Continuing on the quest to find health-conscious restaurants in Toronto, I recently sampled Fresh. It is a well-known and popular vegetarian restaurant, established in 1999, with three locations downtown: one at Spadina Ave. and Queen St. W, another at Bloor St. W and Spadina Ave., and a third at Queen St. W and Crawford St.
Fresh emphasizes the use of unique ingredients, the practice of making food to order, and the absence of preservatives. They also sell cookbooks to help you make healthy meals at home.
I sampled Fresh at the Spadina and Queen location, but many of the same characteristics I describe carry over to the other locations.
Upon entry, you notice the bright and open feel of the restaurant, with elements like ample lighting, big windows and wall mirrors, pastel greens and blues on walls, and polished wooden tables, chairs and floor. While the restaurant itself isn’t big, these décor elements make Fresh feel spacious. The eating area is subtly sectioned off from the entrance and the kitchen by waist-height dividers and counters, which give an impression of privacy while dining but also openness to the rest of the restaurant.
The first thing I noticed on Fresh’s menu was the abundance of drinks on the menu. In fact, the drinks comprise half of the menu. Fresh offers everything from smoothies, wheatgrass shots and shakes, protein and power shakes, vegetable juices, as well as teas and water. There are no soft drinks on the menu!
I sampled the Swoosh protein shake (which included peanut butter, dark cocoa, maple syrup, and banana) and also the Date Almond power shake (almond butter, dates, maple, soy milk). Both were some of the best shakes I’ve ever had.
Moving on to the food portion of the menu, Fresh features starters, salads, burgers, wraps, and rice/noodle bowls. Starters include soups, dosas (Indian pancakes), spring rolls, and fries. The burgers are made from almond, grain, tofu and vegetable, with which you choose a complement of vegetable trimmings like tomatoes, onions, and sprouts. You can even order the burger without the multigrain bun if you're serious about reducing your carb intake. The wraps consist of vegetables and sauce served in a grilled whole-wheat tortilla; again you can also opt to skip the tortilla wrap. Finally, the bowls feature a multitude of vegetables matched with either brown basmati rice or soba noodles.
You can also order in prix fixe style: for $21, you choose a juice, a starter, a fresh bowl or salad, and a dessert for your meal. Desserts aren’t listed on the menu, so ask your server.
Finally, if you’re having trouble deciding on what to order from the menu, you can make your own juice or customize your meal, using an extensive list of ingredients.
Fresh’s servers were attentive, timely, helpful in offering suggestions, and they always remembered to refill the water.
I found Fresh’s portions to be sufficient. When I first saw the rice bowl I ordered, I thought it was small. However, I couldn’t even finish my meal! Both drinks and bowls are offered in two sizes, and I found the smaller size adequate for my appetite.
Fresh’s prices are in the medium range: a 12 oz. Swoosh protein shake was $6.50, while the abundant Power house rice bowl was $13 at regular size. The smaller sized bowls are $8 to $9 each; salads are $6 to $11 each; burgers and wraps are $9.50 each. You can also order the prix fixe, which is $21 and includes a juice, starter, fresh bowl or salad, and dessert
Fresh on Spadina: 147 Spadina Avenue (Spadina Ave. and Queen St. W)
Fresh on Bloor: 326 Bloor Street West (Bloor St. W and Spadina Ave.)
Fresh on Crawford: 894 Queen Street West (Queen St. W and Crawford St.)
- Weekdays: 11:30a.m.-10p.m.
- Weekend: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fresh on Spadina: 416-599-4442; Fresh on Bloor: 416-531-2635; Fresh on Crawford: 416-913-2720