Restaurant Reviews

Healthy eating is the modus operandi at Fresh Healthy Café

Fresh Healthy Café is hardly the most inventive name, yet it pretty much sums up what’s going on at this new restaurant and juice bar in BoDo.

The fast-casual concept is all about freshly made wraps, panini sandwiches, protein bowls, smoothies, soups and salads — designed with healthy eating and expedience in mind.

And with all the gravy and candy we consume this time of year, surely a little kale won’t kill us.

The restaurant is part of an up-and-coming franchise chain that’s based in Vancouver, B.C. Eric Sutherland and Zaira Figueroa, the husband-and-wife team who own and operate the Boise store, have secured the rights to all future Fresh Healthy Café franchises in Idaho.

Housed in the former Helly Hansen retail spot, a few doors down from P.F. Chang’s, the eatery’s ordering system is designed for a streamlined dining experience. Customers simply walk up to the counter and order from an overhead digital menu board, and in a few minutes, their names get called and they pick up the food and beverages at the other end of the long counter. It usually takes about 10-15 minutes during busy times for larger orders, considering everything is made right then and not just sitting around in a pre-made form.

As for the interior design, the dining area boasts an immaculate-looking white paintjob accented by avocado hues. The walls are bedecked with large color photos of fresh food — apples, carrots, chickpeas and such — and vibrant acrylic paintings produced by Figueroa. The fence contained-rock barriers that break up the dining room into sections look straight from the edge of a farmer’s field, giving the space a natural, agrarian feel.

Even though Fresh Healthy Café is a chain, the Boise eatery makes good use of local products. In the beverage department, it serves cold-brew coffee from Ironside Roasting Co., drip coffee from Dawson Taylor and Good Vibes Kombucha. Aj’s Sol Crecido Salsa and Hummuna Hummus get spread on some of the wraps and panini sandwiches. The kitchen also uses local honey and granola from Nature’s Indulgence.

Without a doubt, vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free types and those just looking to eat healthy are in luck here. Most of the menu items can be custom made — leaving out this or that, or adding other things to meet people’s dietary needs.

It’s also important to note that all the restaurant’s packaging is either recyclable or completely biodegradable, so it won’t be hanging around the landfills for years to come.

Breakfast items get served all day. This means diners can score savory menu selections such as a Healthy Start Panini ($8.29/full sandwich) that borrows influence from the Southwest. Panini grill-pressed slices of whole-wheat bread come filled with fluffy, moist scrambled eggs, sliced green bell pepper and red onion, tomato-based salsa, cheddar and crisp pieces of turkey bacon. Not a bad way to start the day, even if someone’s day starts at 2 in the afternoon.

Or go for the aptly named Early Bird Wrap ($7.29), a soft whole-wheat tortilla wrapped around fresh spinach leaves, tomato, turkey bacon, gooey mozzarella and scrambled eggs (the latter of which were rubbery and brown on the top one day). Gluten-free tortillas are available for the wheatless crowd.

Carnivores should keep in mind that the cafe only offers poultry items and albacore tuna in terms of animal proteins. While the aforementioned turkey bacon boasts the expected smokiness, it surely doesn’t have the pronounced flavor of fatty pig bacon, yet it’s much healthier.

Colorful protein bowls are another good option for starting the day off on the right note or a healthy afternoon snack. I recommend the Pitaya Bowl ($6.79), a thick, magenta-hued amalgam of pureed cactus fruit, pineapple, mango, banana and almond milk, topped with cinnamon-tinged granola, sliced banana, plump blueberries and toasted coconut flakes.

Protein bowls and smoothies can be supplemented (for an additional cost) with add-ons such as whey protein, chia seeds, flax seeds and even hemp hearts.

I found the Chunky Monkey smoothie ($4.79/small) to be almost milkshake-thick and full of flavor, thanks to a blended mixture of banana, chocolate, soy milk, non-fat frozen yogurt and a bit of peanut butter.

For a veritable eye-opener, try the Cold Brew Smoothie ($4.79/small). This fragrant, blended concoction is made with stout coffee, cacao powder, organic agave, cashew milk and vanilla extract.

The always-changing lineup of daily soups typically includes two vegan soups and one made with chicken broth. Vegans will like the organic black bean soup ($3.49/cup), which is super-thick and redolent of cumin and garlic. Another good vegan choice, if it’s available, is the green lentil soup ($4.49/bowl) infused with organic coconut milk.

Those with heartier appetites should go for the Kale Vegetarian Wrap ($7.29), a whole-wheat tortilla smeared with lemony hummus and rolled into a colorful pinwheel comprised of crimson beets, cucumber, curly kale leaves, chopped tomato and thinly sliced red onion, tossed in tangy balsamic vinaigrette.

A Spicy Chicken Panini ($8.29/full sandwich) took care of that hot, cheesy sandwich urge. But the grilled chicken within the hot-pressed slices of multi-grain bread—along with melted cheddar, sliced green bell pepper and onion, red salsa and pickled jalapenos — was overcooked and extremely dry.

I went the vegetarian route with the Asian Sesame Salad ($4.19/half). A bowl of chopped romaine came lubed with fragrant sesame dressing, then topped with crunchy chow mein noodles, toasted almond slices and mandarin orange segments. Diners can add grilled chicken at an additional cost.

In a city that loves its artery-clogging pub grub and pizza, Fresh Healthy Café is definitely a welcome newcomer for those striving to eat healthier and fresher food.

Fresh Healthy Café

Address: 860 W. Broad St., Boise

Phone: 208-332-9800

Online: freshcafeboise.com.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Menu price range: smoothies, freshly squeezed juices and protein bowls $4.79-$6.79; wraps, panini sandwiches and salads $4.19-$8.29.

Kid friendly? Yes

Wheelchair accessible? Yes

Opened: May 2017

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