have to wait 30 minutes to pick up my salad even though, from what I could see, there was nary a customer in the store.

After wandering around Randalls across the street for 25 minutes, I returned to the drive-through window, excited to see how this worked and much hungrier than before. And then I waited. And waited. I turned the car off. I craned my neck to peer in the window and didn't see anyone. I checked the receipt I'd been emailed for my online order in case I'd made a mistake and the place was closed. Nope. I waited another couple of minutes. Finally, I turned the car back on, pulled into a parking space and walked inside.

"I'm here to pick up an online order," I said tentatively to the three confused-looking people behind the counter.

"Oh, there's a drive-through window for that," offered one. No shit.

I explained to her that I'd waited there, and she apologized for the inconvenience, saying that maybe they needed a bell outside. Then she and another employee put the finishing touches on my salad that must have taken an entire 30 minutes to make. There was no one else in the restaurant, so I can only assume they'd been butchering, seasoning, grilling and chopping the chicken in that time. My salad cost $11 and took 40 minutes to acquire from when I first arrived at Salata to when I left, meal in tow.

I will say this: It was a delicious salad. Everything seemed fresh, the chicken was well-seasoned and tender and the sun-dried tomato dressing almost tasted homemade. I'll go back to Salata, but next time I'll go to one closer to my office and forget the novelty of the drive-through gourmet salad.

And in the future, if having to get out of my beloved car to get a meal is the worst thing that happens to me on any given day, I'll consider myself lucky and move on.

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