With warmer weather and sunshine on its way, dining outdoors is about to get a shot in the arm.
If you’re looking for lighter options to grab and go, Charleston has lots to choose from — all of it available for easy pickup. So you’re in and out the door in just a minute or two and then off to find a place to sit in the fresh air.
On Capitol Street, there’s soup, wraps, salads and pre-packaged pepperoni rolls at the Swiftwater General Store. Taylor Books offers sandwiches and soup every day.
A few blocks away, at the Capitol Market, the Purple Onion keeps the cooler packed with a colorful medley of salads — everything from a light fruit salad to a keto-friendly “Caveman” salad, loaded with bacon, pepperoni, turkey and eggs.
Allan Hathaway, the owner of the Purple Onion, said they cut salads fresh every day and are always looking to see what people are interested in. One of the big lunchtime stars for them has been the Fiesta Black Bean Bowl, loaded with brown rice, black beans, greens, fresh salsa and jalapenos.
It’s a regular Wednesday special.
“Those fly out the door,” Hathaway said.
Offering fresh salads and veggie-based bowls to go was a natural progression for The Purple Onion’s fruits and vegetable business, but other places added up grab-and-go alternatives as they went.
Starlings Coffee and Provisions started as more of a breakfast and baked goods coffee shop, but owner Keeley Steele said they began offering grab-and-go items as a way to give their morning customers a way to simplify their day by picking up lunch for later in one stop.
Starlings focuses on fresh, in-season and organic ingredients, though she doesn’t like to commit to a fixed menu.
“Right now, we’ve got a roasted tomato soup that’s been pretty popular,” she said. “I’m always doing salads, but right now, green salads really aren’t in season, so it’s more pasta salad, which people seem to like.”
Starlings prides itself on being vegan and vegetarian friendly.
“Lately, I’ve been doing a lot with organic tofu and Asian noodles,” Steele said.
Sarah Plumley said Sarah’s Bakery in South Hills started doing grab-and-go salads as a way to keep customers coming in after the pandemic and dining restrictions put the squeeze on restaurants.
“When COVID happened, I really had no idea what I was going to do,” she said.
The bakery was already making some savory baked goods and meals to go, like chicken pot pie and quiches, but Plumley worried that her bakery couldn’t survive the pandemic just on pies, cookies and cupcakes.
“I mined every resource I could come up with,” she said. “And luckily, I can cook.”
The bakery began adding soups and salads. Now they carry more than a dozen each day, including fruit salad, chicken salad, bean salads and Asian peanut slaw. Between the pandemic and winter, Plumley said she thought a lot of people have spent more time than ever in their own kitchens cooking — she certainly has.
“And we’re tired of cooking,” Plumley added. “I grab a salad on my way out the door in the evening and that’s dinner.”