No surprises 

Lettuce Souprise You is an all-you-can-eat salad bar like any other

Lettuce Souprise You is an all-you-can-eat cafeteria and a noticeable presence in the shopping plaza on the corner of Briarcliff and Druid Hills Roads. I easily spotted it one day when I first moved here, en route to Target. Given its size and prominent parking lot placement, it's not hard to spot. If there's one thing that's not a problem here, it's space. In all probability, it would take two to three Bonanza busloads full of all-you-can-eaters to fill the multitude of seats inside and out. Save the nifty little neon carrot by the stacks of trays up front, the cafeteria isn't much to look at. The best way to describe it is as an eating facility, since there's nothing personal about the place. It is, however, very clean and organized.

The salad bar is the main deal here. For $5.38 you can load up on lettuce to your heart's content. Pay $1 more and you can choose from an array of soups, pasta, muffins, breads and dessert.

The salad bar consists of spinach, green leaf and iceberg lettuce, corn and chickpeas, followed by canned beets, sprouts, broccoli, cottage cheese ... and so on and so forth. I don't know where the whole "souprise" thing comes in exactly, but the vegetables at the salad bar are the same you'll find at any other mediocre salad bar. Ditto for the pasta/potato/bean salad-type things.

I tried a few of the latter items without very satisfying results. The tuna tarragon salad was fresh and well chilled, but devoid of taste. The Idaho potato salad was ho-hum. The same goes for the Bangkok chicken.

As for the hot foods, the spaghetti stand with choice of marinara, with or without meat, took me back to my days in the lunch line of the Saint Bernard High School cafeteria. And that applies to more than just the pasta. At the soup station, vegetable soup was OK if you don't mind mushy. (I do.) Chili con carne was good in a Hormel kind of way, and with scallions and cheddar on top, it became, over the course of three visits, my favorite dish.

At the muffin stop, there are corn muffins, presumably to compliment the chili. There are sweet muffins, too, including chocolate chip and pecan: mass-produced, baked well, but again lacking flavor. Fruit, pudding and shortcake makings await you at the end of the line.

We were disappointed when there was no chocolate pudding to be found since, according to my dinner guest, chocolate pudding is the whole motivation behind putting up with salad for dinner. Fortunately, the strawberry shortcake with yellow cake, syrupy strawberries and sweet whipped cream, made up for it.

Really, the best way to judge an all-you-can-eat salad bar is by the weight of your plate when you sit your greedy butt down. If the place is worth its salt, you will have inevitably taken three times as much food than you would normally eat. Working from this hypothesis, Lettuce Souprise You comes up short.

Lettuce Souprise You, 2470 Briarcliff Road. 404-636-8549. All-you-can-eat salad bar ranges in price from $5.38-$6.38. Open Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-midnight, Fri. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Sat. noon-9:30 p.m., Sun. noon-9 p.m. Cash and credit cards accepted.


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