There’s something spry and sparkly happening at Mandy’s Salad (4927 Sherbrooke West), and it’s not just the mountain of organic veggies. The Montreal health hotspot has Montrealers going gaga for green, with daily lineups of salad devotees craving their fresh fix. From the Fave, to the Wolfe Bowl ,to the big ol’ Man Salad, these are not your average choke-it-down-because-its-good-for-you salads, or a two-weeks-until-the-beach crash plan. In an amazing feat of salad madness, Mandy’s has created veritable salad addicts, with top-to-bottom, greens-to-grains, it’s-not-a-burger-but-it’s-damn-close salad. So what’s the crisp and crunchy secret?
A short chat with Mandy and Rebecca Wolfe, the oh-so-smiley sisters behind the notorious salads, is all it takes to understand why Mandy’s out-crunches the competition. Creating a proper salad is a much more intricate task than one would imagine. “Like all delicious things,” says Mandy, “the difference is in the details.” Just how detailed can salad-making be? Just ask the Mandy’s staff, or ‘salad sorority’. Kitchen newbies are made to shadow the vets in order to master the Mandy’s method before they can delve in. First, there’s the chopping. “No one likes a huge chunk of chicken or tomato,” explains Mandy, hitting one of my major salad woes. “You need to be able to fit about five ingredients in your mouth at one time.” No knife. No awkward mouthful. No difficult to swallow broccoli trees. Next comes the tossing, a skill anyone who has had a soggy salad can appreciate. “There is definitely a technique to dressing salad,” explains Mandy. “But no one-size-fits-all formula. Some dressings are viscous. Some start out thick and will only cover a whole salad after a few minutes of tossing. An inexperienced salad-maker will be impatient and end up overdressing the salad.”
Once the salad has been perfectly prepared, there is a final, crucial step: the sticker, which has quickly become the colourful cornerstone of the Mandy’s brand. “A group of salads shouldn’t all have the same colour,” explains Rebecca. “Salad-makers know to alternate sticker colours with each salad they make.” A self-admitted perfectionist, Rebecca explains that even if three different salads are for three different customers, each should have a unique hue. “The containers look more fun on the counter that way!” But Rebecca isn’t the only one with the Mandy’s sticker obsession. “Customers will get upset if they get a salad without a sticker. Some have started requesting a particular colour.” (Pink being the cult favourite.) But no request is too grand for Mandy’s gang, who have mastered white glove salad service: create your own, keep it on file, call it in, and even have it delivered to your car!
So what’s next in Mandy-land? Hot out of the kitchen and just in time for winter are Mandy’s heavenly home-made soups, including the Geisha, an invigorating take on miso soup, the warming Taj, with a slew of knock-your socks-off spices, and my personal fave, the Bubby, complete with home-made matzo balls. (Just what the doctor ordered!) Whether you’re craving cool and clean or looking for something warm and wonderful to make it through the winter, Mandy’s eye-catching creations are sure to have you lining up for more.