A healthy and convenient take on fast food, Naked Greens is a welcome respite from South Norwalk’s palate-busting dining scene. Chilled shelves stocked with salad greens and a salad bar filled with an array of natural ingredients, stands as the core of a signature made-to-order salad and wrap-filled menu. Soups complete the healthy trifecta, as steaming cauldron-like containers, a harbinger of its Soup Alley not-so-recent-past, stand along the counter offering a selection of hot soups made fresh daily.
Behind this health conscious brand is is the infectiously happy Victor Melendez. A native of Mexico who has lived in Wilton for the past 11 years, Melendez is a marketing executive who traveled extensively during his stints at InBev, Luxottica and Pepsi. Just a few months ago, the stars aligned as the lease in the former Soup Alley space became available and a restaurant concept began to coalesce in his mind. He acted decisively, applying his marketing acumen into crafting and building his own healthy take on convenient food, and Naked Greens was born.
After sharing a salad with him during a bustling lunch hour, it's clear that Naked Greens is simply an extension of Melendez – whose bright green walls and healthy menu reflect this bright and tirelessly positive business owner.
The menu is light and natural, the type of spot you can frequent without a twinge of guilt and the menu is extensive, so you'll be hardpressed to work though it in its entirety. There are fourteen Naked Greens signature salads and wraps, including: Caprese Crunch (arugula, radicchio, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil and pita chips), Beet Generation™ (baby spinach, fresh beets, red onions, candied walnuts, crumbled goat cheese), Awesome Avocado (iceberg, avocado, hearts of palm, corn, cilantro, grilled sweet lime shrimp) and Southwest Sensation (iceberg, black beans, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, tortilla strips, grilled steak and served with a chipotle ranch). You can also customize your own by selecting greens, toppings, dressings and proteins (grilled chicken, chipotle chicken, smoked turkey, seared tuna, grilled shrimp, smoked bacon, grilled steak, cilantro/lime chicken salad or chipotle chicken salad.)
Settling on the Thai Temptation, I worked my way through a thick bed of mesclun and baby spinach, followed by chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, edamame, jicama, red peppers and perfectly cooked shrimp, accompanied by a thai vinaigarette. As someone who is a bit of a salad-for-lunch fanatic, there were many aspects that contributed to making this a near-perfect specimen. First, the girth. This thing was so massive, I was barely half-way through before waving the white flag and packing it up for home. I enjoyed the layered ingredients, and although you can also get them chopped together, the layers force you to work through the salad, savoring each ingredient. The dressings were bright and well balanced, not too oily. And finally, and quite simply, it was fresh. This should be a foregone factor when it comes to salads, but I can't begin to count the amout of wilted, sad salad happening in and around some of my favorite lunch spots. It's practically an epidemic. Fresh Greens doesn't fall prey to this.
Five hand-crafted soups and two seasonal soups are made daily. I skipped this on my unseasonably warm visit, but will be back to try the seasonl soups which change weekly. If you look closely, you may also see a few signature touches from Melendez's native Mexico buried throughout the menu, most clearly in the paletas, or iced fruit bars that sit in the counter cooler. A perfect and healthy warmer weather treat.
With nary a deep fryer in sight, this oasis of fresh and simple fast food, is perfect for the quick professional lunch crowd, a quick family outing or a grab-and-go on your walk home from the train station. If the bustling lunch hour that I experience is any indication, I wouldn't be surprised if Naked Greens becomes as ubiquitous as the neighborhood FroYo joint.
Naked Greens is located at 45 North Main Street, South Norwalk, and is open from 11 am to 9 pm, Monday through Saturday.