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Beyond Teeterdome: a mad salad bar

by Brian Clarey

Everybody’s talking, of course, about the new Harris Teeter that grew from the ground where the Burlington Industries building once stood, the one nicknamed by my colleague Scott Yost the “Teeterdome” (where, I guess, two soccer moms enter and one soccer mom leaves). So I had to check it out, but only after I came to terms with the fact that I live in a town where the thing everybody’s talking about this fall is a new grocery store.

In two trips to the behemoth market taken over two days I managed to find great parking and even a little-used exit that makes leaving the übercenter absolutely painless.

I also more than once stood in awe of this temple of consumerism, stretching my arms wide and spinning like Mary Tyler Moore in the intro to that old show of hers, possibly even tossing my hat into the air.

At any rate, I must report that for the most part this building is just another Harris Teeter. Only more so.

It stocks all the usual merchandise with perhaps a selection that is a bit more varied. And there is fresh bread and an expanded wine section.

But the best thing about this supermarket is the quarter of floor space devoted to prepared meals: pizza, hot and cold sandwiches, sushi made by an in-house chef, two hot food bars and a crazy, crazy salad bar.

I’m becoming something of an expert in salad bars of this type that charge by the pound, parlaying my expertise in running all-you-can-eat buffet tables into a similar exercise in maximizing value.

For starters, I stick for the most part with the leafy greens – spinach, romaine, mesclun mix and none of that friggin’ iceberg, which has absolutely no nutritional value. The leafy greens, besides being rich in organic iron, take up a lot of space in the salad tray and weigh very little.

I also avoid hunks of meat in favor of boiled eggs – same protein but much lighter – and I stay away from cream dressings. When you’re paying by the pound, cream dressings can kill your bottom line.

Still, at this miracle mile of prepped produce with dozens of ingredients and even fancier options on the other side, I couldn’t resist the lobster salad (which had an awful lot in common with imitation crabmeat), a solid mass of bleu cheese and a double scoop of giant stuffed olives, hold the Martini.

It’s difficult to be disciplined at a salad bar like this, with roasted red peppers (drain them of liquid before putting them in your tray) and, on the fancy side, wheatberries, cous cous and several kinds of pasta salad.

So I went a little crazy, and even splurged for some soup – they have six kinds, hot enough to steam up the sneeze guard when you open the tureen. In terms of value, you should always go for the heavier soups since they all cost the same. But it’s hard to say no to a good cup of chicken noodle in December.

I ate at a small bank of tables near the hot food section where I overheard two women in business suits speak Spanish to one another and a stay-at-home dad with his butt hanging out of his jeans humor his two small children as he fed them yogurt. There was also a teenage guy with three teenage girls, all of them pinching sugar cookies from the big dragon cutout.

All in all it was an impressive dining experience simply for the fact that it was inside a grocery store, its status as a Teeterdome notwithstanding. And I will return over the coming months with more detailed descriptions of the other prepared food offerings in this, the finest supermarket in the land.

To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at editor@yesweekly.com.

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