Pocket Protein

Natalie Applebaum talks about salad the way some people talk about religion—she’s a true believer.

“Salad isn’t just a side item or something you eat before you eat. Salad, when you make it the way we do, can be just as delicious and satisfying as anything else. That’s why we call what we make Whole Meal Salads. Delivering healthy, convenient, and delicious food: that’s our mission.”

And like any good missionary, Applebaum has built herself a temple. With its High Street storefront and ready-for-Instagram interior, Pocket Produce is the front for her greenery-focused evangelizing. Clean white walls are contrasted by the every-color-of-the-rainbow panels that front the shiny new kitchen. Minimal counter space and an open floor plan are both products of the store’s grab-and-go ethos. At Pocket Produce it’s clear that the goal is to get in, get good food, and bounce.

“I was inspired to start [Pocket Produce] after I had my kids. I was a working mom and I found that healthy options that could be picked up quickly just weren’t available. It was a daily struggle to find nutritionally dense food, fast. When you raise a family and have a career, every second counts. People shouldn’t have to choose between saving time and sacrificing their health.”

Pocket Produce is the latest extension in what Applebaum calls a “lifelong love affair with food.” A server in college, she says she spent more time on the line in the kitchen than she did at her tables. Her public debut as a chef came when she “accidently catered an art show” after the original caterer fell ill.

“People loved the food,” she said, clearly recalling the moment, “and I really loved the work!”

After taking a hiatus from the world of professional cooking to try her hand at social work, Applebaum is back with her latest concept. More deliberate in her approach this time around, she has enlisted Chef Matt Walton, formerly of Cameron’s American Bistro, in her effort to bring substance back to salad.

Their menu boasts five set salads that run the gamut of rudimentary roughage. There is the Southwest that sees cilantro and lime vinaigrette paired with smoky black beans and jicama. Next is a classic Salad Niçoise of potatoes, red onion, and hard boiled egg served with a roasted garlic balsamic. The simply named Kale Salad is a mixture of hearty kale, Vidalia onions, salt, and raw apple cider vinegar (Applebaum claims that the magic of this salad comes from mixing it all together by hand, resulting in its crisp, clean flavor). Next comes the self-described “big, fat honking Cobb salad” of bacon, avocado, egg, parsley, cilantro, and sharp white cheddar. Finally, the menu is rounded out with the Asian salad of brown rice, parsley, scallions, shaved carrot, edamame, and bok choi with a citrus and sesame vinaigrette. Each salad is available with the addition of a cut of “house” chicken or the Asian-inspired tamari brined chicken breast.

And according to Applebaum, as advertised, these are not dainty little side salads that simply play host to a larger meal to come. These salads are the main event, a meal unto themselves. Each salad is served in a one-quart plastic deli container that further compliments the get-in-and-get-going model Pocket Produce has created.

“Not only are you perfectly full,” says Applebaum of her salads, “you feel terrific. That’s a product of the natural diversity of the ingredients. What’s so special about whole meal salads is the nutritional diversity is unbeatable.”

And thus goes the Salad Gospel according to Pocket Produce, a shining ray of hope for the undernourished and over-worked of our fair city.

Pocket Produce is located at 3496 N. High St. They’re open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m-4 p.m. on Saturdays.