Date: January 24, 2008
Times Visited: 2
Visiting The Player’s Zone for the first time is like entering the fast paced corporate world at 15. Everyone in business suites had clearly flown down from their personal cells within Big Pink everyday for years and walked the hot bar and salad bar line thousands of time. I felt out of place and slow in this cafeteria lunch spot. Luckily, this is Portland and I was able to joke about it being my first time to those behind me and offer them to pass me as I cut my teeth on The Player’s Zone salad bar culture.
First, you pick up a plastic clam shell to go container and notice the $6.99/pound sign. Then the game starts. How do you get the most amount of food for a decent price? What does one pound feel like in your hand?
Second, ignore the hot food because it’s expensive and rarely looks vegan. There is usually something that looks like it might be a possibility like the potatoes and herbs, or the steamed broccoli, but the sausage and chicken wings make it easy to stay away.
Third, well, there is no third. Everyone has their own method. I saw some breaking tortilla chips on the bottom of their container before reaching for their salad ingredients. I saw others putting the dressing at the bottom of their container so they knew how much they were getting. I go straight for the spinach, then pile on the rest of my vegetables; it’s usually about color and arrangement.
In the rush of the salad bar movement I made some questionable choices and learned some things – always go for the plain ingredients: spinach, onions, tomatoes, chickpeas, corn, olives…the normal salad stuff. Stay away from even the mixed grain salads, they often contain hidden bits of feta. The sushi is sometimes safe, but best to steer clear all together because of the weight. On my first visit, I grabbed steamed asparagus which looked and tasted like it was brushed with olive oil, but one can never be sure. Besides that, it’s heavy and not worth the weight. Very surprising is that every steamed or cooked vegetable I have chosen has been cooked to perfection, no soggy vegetables – yet.
If possible, it’s best to take your own salad dressing because, unlike New Seasons where you can put your salad dressing in a little container and pay about 25 cents for it, it’s pay by the pound here, including the salad dressing. Besides, the salad dressing choices aren’t great. The Italian was my best choice. My second visit I learned, and took my salad back to my office and used someone’s salad dressing from the fridge (don’t judge – there was no name on it and someone used mine up last time! We share around the office.)
My first salad was $6.11 and was enough to fill me up. My second salad was $4.79 without dressing and was plenty. Maybe next time, because there will be a next time, I will go for a piece of bread or maybe even some naan from The Real Taste of India (for $1) to accompany my meal.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Address: 555 SW Oak Street, Portland OR 97204
Hours: Only open for lunch