36 East 4th Street
UPDATE: November 18, 2008 - this restaurant has closed.
I want to like Fresh. No, let me rephrase that: I want to LOVE Fresh. I already love the concept – fresh fast food made with organic ingredients, independently owned and operated. What’s not to love?
It’s got nearly all the makings of a vegetarian’s dream: an assortment of veggie sandwiches, a variety of baked potato options and made-to-order salads with organic fixin’s.
Thing is, the concept is sometimes better than the execution at Fresh. First of all I wouldn’t exactly call it fast food. Either they are permanently understaffed or their team takes breaks at the most inopportune times, but nearly every time I stop by for lunch (they are only open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. M-F) the queue is long and slow, with only one employee on hand to prepare your made-to-order sandwich or salad. It is a testament to the number of people who want healthy, organic food in downtown, but it is equally frustrating for those of us on a tight schedule.
Fresh offers an innovative selection of vegetarian sandwich options from their wide-ranging menu. On the Deli Classics Menu you will find
Fresh Vegetables and Hummus – sliced avocado, cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, shaved red onions, basil and house-made hummus. This is a really nice sandwich, although when they are out of avocado they substitute guacamole in its place, which overpowers the delicate balance of flavors. It also makes the sandwich bread soggy, which is a big turnoff for me.
On their Toasted Melt Menu they list a Fresh Vegetables and Cheddar sandwich, consisting of ripe tomatoes, green peppers, shaved red onions, basil and melted cheddar cheese, and on the Specialty Menu there is the Caprese, a sandwich comprised of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves. Since a sandwich isn’t a sandwich without bread, Fresh offers honey oat, honey white, ciabatta, multi-grain, salted rye or wheat, all of which are fresh baked, hand-sliced and all-natural. You also get a choice of side: all-natural pretzels, kettle cooked chips or an apple.
Their stuffed potatoes are interesting as well. You can get the bog-standard potato with sour cream and chives, or a cheesy potato filled with shredded cheddar, parmesan and sour cream, or you may opt for something called Veggy-Light, which consists of chopped tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, roasted broccoli, cheddar cheese and light sour cream. The lady ahead of me in the line today ordered this, and while it looked really good, the overworked staff member informed her that while normally he’d roast the broccoli, he couldn’t do it today because there were too many people in line behind her. She was cool with it, but she’d been waiting for a long time too, and it didn’t seem fair to slight her order, but that’s what happens when the restaurant is understaffed.
Fresh also offers seasonal fresh soups, but I have no idea what they are because they don’t seem to be posted anywhere in the restaurant, or on their take-out menu, or on line. Must remember to ask on my next visit.
My favorite item on the Fresh menu is the Build Your Own salad, although even that has disappointed me on recent occasions because while they used to offer mouthwateringly delicious baked tofu as one of their protein options, they have since omitted it from the menu, much to my chagrin. Vegetarians can still get their protein by requesting chick peas or white beans, which are two of the tossings you can add from their 15 item list. Keep in mind, however, that you may only choose three tossings from the list, and cheese is extra.
Their beverage list is pretty cool: Alongside the standard fountain drinks are Fiji spring water, Vitamin water, Izze sodas, Nantucket Nectars and an assortment of hot or iced teas. Nice!
Fresh should be all kinds of awesome, and it does offer a number of veggie options to keep us happy. Their food and the concept are excellent, but the slow service really hurts.