When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Freshbox, a new "Healthy Fast Food" restaurant, opened in Scottsdale in March. The concept is simple: housemade soups, salads, juices and wraps made-to-order from locally sourced ingredients.
Located off Grayhawk and Scottsdale roads, Freshbox is a local start-up with all the visual hallmarks of a big chain. Despite a recent opening, the company plans to open a second location (also in Scottsdale) in the near future. The space is open and un-offensive -- the ceiling adorned with wooden rafters, the walls with hardwood paneling -- and beautifully put together, but it doesn't quite feel lived in yet. For instance, a series of shelves line the back wall, but they don't have anything on them. When we visited there were only a handful of guests at the tables, which made the space feel more empty than open. Not at all surprisingly, the restaurant next door (creatively named "Cold Beer and Cheeseburgers") was packed.
Freshbox's menu offers a smattering of different flavors. They have two vaguely "Asian" options (each featuring rice noodles and mung bean sprouts), two "Southwestern"-style offerings, and a few more generic dishes. Guests can also opt to "build their own" salad from their preferred combination of veggies, meats, seeds, herbs, and cheeses. Any salad can be turned into a grain bowl (with brown rice or quinoa) or a wrap for no additional charge.
We were excited to try the "Mighty Aphrodite" salad listed on Freshbox's website (chocolate on a salad? YES PLEASE.), only to find that this option is not on the menu at the Grayhawk store.
We opted instead for a simple option -- the "Park Ave Cobb," wrapped in a spinach tortilla. As we suspected, this was a pretty standard Cobb salad-style wrap. What made it special was the ingredients. All of Freshbox's produce is locally grown, and all of the meat is ethically raised. Grass-fed beef and organic chicken are offered as add-ons to any item. Organic teriyaki tofu and nitrate-free bacon are also available. While the Cobb Wrap was in no way exotic or particularly exciting, it was well-made, and the high quality of the ingredients was evident.
One area where Freshbox did stand out was in the dressing department. Rather than the standard mayonnaise or oil-based salad sauce, Freshbox uses yogurt. Dressing is served on the side. Both of the options we tried (the "buttermilk" herb ranch and creamy avocado) were flavorful, light, and refreshing.
We also tried the "Herban Cowboy" as a salad. This salad features spring greens, blue cheese, sweet potato, corn, purple cabbage, housemade tortilla strips, parsley, and barbecue chicken. We admired the composition of this salad; it really hit all the notes. The produce was fresh, the chicken was tender, and we liked that the dish utilized a range of different textures. Freshbox's barbecue sauce was not overly sticky or sugary, but still packed quite a bit of tangy, smoky, sweet flavor.
We would have liked to try one of the housemade soups, but they were unavailable the day we visited. Instead, we opted for a few housemade beverages. Freshbox serves smoothies, lemonades, and fresh-pressed juices. At the recommendation of staff, we tried the "Beet Down," a mixture of parsley, kale, lime, pear, beets, and carrots. The juice did not photograph well, but was great. Thick and flavorful, the drink struck a pleasant balance between sweet and vegetable.
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We also enjoyed Freshbox's lemonades. They were not sickly sweet or overly acidic; instead, these lemonades were a demure, clean, and refreshing complement to the food. The sweetness was mild, and the acidity was gentle. The watermelon jalapeño lemonade was not aggressively spicy; instead, the jalapeño added more of an herbal flavor to the drink. The basil lemonade was deliciously clean and simple.
While Freshbox has branded itself as a "Healthy Fast Food" restaurant, you should not expect fast food prices, nor should you expect fast food speed. The restaurant's signature salads each cost between $11 and $13; building your own could easily run you into the $15 range. Given the amount of food we received and the quality of the ingredients, we found this to be reasonable -- but it might not hurt to know that going in, and temper your "fast food" expectations accordingly. Juices and other beverages were more reasonably (or rather, more standardly) priced. Each arrived within ten minutes.
While we love the concept and the focus on local ingredients, the cost is a bit prohibitive -- especially for "fast food." That said, we were impressed with what we tasted and are curious to see what happens next at Freshbox.