Attention foodies! Don’t overlook this Dayton drive-thru salad shop

Credit: Staff

Credit: Staff

Drive-thrus are often associated with greasy burgers and other indulgent foods, but a tiny Kettering drive-thru is giving that perspective a fresher look.

Salad Sage and In-n-Out Java are two separate business concepts at 2244 Wilmington Pike in Kettering, both locally owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Benjamin and Kristen Walters. The building has no on-site indoor or outdoor seating, operating solely on the drive-thru-only model.

In-n-Out Java has been in existence in the space since 2007, according to Benjamin Walters, though since taking over the name and building in 2018, he and his wife have made several big changes, including the launch of Salad Sage in April 2020.

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While traveling and visiting family on the East and West coasts, the couple noticed standalone salad shops were taking off. However, as residents of Cincinnati and longtime business owners in Dayton, they found there weren’t those same, healthy alternatives readily available in the Midwest. They often found the quick and fresh options that were available to be pricey.

In addition, for about 20 years, the couple owned ServiceMaster commercial cleaning franchises in Dayton and Cincinnati. After two decades of running the business, the family decided they wanted to build something to call their own.

Salad Sage specializes in fresh, highly-customizable salads that are affordable. Hours of operation for breakfast and lunch are Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thanks to the dual-sided drive-thru, customers can order ahead by calling the store or ordering from a delivery app like DoorDash and skip the drive-thru line by picking up at the express side. Traditional, on-site ordering is also available.

Credit: Staff

Credit: Staff

“With us, everything’s fresh (while the customer) is in the line,” Benjamin said. “Similar to Chipotle, you can pick that you want this, or not that, or the other. We (also) have kind of our base salads, but even those, I find a lot of our customers tweak them. So, they might get a Cobb, but they want goat cheese or cheddar cheese (instead of) blue cheese.”

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Other than Cobb salad, all of Salad Sage’s salads on the extensive menu of options are vegetarian. With lots of vegetarian friends, the couple heard their gripes of dealing with salads that come with chicken and having to pick-off the meat, yet still paying for it.

However, any salad is customizable to include protein like avocado or chicken. Most salads start at $6.75 and come prepared with a colorful bed of fresh vegetables and greens that Benjamin said are cut fresh in-store each morning.

Some current “base” salads on the menu are Apple Almond Salad, Bacon Fig Salad, Caprese Salad, Harvest Salad and more.

The menu also includes seasonal specialties like soups and Mexican Street Corn. Soup can be added to any salad for just $3, but come a la carte for about $4.75.

“(Our) daughter (is) vegetarian, too,” he added. “We had a lot of struggles with finding food for her that was affordable, convenient and healthy.”

Open during the same hours as Salad Sage, In-n-Out Java sources its coffee primarily from Seven Hills Coffee Roasters from Blue Ash, Ohio.

“During breakfast we offer breakfast burritos, and we literally crack the egg, cook the eggs, we take a whole potato, we dice it up and we roast it… and season them — the whole nine yards,” Walters said. “And, so, you get that, but you also get it in a very fast, convenient form.”

Credit: Staff

Credit: Staff

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