In an age where people are making an effort to eat healthy, build-your-own salad chains have exploded in popularity. These chain restaurants have allowed customers to buy healthy lunches and dinners that actually taste good too. 

The biggest players in terms of number of locations in the build-your-own salad chain industry are Chop't and Saladworks, but there are dozens of build-your-own salad chains on the east coast alone. 

Here is a breakdown of 12 of the biggest chains on the east coast, where you can try their salads, and what sets each one apart from its competitors. 

Sweetgreen (VA, DC, PA, NY, MD, MA)

Sweetgreen’s mission is to play the middleman between small growers and consumers craving real, good food.

They have a menu of signature warm bowls and salads as well as seasonal items. Of course, you can always build your own using a large variety of ingredients and house-made dressings. 

Chop’t (NC, VA, DC, NY)

Chop’t features several bowl options. There are signature classic salads, grain and noodle bowls, and warm kale and quinoa bowls. Their specialty is their destination salads, which change every 60 days, but you can always build your own.

Chop’t also makes over 20 salad dressings. Whatever you want, they’re sure to have it. 

Fresh and Co. (NY)

No matter where you walk in New York City, you’re sure to find this healthy lunch option. Fresh and Co's menu is a little more expansive than just salad bowls, with soup, sandwich, and breakfast options as well.

You can start with one of their seven signature salads and customize it to your liking. They have a variety of vegan and gluten-free options labelled for those with dietary restrictions as well. 

Just Salad (NY)

This company is international, but you’ll only find them on the east coast in New York City. Just Salad prides itself in being “home to the reusable bowl” as well as a wide variety of signature and seasonal salad and bowl options.

If none of their salads looks appealing, they encourage building your own. You start with a choice of base (from 7 different options) and can add toppings from essentials, premiums, proteins, cheese, and dressings categories. 

Grabbagreen (NY, MD, NC, SC, GA, FL)

Grabbagreen has a long list of locations all over the United States and a menu to rival it.

What they’re known for though, obviously, is their salad and grain bowls. Their signature bowls are location-themed by name and ingredients. But of course you can always build your own too. 

On their website they highlight the health benefits of each of the ingredients that make up their signature bowls. 

Roots Natural Kitchen (VA, DE)

All hail Roots! As far as I’m concerned, this is the best restaurant in Charlottesville. It happens to be the only build-your-own salad chain in the area, but I think it stacks up well against competitors.

They over a very limited menu of less than a dozen signature salad and grain bowls, in addition to the option to  craft your own. You won't find any sandwiches here, but with all of the delicious toppings offerings, you won't even miss the bread.

Roots also makes all of their dressings, some of which are very unique, in-house. 

Saladworks (DE, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, VA, WV)

Saladworks offers a wide variety of signature salads, sandwiches, and soups as well as several combo options for indecisive people, like me.

What puts Saladworks a step above their competitors in the build-your-own salad category is that you can pick any 5 additions, from veggies to proteins. No, avocado isn’t extra here. And neither is your roll. I’m always a fan of free carbs. 

Salata (GA)

Salata is primarily located in Texas, but with the opening of their first east coast salad bar in Georgia, it looks like they’re coming our way fast.

This place is truly special because it’s self serve. You can add as much or as little of every fresh ingredient as you want. With over 50 options and 10 house-made dressings, you may have to pace yourself. Proteins are the only salad topper that will cost you extra. 

Hale and Hearty Soups (NY, MA)

Their name may suggest that soup is their thing, but Hale and Hearty Soups easily stands up to competitors in the salad category as well.

They have several boxed, side, and seasonal salads to choose from. Or, if you want it exactly the way you like it, you can pick a base and any five toppings. If you’re looking for a place to get a high-quality soup and salad combo, this is it. 

Tossed (FL, MA, NC)

Tossed makes giving you your lunch exactly how you want it a priority by having the design your own option front and center on the menu.

They have 6 different greens to choose from as a base and your options only become more plentiful in the veggie, fruit, protein, and dressing categories. If picking from all those options seems too stressful, try one of their 15 signature salads that vary from traditional caesar to cayenne shrimp. 

Souplantation/ Sweet Tomatoes (GA, FL)

Crash course on the name of this delicious soup, salad, and bakery chain: the locations in southern California are called Souplantation and everywhere else is called Sweet Tomatoes.

It’s all-you-can-eat buffet style, so you don’t need to worry about choosing which one of their signature salads to try. They also have separate toppings to build your own from scratch or add to another dish.

My suggestion would be to go a little crazy and add unusual ingredients, like pasta. There’s no time like the present. 

Freshii (FL, SC, NC, VA, DC, MD, PA, NY, CN, MA)

Freshii has a variety of signature salads and bowls to choose from, plus you can always swap out the bases. Of course you have the choice to build your own salad, bowl, wrap, or even soup from scratch.

They have dozens of basic and premium toppings as well as proteins and house-made dressings, all with an asian theme to tie it all together into one delicious dish no matter what bizarre combinations you choose. 

Next time you wake up too late to even think about packing lunch, don't stress. Try one of these build-your-own salad chain restaurants for a delicious and healthy meal that will make your coworkers jealous.