7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd. | 407-203-8856 | freshii.com | $
Inside Freshii, the newest fast-casual resto to grace our hamlet, a wall is emblazoned with the motto “Eat. Energize.” Having endured a three-hour-long tennis match earlier in the day, and considering my rapidly fading state, those two words signaled to me like a beacon and offered a sustenance all their own. Rather than offering, say, the Rob Ford diet, the Toronto-based chain Freshii is all about making healthy eating affordable and convenient, and certainly the menu of soups, salads, wraps, burritos, and rice/noodle/quinoa bowls serve as the antithesis, I’m guessing, of the deposed mayor’s eating regimen.
First, the not-so-freshii: Meats – chicken, steak, shrimp – are pre-cooked and shipped in, not grilled on the premises, though I was told they make an effort to source hormone- and antibiotic-free meats. The behind-the-counter setup, in fact, features nary a hood, range, oven or energy-draining dishwasher. Freshii embraces the eco-friendly with its biodegradable packaging, carbon-footprint reduction and natural cleaning products. On the menu, it took us a while to pore over all the pre-set and “build your own” options, so we opted for a “one of each” approach. The bowl of Southwestern soup ($6.49) could’ve used more seasoning, but we found the chicken broth with brown rice, broccoli, tomatoes, corn and aged cheddar to be nourishing nonetheless. I thought the “superbiotic” wrap ($6.99), with its spinach and romaine, chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, corn, cukes and cucumber-dill dressing in a honey wheat tortilla, was the healthiest thing I’d eaten all year – that is, until I bit into the Thai lemongrass burrito ($6.49). Its ingredients: quinoa, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, edamame and a spicy lemongrass sauce. I added cucumbers for extra crunch and steak for protein. Both wrap (served cold) and burrito (served warm) were satisfying, and their constituent ingredients wonderfully fresh. From the list of bowls, we tried the Mediterranean ($7.99) and added falafel to its base of quinoa and field greens for an extra $1.49.
It’s hard to fault a meal so salubrious; indeed, the restorative qualities of all three dishes were laudable, but I must confess that, at one point, it felt as though what I was eating was almost too healthy for comprehensive enjoyment. Maybe it was quinoa overload, in which case, a noodle bowl like Buddha’s Satay ($6.49) would’ve been a better choice. No matter; a few sips of the Powerhouse smoothie ($5.99) – mint, pineapple, coconut milk, and low-fat frozen yogurt – helped shake off the healthy blues with a natural sugar boost. It’s a smoothie I’d order again, though, for the price, the cup is a tad small.
Frozen yogurt ($4.99 with two toppings) is the only dessert option here, with Oreo cookies and chocolate chips being the only two anomalously junk-foody toppings offered. We skipped on the low-fat froyo and ended with a Banana Nut Crunch smoothie ($5.99) instead. If the thought of sipping on a smoothie that tastes like Banana Nut Crunch cereal appeals to you, go for it. Otherwise, don’t bother.
The staff, it should be noted, were all very helpful, patient and friendly, and the space itself, with its white walls, green metal chairs and wood furnishings, is at once modern and inviting.
Personally, Freshii wouldn’t be the type of place I’d visit more than once a week, even though I know I probably should. But for those in the “you are what you eat” camp, Freshii serves as a reminder that there’s nothing more important than your health.