MIDDLETOWN — Greens and vegetarian lovers now have another meal option with the recent launch of the Saladcraft “virtual” restaurant inside Pokémoto Middletown downtown.
Similar to Hawaiian bowls at Pokémoto Middletown, at the 386 Main St. pedestrian mall, the build-your-own SaladCraft menu allows customers to choose among a base, such as spinach, mixed greens or quinoa; proteins — bacon, chicken, fried tofu, shrimp and more — veggies, fruits, dairy, nuts, dressings and crunchy toppings.
Owner Chi Hing Sze figured those who may have gained a few extra pounds as a result of near-isolation amid the pandemic would be pleased with a healthful menu of clean proteins, garden vegetables and myriad toppings and dressings.
Hawaiian poké is much more popular in the summertime, while salads are enjoyed year-round, Sze said. As business began dipping a bit during the pandemic, he was thinking of other ways to lure diners in a fun way. “Everyone wants to eat healthy nowadays, especially during COVID,” he said. “Now business is picking up.”
That’s when he approached the friend of a friend who owns the SaladCraft New Haven shop at 46 Whitney Ave. about offering the service from his kitchen at Main Street Market. Because SaladCraft Middletown is not a restaurant, due to his Pokémoto franchise agreement, it is hosted by Sze, but he cannot take walk-in or phone orders.
Sze, 30, was born in Hong Kong and gained experience in the culinary industry from the years he spent at his parents’ Blessings II Go Chinese eatery on State Street in New Haven. “Growing up, I always had interesting cooking,” he said.
As a child, he was too young to work there, but helped out in other ways. Sze recalls food delivery back then was much more difficult. For example, there was no GPS, so drivers had to consult paper maps.
His “dream” was to be a pharmacist, and he earned a degree, intending to stay in the field long-term, he said. After a couple of years, Sze realized the industry was not for him.
During his post-grad years, Sze often would invite friends over for meals. Soon, he found himself considering other career options, and realized “What’s better? Food!” he said.
Over that period, Sze managed to save enough money to open his own eatery.
“It was time to be my own boss, and that’s when opportunity struck,” he said. “I wanted to cater for people who appreciated my cooking. I always treat them well with my food.”