Since the closing of the downtown Macy’s, and thus its Skyroom salad bar, there’s been a crater-sized absence in the downtown Minneapolis lunch scene. Though it doesn’t claim to check all the boxes that the Skyroom did, Hell’s Kitchen has courageously stepped in to fill part of that crater.
All too often at restaurants, the salad bar comes off as an afterthought: The cooks set out the old lettuce at the beginning of their shift, roll the dice on some vegetables, and replace the ranch if somebody spills too much beet juice in it. Hell’s Kitchen Power Salad Bar is the polar opposite. This is 35 feet of well-groomed, carefully considered salad action.
Accompaniments like lemon and lime juice, slivered almonds, and avocado shout out, “We actually care about salad, and we’re glad you do, too.” Hell’s Kitchen’s salad bar was crafted by a salad bar enthusiast.
When we entered and proudly announced we were there for the salad bar, my friend and I were brought into the salad line (also known as the build-your-own Bloody Mary line on weekends). There we were greeted by our salad Sherpa, Justin. He broke down the prices and carefully pointed out the geography of the plentiful spread. The layout and the pricing is relatively simple. Pay $7.95 for a small container full of salad/10.95 for a large.
On the left hand side of the salad bar there are six-plus constructed salads complete with recommended dressings sitting next to each offering. On the right, a trove of ingredients, including highlights such as pomegranate seeds, corn, and roasted sweet potatoes alongside standard fare like tomatoes and cucumbers.
Proteins are pre-portioned on small plates; the first one is included and any additional proteins set you back between $1.75 and $3. Each protein plate is labeled with the price, and Justin kept an eye on us to see if we were grabbing any extra proteins. The system seems fine for a slow Monday, but trickier during peak hours when any hungry salad-fiend might abscond with an extra plate of bacon.
You can usually tell the quality of a salad bar simply by covering your eyes and asking the staff how many vinaigrette options there are. If there are zero, the salad bar is a glorified bread bar with some radishes that have been out since 2015. If there are more than three vinaigrettes, you can expect fresh vegetables, sprouts, dried cranberries, and all the other trappings of a pro salad bar.
The salad dressing options are abundant at Hell’s Kitchen and there are plenty ‘o vins. I went with a delicious curry vinaigrette, which matched up really well with the curry-spiced roasted sweet potatoes. Touches like sweet potatoes and curated salads will make this an easy salad bar to visit multiple times; chapters upon chapters await you in this choose-your-own-salad adventure.
The design, hours, and presentation of the Hell’s Kitchen Power Salad Bar are geared toward the to-go customer. It’s a smart choice for the downtown set. Once we’d gathered our greens, we were pointed to a couple of high tops and told if those spots were full we could try the Angel Food Bakery upstairs.
We found a vacant high top, but I wouldn’t have minded the option to saddle up at the bar and enjoy our salads there. Sure, maybe I’m that tiny sliver on the Venn diagram of people who like pomegranate seeds tossed in a citrus vinaigrette and want a Crown on the rocks before Judge Judy comes on, but so be it. I'm the one writing this column, so I get to be particular.
As I reflected on my visit to Hell’s Kitchen, I was left pining for a slow, boozy, “grab a clean plate and go again” salad experience. Hell’s Kitchen is very clear in all their materials that they are catering to the fast-moving lunch crowd. And no one from that set will be disappointed in the salad bar: The ingredients are fresh, the dressings are delicious, and they offer something for everyone from the adventurous quinoa-lover to the "blue cheese is too spicy" gang.
But if you’re looking for a leisurely salad bar the buffet buff dreams about, you might be better sneaking some kale in during the weekend Bloody Mary bar.
Hell’s Kitchen Power Salad Bar
80 S. Ninth St., Minneapolis
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.