Mandy’s Gourmet Salads just opened their second Toronto location in The Well, and Narcity got the opportunity to chat with one of the co-founders about how they made their business so successful.
Mandy’s is a chain of salad restaurants run by sisters Rebecca and Mandy Wolfe. The sisters founded the company in Montreal in 2004 and in the two decades since, have expanded to 10 locations across Montreal and Toronto.
We sat down with Mandy herself to get into the nitty-gritty details about the beloved salad spot and some of the things that make the business so special. Here’s everything you need to know about the enterprise.
Who is the owner of Mandy’s Salads?
Mandy’s was founded by two sisters, Rebecca and Mandy Wolfe, who started their enterprise at the back of a clothing store in Montreal in 2004.
They chose to make salads because they wanted to do something different, and the fact that they were in a clothing store limited their options to things that wouldn’t be too aromatic.
“So we came up with a very limited menu of 10 salads, and that’s how we started,” Mandy shared.
Now, the company has 10 restaurants in Montreal and Toronto and is planning on growing even more.
How do you work with your sibling and keep your relationship healthy?
From the sound of it, Mandy and Rebecca are pretty close. Wolfe told us they have complete trust in each other in the business and have been able to keep things separate.
The two sisters are five years apart and their “personalities just jive really well together.”
Also, the trick here is that they have “very different areas of specialty or expertise.”
While Mandy is the mastermind behind all things food, Rebecca is responsible for all the front-of-house decor and branding.
“It’s nice to have that organic division of labour, where we don’t cross paths in that sense. And we trust each other to make the right choices,” Mandy said.
Why is it called Mandy’s?
If you need more proof of how healthy the sisters’ relationship is, look no further than the restaurant’s name.
Wolfe told Narcity they initially called it Greens & Co., which “has a more generic, almost cafeteria feel to it.”
She shared that “it was actually Becca who was like, ‘No, you’re making the food, and there’s a story behind it. People relate to stories and personal names,’ and she insisted on calling it Mandy’s.”
“At the time, we were much smaller and I wasn’t thinking big picture. Now it’s so awkward for me,” she added.
What’s the best Mandy’s salad?
While the diverse menu at Mandy’s caters to different flavours and preferences, Mandy shared that if she were walking into the restaurant for the first time and were to choose something off the menu, it would be the Endless Summer or the Peanut Satay.
“They each have tons of flavour and a lot of herbs, which I love,” she said.
When asked about the most underrated menu items, Wolfe said not to sleep on the bowls: “They’re really, really hearty but so tasty.”
Mandy’s has a rotating menu that changes with the seasons. Not only is it great because you don’t always crave summery salads in the winter, but also, this way, they can make the most of fresh ingredients from local farms.
Wolfe said many of the recipes are inspired by their travels, which is what gives the menu its wide range of flavours and cuisines.
Why are Mandy’s cookies so good?
If you’ve never had a Mandy’s cookie before, what are you waiting for? The cookies at Mandy’s are so good that they can easily compete with the ones you would find at gourmet bakeries and specialty shops in Toronto.
The cookies are moist, flavourful and drool-worthy. Seriously, how are they so good?
Well, Wolfe shared a little secret that takes them from good to great. She says she’s been making cookies ever since she was a little kid and that the secret is in the browning of the butter.
“You’re almost cooking the lactose out of it, but you’re also making the butter really caramelized and nutty, and it has this indescribable — like you can’t imitate it. And it gives the cookie a depth rather than just using straight-up oil or butter,” Wolfe shared.
She also adds a little salt to give the cookie the perfect balance between salty and sweet.
“I still bake them at home for my kids. It’s a comforting smell,” she shared.
What are Mandy’s favourite Toronto restaurants?
When Wolfe isn’t at Mandy’s, you can spot her at three Toronto restaurants that she visits when she’s in town.
The one restaruant that impresses her is Planta. She said she’s “not vegan or vegetarian, but I’m just so impressed and delighted by all the different foods that they make using plant-based ingredients.”
Another favourite is Fonda Balam, Matty Matheson’s Mexican restaurant in Toronto.
She said it’s “so much fun with the whole layout of it, and the food is delicious.”
Finally, she gave a shoutout to Thai restaurants PAI and Kiin, both of which are run by restauranteur couple Chef Nuit and Jeff Regular.
“I had the best experience at Kiin,” Wolfe shared. “I was just blown away by the presentation, the food, the story, the hospitality. It was beautiful.”
Where is Mandy’s headed?
Well, in Toronto, you can expect to spot another Mandy’s in Yorkville, where we think they would fit right in. Wolfe said she’s excited to be opening that location this summer in “the heart of the upscale, very exciting epicentre of bougie Toronto.”
Wolfe gushed about her sister’s “outstanding” designs of the Yorkville location: “Becca’s really just killed it with this one.”
After Yorkville, Wolfe said the next Toronto location they have their eye on is the Yonge and Eglington area.
“Toronto is so big, and we love being part of communities and neighbourhoods,” Wolfe said. “So we’re always looking for the next corner that we could be a part of, and we love meeting our neighbours and being a part of Toronto.”
Also, if you were hoping to find healthy options for brunch in the city, Wolfe said that’s something they are exploring, so stay tuned!
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.