Originally uploaded by dynamist.
Eating out can be a pain when you’re trying to eliminate a lot of empty calories from your diet, especially in the US. Here, most places pile fried tortilla strips or mountains of shredded ‘cheese food’ on top of iceberg lettuce and shredded carrot with fatty dressing and call it a ‘healthy’ meal.
So I was intrigued to try Fresh, a clean, minimalist sandwich and salad place in downtown Cincinnati. You can order one of Fresh’s own salad combinations or build your own. I decided to build my own.
First, you have a choice of romaine lettuce or field greens (I went with the latter). You can then choose up to four vegetable additions (mine: broccoli, chickpeas, red peppers, and tomatoes). For 75 extra cents, you can also add your choice of proper cheese or meat (I abstained from both). Then you select either an apple or a small bag of pretzels as your side dish. All this costs all of $4.98.
1) Fresh does not offer a fat-free dressing. (I made do with a soy-ginger vinaigrette with chopped coriander, which was really good.) In an eating establishment which prides itself on offering customized lunches, not being able to whisk me up an oil-free soy-ginger dressing was a pretty poor showing.
2) The apples on offer are waxed to within an inch of their life. I don’t get carried away with fear that eating one waxed apple is going to give me cancer (or whatever), but I like my fruit without wax. Call me picky. Why not offer bananas, oranges, or other fruit in addition to apples?
3) Fresh offers no calorie-free soft drinks other than warm still water. Calorie-laden Vitamin Water (sounds healthier than it is) and sugary, fizzy juice drinks such as Izze were the only other options. How hard can it be to offer a simple diet soda? Maybe the margins aren’t as high, but you’ll get me to come back for more lunch if I can have a decent drink with it. This is supposed to be a haven of healthful eating, right?
Overall, I was unimpressed with Fresh. My expectations were high, because I’ve eaten at places that look like this on both coasts. Fresh can’t quite bring the substance to go with the style. I was told that the menu is being revised, and that it is “extremely top secret”. Somehow, I don’t think the owner needs to worry about people stealing his brilliant ideas just yet.