Crushed Red Urban Bake & Chop Shop recently opened in downtown Clayton, with the intent of combining the freshest ingredients with fast-casual dining.

Those who remember the space when it housed Dick Blick Art Supplies may not recognize this new incarnation. The interior has been completely transformed, with a wall’s worth of new windows that lets in tons of light and plenty of table and booth seating. The owners aim to attract a diverse base of customers with lunch and dinner hours, and the bustling early evening crowd when we visited consisted of equal parts Clayton office workers, couples and families.

The eatery had a short list of starters, referred to as ‘savory shareables’ on the menu, as well as a rotating selection of soups. From these offerings, we ordered the Urban Zest ($7), a spread made of sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese and herbs, served with flatbread and lavash, and a cup of Butternut Squash Soup ($4). Both were tasty, though the Urban Zest reminded us a lot of hummus, which also was on the menu. The cup of soup also was a very generous portion, more akin to a standard bowl than the tiny cups we’re used to. The main menu attraction at Crushed Red was the duo of fresh salads and stone-fired pizzas. Guests could choose from 10 salads and 14 pizzas, or they had the option of crafting their own custom versions. We decided to try out some of the menu varietals, and went with the South of the Border ($6) and Samurai ($6) salads and the Mushroom, Pepperoni & Sausage pizza ($9). Everything was made in plain sight, so guests could see exactly what they were getting from start to finish. Salad ingredients were chopped to order on a cutting board with a semi-circular mezzaluna knife, and the end result was fresh indeed. The South Of The Border featured avocado, roma tomato, roasted corn, cheddar cheese and strips of tortilla along with a mix of field greens. It was dressed with a low-fat chipotle ranch dressing that was tangy but low on heat for those who don’t want too much spice. This salad was extremely hearty and filling. The Samurai was a bit lighter, with a melange of snow peas, carrots, mandarin oranges, cucumber and a bit of cilantro over a base of Chinese noodles, baby spinach and Romaine. The veggies were delicious, but the Japanese miso ginger dressing was a bit too subtle and didn’t cut through the mix flavor-wise. The pizza was the perfect size for one, or to share along with a salad like we did. The ovens at Crushed Red baked the pie at 700 F, so it was ready in minutes. Ours came to the table with a delectably crispy crust and the toppings baked to cheesy, meaty perfection.

For those who desire an adult beverage with their dinner, Crushed Red had a small selection of beers and a longer list of wines to peruse. There also were some brownies and lemon squares available at the register ($2) that provided a fine end to dinner.

For those who want fresh food fast and an inviting space to enjoy it, Crushed Red fits the bill.

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