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Freshii Opens Doors in Charles Village

Where wraps, salads, rice bowls and even your frozen yogurt are custom-built.

During a recent dinner rush hour, I walked into Freshii to find its employees all smiles. And that was good, because I required some assistance. It's rare that a restaurant asks you to begin your order with a clipboard.

Yes, a clipboard is what starts your adventure at this new-to-Baltimore eatery, where fresh ingredients, and you, rule. The tiny clipboard, which comes with a golf pencil (always fun!) and outlines all of your salad, wrap and bowl options, greets you at the entrance to Freshii’s checkout line. Pick one up, and use it to tell the smiling staff what you want.

A set of pre-made options makes the decision-making easy. They range from a mostly traditional Cobb wrap to the less traditional Warrior Chicken bowl, a brown rice and Cajun chicken concoction. The Antioxidant Crunch—a salad that pairs grilled chicken with avocado, blueberries, spinach, celery and chopped almonds, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar—caught my eye.

But, going with one of the pre-made options, you miss all the Freshii fun. Using the handy clipboard, you can create your own salad, wrap or bowl. Ingredients are separated by type, price is clearly delineated and you can delegate the level to which your salad is dressed. The ingredients, which range from mango to edamame to plain old cucumbers, are fresh, and your meal is made to order right in front of you.

Unfortunately, the folks at Freshii—for all their smiles—are still working on the “fast” part of the “Fresh Food. Custom Built. Fast.” motto the national chain has built its brand around. For a salad—add spinach, toppings, dressing, shake—my meal took way too long to prepare. I think the assembly line could make some improvements for efficiency, too, like lids and a rice cooker that are simply out of the way. But, I have no doubt these small kinks will be ironed out.

Until then, Freshii is brand-new, and the men and women employed there are eager to assist, explain and empower each diner to make the best of his or her dinner, which is made to order with ingredients you can see and understand. For a $10 meal, that’s plenty to expect.

Freshii

3113 St. Paul Street

410-467-3737 

 

Neighborhood:

Charles Village—the commercial strip along St. Paul Street.

Food Type: 

A la carte salads, wraps, rice/noodle bowls and soups.

Damage:

In the $6-$9 range; expect more with “fancy” toppings like grilled salmon or goat cheese.

Gripe:

When you walk into the stark, wood-floored and white-walled interior, it is reminiscent of a hospital cafeteria, with an attempt at trendiness that never quite resonated with me. That’s a shame—plastic tables, decals on the walls—it’s all a bit institutional. But that’s the Freshii look: nothing extra, just the food.

Hat tip: 

Frozen yogurt. $5, fat free and delicious.

Go if: 

You need a quick meal that you want to see made in front of you—and you’ve had your fill of Chipotle for a week.

Don't go (yet) if:

You want to save your first impressions for a grand opening. That’s not until next week! Freshii is planning an official opening (“unwrapping,” in Freshii parlance) on June 21, from 10 a.m. to noon. Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke is scheduled to speak.

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