Mandy’s Salads

Happy Friday, all! I hope everyone had a great first week of spring, and that you’re enjoying the slightly warmer temps we’ve been experiencing – fingers crossed that they’re here to stay!

Between recent posts about bakeries, chocolate cakes and maple syrup, I’ve realized that lately – for whatever reason – I’ve been talking a whole lot about desserts on this blog! So in case you all think that I survive solely on pastries and sweet treats, I have a rather boring confession for you… believe it or not, I actually do eat healthy the majority of the time! I tend to follow an 80/20 (honestly, probably more like a 90/10) lifestyle, where I eat fresh, whole, healthy foods at most meals, and save the other 10% of the time for my indulgences. After all, life is to be lived, and nobody can eat perfectly 100% of the time (I mean, you could… but how boring would that be!?) At the end of the day, I think we’re all just trying our best to eat relatively well, while still enjoying our lives. The good news is that if you’re looking to enjoy a delicious meal out while still staying health-conscious, there are tons of great options out there for you! One of my favourite healthy food restaurants in Toronto – which I’d like to share with y’all today – is Mandy’s Salads.

Mandy’s is a Montreal-based chain that just opened their first Toronto outpost in the spring of last year. The chain was founded by sisters Mandy and Rebecca Wolfe, who saw a niche opportunity in the market for gourmet salad restaurants. They took a chance – having no previous food, business or marketing experience – and opened up their first salad bar in the back of a women’s clothing boutique back in 2004. Clearly their intuitions were correct because, against all odds, Mandy’s was a hit! Today, Mandy’s has 9 locations, a best-selling cookbook, and their own line of salad dressings. Their only Toronto location – in Ossington Village – has been a hotspot ever since it opened, and I’d love to take you on a little tour!

With its pastel blue façade and gold lettering, the Mandy’s storefront is hard to miss. Their design team definitely understands the importance of curb appeal! While the restaurant is a popular takeout spot, they also have a small indoor dining area which fills up quickly (they don’t take reservations). If you’re hoping to snag a table for lunch, I recommend getting there right when they open (or soon afterwards) to avoid a wait.

In addition to their fabulous salads, Mandy’s is known for their restaurants’ beautiful interiors. The space feels more Palm Springs than Toronto: think tufted pink banquette seating, leafy tropical wallpaper, and quirky décor details – my personal favourite being the Warhol-esque, banana-shaped sconces.

Mandy’s makes the best use of their small space by offering countertop dining on the other side of the restaurant. Parisian-style bistro stools sit beneath dramatic arched mirrors lit with bright vanity bulbs, which gives the space an old Hollywood dressing room vibe. Towards the front, a sage green shelving unit – lined with Scalamandre’s iconic zebra wallpaper – houses water carafes, cups and menus.

If you’re one of those people who thinks of salads as appetizers or “rabbit food”, I promise you Mandy’s will change your mind! Each one of their salads is a meal in its own, laden with all of the delicious add-ons you can imagine – not to mention, the serving sizes are huge. You can build your own custom salad with any toppings you like, but you can also choose from one of their Signature Salads.

I’ve tried a few different salads from Mandy’s, but my favourite is the Wild Sage: mixed greens in a wild sage dressing, topped with dried figs, pecans, roasted sweet potatoes, tempura onions, pears, pumpkin seeds and goat cheese. There are so many flavours and textures in this salad – you get something new in each bite, and they really don’t skimp on the add-ins! The sweetness of the figs, pears and sweet potatoes pairs beautifully with the rich cheesy and nutty flavours in this salad. Tania’s favourite salad is (appropriately) named “The Fave”: romaine and arugula in a honey mustard dressing, topped with shredded carrots, corn, broccoli, avocado, baked pita chips, sunflower seeds and shaved parmesan. The portion sizes are very generous here – you’ll definitely have leftovers. Tania and I have also been known to split a takeout order of a Mandy’s signature salad for an easy at-home dinner – there’s more than enough to share.

Mandy’s gives you the option to add protein to any salad, and there are lots of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu! Any of their salads can be made gluten-free or dairy-free, so no matter your dietary restrictions, you’ll find something here that suits your needs.

One other thing to note about Mandy’s: their bathroom was practically made for mirror selfies (you know, if you’re into that kind of thing.) It’s got the cutest wallpaper, the pattern of which I can best describe as “woodland whimsy”: daintily illustrated flowers, leaves, bunnies, squirrels and owls. An ornate gilded mirror reminds patrons “hey you, you’re beautiful.” Inspirational quotes by legends from Toni Morrison to Winnie The Pooh (yup, he’s a legend too!) line the walls.

I have to say, I love a space that carries their décor theme throughout! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed because I’ve visited a restaurant with absolutely gorgeous interiors, only to find their bathrooms totally plain, undecorated and unimaginative. Mandy’s gets extra points on this front! Not that I’m suggesting you choose your restaurants based on the wallpaper in their bathroom, but ya know…

Have you ever been to Mandy’s Salads? What’s your favourite salad on the menu?

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