Unraveling Midtown’s Salad Pricing Conspiracy

In Midtown Manhattan, the streets are paved with Make Your Own Salad cafes. A delicious and affordable lunch option, you might think. Seven Different Iterations of Cubed Chicken, pile it on. All of the cheese, gimme. (Avoid the avocado, it’s priced like albino Russian sturgeon egg$.)

But in Midtown, no matter how big the “$7.00 for any toppings you want!” sign is, they always turn out to be at least $10. WHY, HOW. What am I doing wrong here?  When I first moved to New York my higher-up coworkers asked me for my main impression of the big city. There was only one thing to say: “The salads! They’re like $10!” They did not understand why that was a Thing for me, but they were also not working for an entry-level hourly wage (which, by the way, came out to about three avocados per hour). I have been here one year, and the $10 salad continues to throw me for a loop. Midtown salads: Why so pricey? SOME THEORIES.

1.  The salads’ proximity to such hallowed New York City landmarks as The Chrysler Building, The Empire State Building, and the Seizure-Inducing Toys’R’Us in Times Square. Is there a FUN TAX added to all consumables purchased here?

2.  Tortilla strips!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 

3. The price of the “GRAB 1 FREE THING OF THESE BAGEL CHIPS WE MAKE OUT OF STALE AND OVERCOOKED BAGELS” bin that sits beside the cash register must be built into the salad costs. There’s no way anything so nice as bagel chips could just be given away for free! Especially in NEW YORK, where all other variations of crunchy carbohydrate cost $3 or more!

4. One might argue that the health benefits of scarfing down a bowl of raw vegetables for lunch would be worth the high price tag. These benefits are negated by the part where the guy asks me what I want in my salad and I go, “Cheddar, Mozzerella, Eggs, Pasta, Fried Chicken, Ranch. Oh! And a donut! Yeah, man! Throw that donut in there! Tortilla strips.”

5.  I literally don’t know. I don’t know why salads cost so much money! Does anyone know? People who don’t live in NYC? Salad costs? How are those in the midwest? The plains? What’s a salad going for in Seattle? I still have no idea where Ohio is on a map. How much for salads there?

6. Novelty tax for the memories of hangin’ with your study group in the student union during college where Make Your Own Salad bar was a daily ritual and you paid for it with fake money that came out of a card that your parents remotely refilled while loving you unfailingly.


Lauren Rodrigue lives in Brooklyn. PHOTO MONTAGE of WOMEN LAUGHING ALONE WITH SALAD courtesy THE HAIRPIN.


26 Comments / Post A Comment

Megano! (#124)

Yeah, it’s definitely cuz the rent is really high in those parts of town, and the people who work there can afford it.


worstkase (#1,000)

Spendy midtown lunch conspiracy extends to liquid fiber as well. Not pictured: The $7 medium split pea soup I got for lunch yesterday. It’s just vegetables! Pureed! And heated! WHY SO MANY DOLLARS?

Overpriced avocado is what drove me away from Midtown salad. What’s the point of the salad otherwise?

Not only that, but in midtown they try to charge you $3 for a Snapple! $3 FOR A SNAPPLE! Whaaaaaaaaat!

DickensianCat (#971)

Hmm, maybe as far as NYC goes it’s just a Midtown thing? I work in Chelsea and have a great salad place that charges about $7.60 for a salad provided you stick to five toppings plus the dressing of your choice (and the one day I accidentally ordered six toppings, the price rocketed up to over $10, so I’ll never make that mistake again). Still pricey, but better than the Whole Foods salad bar where “eyeballing it” never, ever works and you are lucky if your salad comes to just $10 and not $13-$14–insanity.

wearitcounts (#772)

i got a team of salad enthusiasts together at work. every week we bring in boxes of field greens, grape/cherry tomatoes, onions, peppers, radishes, eggs, tuna, etc., and we keep cider vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard and hot sauce on premises to make vinaigrette, and we all just make our own salads at lunch. it’s so much cheaper and also delicious.

Kate (#1,408)

@wearitcounts do you work in heaven?

wearitcounts (#772)

@Kate hahaha no, far from it–i work in higher ed. but we have a full-size fridge in our kitchen, so. trade-off.

City_Dater (#565)

I work in midtown, and there are several salad places where it is pretty easy to get a salad for less than $10, as long as you stay out of any place that looks like it’s there for the Times Square tourists who expect overcharging to be part of their New York Experience and don’t want a pile of meat and cheese sitting on a tiny heap of lettuce (most places charge more for that stuff; the “$7 salad” sign usually has an asterisk).

Well apparently avocado prices have gone up a lot. From about $28 a carton to $50 a carton. So, about a dollar per avocado.

cliuless (#36)

i had a great salad from the salad bar at the Bed, Bath, and Beyond on 19th and 6th. i’m pretty sure it was under $10.

The salad place in the building next to mine in downtown Denver pulls the exact same trickery! $6.95 for a do-it-yourself, and it is *alakazam* never less than $10.13. There’s a few more clones throughout downtown, but the other Denver option is a reasonably priced salad that comes with a 2-lb. side of steak & potatoes, so I just visualize things I’m saving for floating away like cartoon ghosts out of my wallet when I find myself back at the same magic $10 salad register.

My salad secret: Duane Reade salad bar. Comes to $7 with 5 toppings.

lrodrigue (#1,315)

@Jaime Lutz@twitter NO WAY JAIME!!!!!!!!!!!!! didnt know DR had BARS

@lrodrigue Yeah, I work in the financial district and there’s this fancy Duane Reade with a salad bar and frozen yogurt.

worstkase (#1,000)

@lrodrigue @Jaime Lutz@twitter I think that crazy crowded one near Bryant Park has one? I have never stopped to look at it when I’m there though, too busy running to buy unnecessary midday nail polish upstairs.

Good tip: make your salad fixings at home on Sunday and stick ’em in Tupperware, and you can DIY salads all week long. My girlfriend and I did that this week — right now I’m eating a delicious salad with salmon and vinaigrette that probably cost about $0.39.

taylorphone (#2,079)

Nate Silver taught me how to solve this problem, last year:


honey cowl (#1,510)

A salad is going for about $7 in Seattle. Unless you go to Whole Foods. Then it is going for $1,000 (or so it seems).

I get a bag of $1.29 wraps from Jacks. At the self-serve salad bar I only buy enough to stuff a wrap…for me it’s maybe $3max. Avoid bulky carbs like rice and heavy anything. Who needs more? Or bring a bag of salad from home for Chrissakes.

A salad in the downtown corridor of Seattle = $10. Anybody who says less doesn’t work downtown or doesn’t like cheese and the occasional vegetable.

hershmire (#695)

Nevermind mentioning that a similar salad from home costs about $1.00.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

In Syd salads will run you anywhere from $8 (garden salad [with chicken or a poached egg if you are VERY LUCKY], or a Greek Salad at somewhere like a fish and chip shop) to well over $20 (a nice salad in a nice pub in a foodie district – still could have add-on costs for proteins, so maybe even $30).
I think salads cost so much because of 2 things – rents can be very high in touristy areas and also, salad is perishable and if you don’t sell it all by the end of the day, you’ve got to throw your profits in the bin. Also, refrigeration costs (high for things like lettuce, which has to stay crispy).

Dear NYC:

$10? That’s all? *snort*

Love, SF

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