Lunch doesn't usually start with someone in a suit opening a door for me. But that was just the beginning of the pleasant surprises fresh (36 E. Fourth St., 513-421-1020) had in store for me.
The restaurant, one of downtown's newer lunch spots, serves what the name suggests: healthy food with a heavy emphasis on organic ingredients. The Web site (www.greafoodgreatlife.com) declares, "You pay for what you don't get" and emphasizes this philosophy by listing unacceptable ingredients -- most of which I can't even pronounce, much less want to ingest.
As my coworkers and I walked past our friendly doorman, we were faced with a line of fresh-faced employees standing ready to take our orders and assemble the meal before our very eyes. Choices include custom salads, signature salads, hot and cold sandwiches and a few interesting sides ($2.98) like homemade guacamole with organic blue chips or fresh fruit with Brie. We covered the sandwich side of the menu that day, but on later visits I tried the Turkey Club salad ($7.98) and the Tandoori Chicken salad.
Both were very good, but the staff still seems to be learning the finer points of the menu: one day I got carrots on my Tandoori chicken salad, the next day I didn't.
After we made our way through the assembly line and waited to pay, we had our second nice surprise -- free cupcakes! Cupcakes made by one of the employees, no less. We grabbed a couple as we made our way past walls lined with Mason jars of dried lentils and yellow split peas and slid into seats in the dining area of hard surfaces and light wood. A few of my companions had to wait for their food, which was hand delivered when ready, yet another nice surprise for a quick lunch.
The food went over very well with a group that tends to be finicky eaters. The Roast Beef and Cheddar ($6.98) was piled high with beef and topped with an unusual vinegary house-made mayo (surprise No. 3 if you're counting). The Vegetable and Cheddar sandwich ($6.98) was a beautiful color wheel of red and green peppers, yellow cheese and red onion, and the cumin-dusted Southwestern Chicken with Guacamole sandwich ($6.98) was tender and flavorful. The Turkey Bacon Cheddar ($6.98) was topped with crispy nitrate-free bacon, making it a little less unhealthy and quite easy for us to rationalize.
Now, don't get your hopes up too high for those moist, chocolate cupcakes. It might have een a one-time deal, but I can say that at Fresh you'll get premium ingredients and a sincere staff that clearly needs to make you happy. Grade: A
Palamino is offering three-course dinners for $25 at its downtown restaurant through Saturday. Appetizer choices include Dungeness Crab and Artichoke Dip, Grilled Tiger Prawns, Caesar Salad, Baby Field Greens with Chevre or the Chop Chop Salad. Entrée choices are Rotisserie Chicken or Pork Chop, Oven-Roasted Tiger Prawns and Lobster Ravioli. For dessert? Vanilla Crème Brulee, Tiramisu or Fruit Cobbler. For reservations, call 513-381-1300.
CONTACT LORA ARDUSER: letters(at)citybeat.com