By Wynter Holden / Photos courtesy TruePoint Communications
In the four years since Original ChopShop opened in Old Town Scottsdale, there’s been an explosion of healthy competition nearby: Mad Greens, Salad and Go, Grabbagreen and Sam Fox’s Flower Child are just a few that come to mind. Seeing the potential for expansion, North Carolina-based investment firm Hargett Hunter Capital Partners picked up a majority stake in ChopShop in 2016. The brand has expanded into Tempe, Chandler, Queen Creek and most recently Paradise Valley, with plans to quadruple the number of locations in the next few years.
Why is Original ChopShop so successful? The brand manages to do something few other fast-casual eateries have – serve healthful fare that’s dependable, fresh and delicious. Every ChopShop features the same menu of salads, sandwiches, protein bowls, fresh juices and desserts. The farmhouse look is also consistent, with subtle tweaks in décor that align with the location’s personality. For example, downtown Chandler’s ChopShop sports a vintage bank vault door and photos of the town in various decades, while the Tempe location near Arizona State University is tucked into a quaint house with a large outdoor patio.
The newest location near Paradise Valley Mall is bright and airy, with whitewashed plank walls, trays of tiny succulents and a row of vintage cameras purchased on an antique shopping excursion. Framed black-and-white historic images show the area in its earlier incarnation as farmland. The food here is clean and refreshing, incorporating only the freshest produce. You won’t find wilted kale or brown speckled bananas unless they’re headed straight for the juicer.
Salad options range from a basic kale Caesar to beet, BBQ chicken and protein-packed kale with quinoa. The latter is a study in contrasts, its starchy quinoa pearls contrasting with tender golden raisins and crisp snap peas. Smokehouse almonds lend a strong BBQ flavor that makes this the perfect salad for a summer picnic. The beet salad is earthy, with a delightfully sour burst from Granny Smith apples, while the raw vegetable salad uses grassy avocado and tender corn kernels to offset the crunchiness of uncooked broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.
Customization is a major benefit of the ChopShop experience. Chicken, tofu, steak and shrimp can be added to salads for an upcharge. Salads can be ordered as wraps, and grilled protein bowls have several base options. Try the Thai coconut chicken with forbidden rice, a grain once reserved for Chinese emperors because it was rumored to promote longevity. Antioxidants aside, the nutty black rice makes a toothsome base for chunks of tender white chicken and crisp vegetables tossed in vegan panang curry. The rich peanut sauce has a piquant chili undercurrent that builds with every bite.
Spicy Korean beef is sticky-sweet with a spice level of about 2.5 out of 5, while the mild green curry tofu lacks the same punch. It’s best paired with sweet potato hash, which boosts the dish’s flavor profile with kale and onion. Wash the Korean beef down with a Jacked Up PB&J protein shake or the Pina-Kale-Ada, a stomach-soothing blend of banana and pineapple with vanilla-flavored protein powder. You wouldn’t even notice the fiber-filled kale inside if it weren’t for the drink’s emerald green color.
For those able to rise and shine before noon (or 2 p.m. on weekends), breakfast delivers a handful of savory treats. There’s simple toast with smashed avocado and an over easy egg augmented with a pinch of spicy red pepper. Brown rice lends heft to the scrambled eggs and veggies of the Zen bowl, while the aptly named “Cheat Day” wrap combines earthy avocado and dual meats with the sharpness of white cheddar for a morning meal that’s satisfying without leaving you overstuffed. Even better is the sunrise wrap, which improves typically bland egg whites and tomato with a hit of herbaceous avocado pesto.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, don’t fret. In addition to pastries provided by Downtown Phoenix Public Market, ChopShop offers açaí bowls and naturally flavored desserts. The tart, icy açaí bowl easily outperforms the pitaya version, as the latter (also called dragon fruit) has a strange, sweaty undertone. Both the coconut chia pudding and chocolate-mint Greek yogurt are like the bowl of butter mints at a restaurant – just enough to end a meal on a sweet note, but not fully satisfying. Instead, beeline for fresh juices like the Cold Buster with carrot and orange, or the refreshing pineapple- and cucumber-based Hydrator. That way, you’ll get the illness-fighting properties of ingredients like aloe vera and ginger with your sugary bump.
When Ryan and Caitlin Jocque unveiled the Original ChopShop concept in 2013, they filled a need. The Valley was already chock full of Mexican eateries, sushi joints and trendy “New American” places dishing up everything from gourmet burgers to deconstructed desserts. If you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight or improve your health, however, you were probably eating at home. While the Valley’s green dining scene has vastly improved since then, ChopShop remains at the top of the produce heap. The food is fresh, filling and flavorful enough to trick your brain into believing you’re not actually eating kale.