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Come for the Salad; Stay for the Soft-Serve

March 15th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Abu Dhabi, bacon, France

This will seem crazy, to many readers, but when we get some time back in the States, I inevitably think about having a meal at …

… one of my favorite Mexican outlets … or enjoying dim sum at Capital Seafood in Irvine … or savoring some Lebanese, which we used to eat at least once a week, back in Abu Dhabi … but most of all I was thinking about …


Turns out, I am not the only 21st century devotee of the all-you-can-eat salad-oriented chain. Other consumers, younger, richer and hipper than moi, are at least as into it as I am, as this recent Los Angeles Magazine story suggests.

While in SoCal, a few months back, I spent a chunk of one of my 15 or so days in/near San Bernardino eating lunch at the Souplantation there. The one down on Hospitality Lane.

That also would be the one near Loma Linda University, which is run by the Seventh-day Adventists, who recommend a vegetarian lifestyle. Lots of students and medical workers, it seems, do the Plantation thing, there in Berdoo.

What I take away from the L.A. Mag story, and my recent experience at a Souplantation store … is that it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

If anything, it is going through a renaissance.

Though you might not guess it from the San Bernardino store. Which could stand some new carpet and a bit more attention paid to spills and some worn seating and tables.

But I overlooked all that, because I was back at the Plantation for the first time in … five years? Ten? More? At the same store I frequented on a weekly basis, almost, back in the 1990s.

I was always thinking about going back, especially when driving past the San Bernardino store or its doppelganger in Corona.

What do I get there?

First, I load up at the 20-yard-long salad bar. Several prepared and tossed salads, then lots of lettuce types, lots of fresh vegetables (Joan’s Broccoli Madness!), and beans, mushrooms, olives, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs … it is pretty much the antithesis of the fast-food meal.

I try to take it easy on the salad dressing, as I reach the cash register, and then I order some tap water and hand over $10 or so, and move on to the hot items — pastas, bakery items and soups. I usually get a soup, like vegetable or clam chowder, and head for a seat.

It’s a buffet, as noted, and you can go back to replenish as many times as you want. Maybe for a dessert muffin.

Or maybe, in my case, the first of multiple visits to the soft-serve ice cream!

I am a sucker for soft-serve, and will buy it almost anywhere as long as the ambient temperate is above freezing. The air, not the soft-serve.

I prefer the vanilla, but they also have chocolate soft-serve, and you can blend them right out of the machine! It is unsupervised, and if you want to have a half-gallon of soft serve, no one is going to stop you — though someone will have to refill the dispenser.

I don’t eat anything like a half-gallon (but I could), and that is the end of the Souplanation experience. For me. For now. Big salad; soup; soft-serve. A great combination.

The L.A. Mag story suggests Souplantation has become a haven for “seniors, immigrants and hipsters”, probably because it is not particularly expensive and potentially a lot healthier than a stop at Del Taco.

Seniors seem to be particularly enthused about buffet dining, sometimes acting almost as if they have stumbled on a place that will feed them till they burst, and (shhh!) the resto operators don’t seem to have noticed.

I mused, while at the San Bernardino store, that if I were a homeless person who had a trickle of income, I would consider having one big meal a day at Souplantation, after using the restroom to freshen up a bit, and might take a muffin with me on the way out the door to get me through the evening.

But I digress.

I like the Souplanation option and business plan. I like that they have something like 100 outlets in California and surrounding states.

There isn’t really anything like it, in the south of France. Down here, salad is to eat before the cheese plate, not to fuel someone for 12-24 hours.

So here is to Souplantation, and many more opportunities to drop in, when I feel like Joan’s Broccoli Madness or a leisurely session with the soft-serve.



1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Nate Ryan // Mar 29, 2019 at 7:53 AM

    One of the indelible memories from my first assignment ever at The Sun (the Browns scoring a stunning fourth-quarter comeback over the Raiders at the Coliseum in September 1993) … was the ride back with PaulO, who drove purposefully in hopes of making the Sunday night last call at the Souplantation on Hospitality Lane.

    Two wide-eyed memories of a wonderful meal: PaulO referring to it as the sort of “rabbit food” that was loved in Southern California … and the bottomless soft-serve ice cream machine.

    So good. Wish I’d lived more often in places since then that had Souplantations.

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