Bethany Clough

In New York, people line up for these $18 salads. Now the trend is hitting Fresno

One of the biggest restaurant trends in New York City and Los Angeles has come to Fresno: Salad.

Huh? Salad, the rabbit food for people?

Not exactly. We're not talking about the steak or kale salads that have been on sit-down restaurant menus forever, nor the tired salad bars at pizza joints that make us feel less guilty about eating all that cheesy goodness.

Instead, these are fast casual restaurants where the salad is the star of the show and totally customizable. Think of Chipotle or Pokiland, except the meal is salad. A server slides a bowl down the counter, plopping in what the customer requests, everything from quinoa to bacon.

These restaurants are exploding in bigger cities., with names like Chopt, sweetgreen and Tender Greens. It's not unusual to see customers lining up to pay $18 for a salad in Manhattan. Sometimes the restaurants are cashless – customers pay with cards or via the restaurant's app – and sometimes they serve salad in reusable bowls.

"You go to New York and there's a salad bar on every corner. Why not here?" asked Alex Everk, who owns Jugo Salad & Juice Bar, with her husband Lewis, who also owns LUXS lounge.

Jugo opened in March at Champlain Drive and Perrin Avenue. It's a few doors down from Campagnia restaurant.

And no, the salads don't cost $18. Fresno's version is tweaked to appeal to Fresno customers and sells a lot more than salads.

Jugo's salads range in price from $8.50 to $12.50, or a little more if customers request $1 premium toppings such as avocado, hard-boiled egg or cheese.

Jugo (pronounced WHO-go, it's Spanish for juice) also sells fresh cold-pressed juices, smoothies, oatmeal, and acai and pitaya bowls. (Those last two are fruits – acai is a berry, pitaya is also known as dragon fruit – that are blended into a base that's topped with more fruit, nuts and other toppings.)

The salads are huge, served in 32-ounce bowls.

Sometimes people fuss about the price, but then they see the final product, Everk said.

"Once they try it, they get it," she said. "I think there's a stigma that salads (are) not going to be filling."

Customers can build their own salad or pick from six salads on the menu. There are eight dressings, which are made on site, and five proteins to choose from (ranging from tri-tip to tofu).

The most popular salad on the menu: The "syde chick," made with grilled chicken, romaine, avocado, goat cheese, tortilla chips, Jugo hot sauce and cilantro-lime vinaigrette.

Juicing is also a big part of the business.

Jugo gives out samples of the juices, with full bottles selling for $7.50 or $8. The juices are cold-pressed on site.

They range from fruity juices to vegetable-packed ones. The popular "blk majik wellness tonic," is made with lemon, apple, ginger, charcoal, agave and spring water and is black in color.

Jugo is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 7 a.m. to 6 p .m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough
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