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Beware when you lunch at U.S. Pizza Co. Salad Express, the local chain's newest outlet at Louisiana between Fourth and Capitol. There is neither pizza here, nor particularly fast service. Instead there are salads and sandwiches that neither thrill nor disappoint.
When we visited on the restaurant's fourth day of business, lines were long in the wood-paneled space, formerly home to House of Philly Cheesesteak. We ordered at the counter from a menu that includes three specialty salads, a make-your-own salad, a soup of the day, eight basic sandwiches and three different types of breadsticks (or “stix” by the house permutation).
The “stix” came highly recommended, so we gave them a try. Alas, they were merely bread with cheese, nothing more, nothing less. They came with a basic marinara sauce.
Fans of U.S. Pizza will recognize the Salad Supreme, lettuce topped with onions, green peppers, mushrooms, black olives and bacon bits. You can add chicken, ham or turkey, two at a time. We can't imagine going to U.S. Pizza and not getting this salad, even if the new restaurant — a new franchise — requires us to forgo pizza.
On the leafy side, the Salad Express menu also includes an “Almost Caesar” and a P.J. Mix (a meatless Salad Supreme with sunflower seeds and cheddar cheese).
The Reuben was standard, with a layer of corned beef that was neither too thick nor too thin. It was greasy, typical of the sandwich, and the meat was neatly sliced so we could eat it without holding a napkin in front of our face. The rye on which it was served was quite good.
Vegetarians should take care when ordering the Scoobie (a U.S. Pizza Express trademark!), which the menu describes as a “sub” with mushrooms, black olives, green pepper and onion. But — maybe we should have figured this out — what the menu means by sub is a sandwich with three types of meat. Expecting a vegetarian sandwich, we were surprised — but pleasantly so —when our waiter brought us a sandwich piled with a meaty trio of Canadian bacon, pepperoni and salami. Served on a toasted sesame-seed bun, the meat made a nice combo with the veggies and some melted mozzarella.
Our waiter said that changes to the menu — including a vegetarian option — would be coming soon.
Prices are on the cheap side. The bill came out to about $27, a reasonable tab given we ordered enough food to feed three.
The service had kinks. Besides some slowness, there was apparently confusion about whether we had ordered to stay or to go. After our meals were brought to our table in Styrofoam boxes — “It'll taste the same,” the young waiter told us reassuringly — the manager dashed over with real plates and forks. He was apologetic about the problems, and promised that things would get better soon.
If you'd like to test that promise for yourself, check it out around lunch time on weekdays. There are no regular hours, but the staff said the place would be open from around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., later if folks are still coming in the door. The restaurant is closed on the weekend, when downtown becomes ghost town.
U.S. Pizza Co.
402 S. Louisiana St.
Be sure you're in the mood for a salad or a sandwich — those are the main options here. No pizza, contrary to the restaurant's name.
Approximately 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, though the staff says they'll be around before and after those times.
Reasonable prices. No alcohol. Credit cards. Party salad platters available for 10-12 people.