A mini-chain of salad restaurants from the Detroit area plans next month to open a Loop location part of what its founder hopes is a greater expansion into Chicago. 7greens debuted in 2014 in Detroit and opened a second location in 2016 in Birmingham, Michigan — the same Motor City suburb where Takashi Yagihashi (Takashi, Slurping Turtle) plans on opening a restaurant this summer. 7greens is a fast-casual spot founded by French Culinary Institute graduate Kelly Schaefer.
Schaefer is targeting a mid-June opening at 218 W. Washington Street. At 900 square feet, the space once housed a Fifth Third Bank ATM center. There’s no room for seats. Schaefer said this will be more of a grab and go with a focus on corporate catering. Bigger locations will hopefully come in the future. She’s looked at real estate in Chicago for more than a year and knows the market and that there’s competition from salad chains like Sweetgreen and Just Salad. Honeygrow exited the city in November.
It’s a familiar setup at 7greens where customers can customize their salads to dietary restrictions (vegan, gluten free, etc.) or order from the restaurant’s 12 pre-set salad combinations. A popular item is the “Yoga Girl” (take a time machine to the late ‘90s and say the name slowly). The salad includes baby spinach, kale, quinoa, carrots, raw beets, roasted Brussels sprouts with a spicy tofu sriracha drizzle. There are 65 ingredients to experiment with including chicken, prosciutto, and tuna.
Schaefer believes 7greens’s success has broken stereotypes among a few customers. America has come to accept salad restaurants, though it took some a little longer than others.
“It’s like boring and only chicks eat salad, it’s not going to be filling or hearty,” Schaefer said when asked about misconceptions about her restaurants. “It’s going to leave them hungry and unsatisfied which is a complete misnomer.”
7greens also serves smoothies, cold-pressed juices, acai bowls, and toasts topped with superfoods. Schaefer touts her culinary experience, she was also a sous chef at a restaurant, Galley Beach, in Nantucket, Massachusetts. The time spent in a kitchen gives 7greens an edge compared to other salad restaurants. She’s particular: for instance 7 Greens has sauces, not salad dressings. Schaefer made the distinction as she feels “dressing” sells the salad toppings short. Sauces are more versatile, she said, as they’re used in marinades. Schaefer also said she’s spent considerable time perfecting sauce recipes. Sauces include miso, chipotle ranch, and pomegranate sumac.
Schaefer attended Michigan State University and then spent 12 years in Chicago where she hopes to open as many as five locations. They would give 7greens seven locations. The number is special to her. The restaurant stocks seven different lettuces and it’s her husband’s old high school hockey number.
“Chicago is metropolitan city, it’s a foodie city,” Schaefer said. “They appreciate good, quality, yummy, tasty food.”
Schaefer has a bit of a sense of humor. She made headlines — even international ones — after she made a quip during a TV segment in 2016.
Stay tuned for an update on an opening day in the coming weeks.