Inside Portland's New Chopped-to-Order Salad Bar Crisp

The North Williams restaurant mixes up Portland's salad bar offerings with a dozen signature salads, choose-your-own additions, panini and soups—plus beer and wine.

By Allison Jones September 23, 2015

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Image: Allison Jones

The salad bar revolution has reached PDX. Garden Bar seems to be adding a new cafe every week, and newcomers are arriving to challenge GB's leafy crown. The newest contender? Crisp on North Williams, which opened at the end of August and takes things to the next level with a few exciting elements that will win over any kind of eater.

Thanks to owner Emma Dye, the corner space once home to the Kenny & Zukes Deli Bar (and Pix Patisserie's outpost before that) has gotten a radical makeover, with black and white walls, modern lighting, a rainbow of mock salad dressing bottles, and bright red seating for 40 (with more tables outside for sunny days). "I first visited a similar restaurant in NYC in 2013—they have several!—and I couldn’t believe we didn’t even have one chopped-to-order salad restaurant in Portland," explains Dye. Why North Williams? "We really saw a gap between the growing population and the number of healthy, affordable restaurant options in the neighborhood. It’s already a great area and it’s only getting better!"

We spotlight 5 things that separate Crisp from the other salad bar offerings in town.

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Image: Allison Jones

The Mezzaluna makes every bite a winner: "I hate eating salads with big chunks—a whole leaf of lettuce, a too-big cherry tomato, a full strip of chicken," explains Dye, who believes chopping the salads to order gets a bit of the good stuff on every forkful. Crisp's salad mavens behind the counter ask each diner if they'd like their salads chopped fine, medium, or chunky before going to town with the curved blade.

There are TONS of options—and you can sample anything: Can't choose between salad dressings? Try all three! Never sampled fried chicken skin? Nibble before you commit. Diners can sample everything from the soup and greens to any of the long list of 50+ add-ins. Bonus: There are plenty of options for gluten-free and vegan eaters, from polenta croutons and nut-based parmesan to gluten-free bread and vegan caesar dressing. "So many of my friends are trying Paleo, Whole 30, or are avoiding dairy and/or gluten whether due to allergies or personal choice. We like options and figure our guests would, too," shares Dye.

There are a dozen signature salads, and you can further customize each one: If you don't feel like wading through all the options, check out Crisp's signature salad like the NoPo (smoked salmon, hazelnuts, quinoa, hemp seeds, dried cranberries, artisan goat cheese, and marionberry dressing), the Power to the Pig (cabbage, iceberg, chili-braised Carlton Farms pork belly, roasted corn, apple, fried garnet yam, Carlton Farms smoked bacon, sweet and spicy roasted pecans with creamy slaw dressing), or the Vegan Caesar with Dino kale, pan-seared tempeh, vegan parmesan, crispy chickpeas, and polenta croutons). "Most days I try to eat a plant based diet, so our Vegan Cesar is a go-to for me," adds Dye. See an ingredient you'd like to swap out? You can choose a different protein or swap out ingredients to your heart's content. Lighter appetite? Anyone can order the smaller "kids" size, no ID required.

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In the family: Crisp's interior was designed by Lisa Dye, the cousin of Emma Dye's husband

Image: Allison Jones

You can make it a date night (or morning) with beer and wine: A full liquor license brings Northwest wine and beer on tap, in addition to kombucha and Stumptown cold brew. Cocktails are also in the works. "We will have OJ and grapefruit for screwdrivers and greyhounds," hints Dye, "along with tequila for our Bloody Maria bar complete with bloody mary mix, pickled veggies, and juices."

They know that sometimes you're hungry for more than a salad: In addition to the chopped-to-order greens, Crisp also offers a menu of panini and hot soups—like Creamy Chicken and Roasted Mushroom or the Smokey & the Bandit (smoked gouda, cheddar and chipotle cream)—for those chilly Portland days when raw kale just won't cut it. "I have a vision in my head of a woman who is vegetarian ‘dragging’ her meat loving significant other to our restaurant only to have him happily discover that he can have a steak panini and a beer at our ‘salad joint’" shares Dye. "Makes me smile picturing that!"

Crisp Salad Bar
3901 N Williams

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