When talking about salads, it's hard to reinvent the wheel. Bread Zeppelin, a Dallas chain-in-the-making that debuts in July, seems to have found a new twist.
For starters, the salads are chopped. And you can get them in an unusual hollowed-out baguette that makes for easy, muss-proof transport.
Founders Troy Charhon and Andrew Schoellkopf, friends since high school who share an entrepreneurial streak, noted an increasing demand for salad in their jobs at Central Market and Eatzi's.
"We grew up with chopped salads," Schoellkopf says. "We realized that we didn't just want chopped salads; we wanted big salads. And with our backgrounds, the quality of the food was important. We cook all our own proteins in house. We wanted to make the best quality salad at a price point people could afford."
"Wraps are cumbersome and they fall apart," co-founder Troy Charhon says. "We spent months trying to figure out how to break away from the wrap."
Charhon describes the setup as being similar to other fast-casual concepts such as Chipotle or Salata, with a line where customers choose their ingredients, before heading to a "chopping station" where they can specify salad or sandwich.
"We dump out the ingredients and chop everything up as you watch," he says. "We can chop it as finely as you want. That's another point of differentiation for us. In a good chopped salad, every bite is consistent."
That covered salads, but then came the debate about sandwiches. They knew one thing: They didn't want a wrap. "Wraps are cumbersome and they fall apart," Charhon says. "We spent months trying to figure out how to break away from the wrap."
They thought about subs, and that's when the idea of the zeppelin floated in: something with a rigid exterior but that was light – like a sub roll but not so bready, an effect they achieve by using baguettes in which the center get cored out.
"We've got a local baker making our bread," Charhon says. "We cut off one end and extract the dough in the center. That gives it a crispy skeleton that holds all the chopped ingredients together without disintegrating. We make our own dressings. If they soak into the bread, you still have the outer shell. It's self-contained — something you can eat on the go, with one hand, in your car."
The bread insides get recycled into croutons. They have about 40 ingredients and 11 signature salads that can also be made into a zeppelin. But you can also get a plain turkey sandwich — oops, zeppelin — or just a bowl of greens from a selection that includes romaine, iceberg blend, kale and spring mix.
Their first restaurant soft opens in mid-July in Las Colinas, where they'll get their feet wet, with an eye toward opening a second branch by 2014. As for the name, while it does evoke the famed rock band, it's more about the floating cylindrical dirigible.
"The name Bread Zeppelin, we're playing off on taking salads to new heights," Charhon says. "We were trying to get very creative. The name is a huge part of it."