Charles Mudede

Plum Chopped opened over the summer. It's owned by Makini Howell, the head chef of the popular Plum Bistro, Sugar Plum, and the Plum Burgers food truck (and Stevie Wonder's former chef). Chopped serves very hearty salads. Many of us fear that our stomachs will never be fully satisfied by just a salad. That we need something to keep the system busy and out of mind for the hours between the main meals. Chopped makes very heavy and tasty salads. And it's up to you if you want it to be heavy or not (I do—which is why I always pick Barbecue Salad or Black Goddess).

It's also easy to enter and exit this joint, which faces 12 Avenue and is next the Plum Bistro, and in a space once occupied by the bad idea called Manhattan. The back of Chopped is the central kitchen for Howell's growing enterprises. The front is the salad bar, which, though small and serving people on the move, was designed by Howell and Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young Architects (SKL) with an eye not to make the space feel rushed. This is interesting because Chopped is, in essence, between a food truck and a restaurant. And the latter needs design because it is also a waiting space. When in a restaurant, you are not spending money just on food but also the view, which may hold your attention while your food is prepared. Music and art are, too, employed to fill this waiting—waiting for the waiter, waiting for the order, and waiting for the bill. Chopped has the function of a food truck but the design of a restaurant.

A huge sliding red door is between Chopped salad bar and the checkout counter, which is under eight white lamps that look like moons orbiting some massive gas planet. And behind the checkout counter are the thick folds of a black curtain. The elements are simply and precisely placed. The composition best captures the spirit of Liz Dunn's Chophouse Row.