Freshii concept is good, execution could be better

freshii green wallfreshii wallI’m always looking for healthier options when it comes to getting food on the go, so the prospect of a super healthy restaurant right off the main road I drive every day was really exciting. The two concerns I had about Freshii when I went to try it with Michelle was that the food would basically be a more expensive version of what I already make at home, and it wouldn’t actually be as healthy as I wanted it to be. And unfortunately, Freshii had issues with both of these concerns.

Freshii dining room
Freshii dining room

In general, everything we got had high and low points (some had lower points than others) and everything had a focus on healthy ingredients. However, everything was also a lot higher in calories than if I had made it myself at home, and everything was also pretty pricy. Don’t get me wrong…if I’m in a pinch and need something to eat, I will definitely choose Freshii over the other options on the west side.

Freshii teriyaki bowl
Freshii teriyaki bowl

Freshii offers soups, salads, wraps, burritos, bowls, smoothies and juices. We got to try a couple different dishes and by far, my favorite was the teriyaki bowl. It has brown rice, broccoli, carrots, edamame, green onions, crispy wontons, chicken and teriyaki sauce. I believe most of the options come vegetarian and you can add tofu, chicken, steak, shrimp or falafel…but another thing to note is that adding a protein does cost extra. The teriyaki bowl has over 600 calories without the chicken…that’s a little high for something that’s supposed to be super healthy. But I did enjoy the brown rice, edamame, al dente veggies and the teriyaki sauce. The bowl was filling and the ingredients were indeed fresh.

Freshii pangoa bowl
Freshii pangoa bowl

We also got to try the pangoa bowl which has brown rice, avocado, black beans, shredded cheese, corn, grape tomatoes, cilantro, hot sauce…and ours had chicken in it. This one was basically a smaller, less flavorful version of a Chipotle burrito bowl, plus their hot sauce was thick and not very flavorful, and their avocado was hard as a rock.

Freshii cobb salad
Freshii cobb salad

The cobb salad looked promising when we started digging in, but the heavy honey dijon dressing and lettuce slightly past its prime did not impress me. In addition to also having rock-hard avocado, it had blue cheese, which I really don’t like.

Freshii smoehouse burrito
Freshii smoehouse burrito

The smokehouse burrito was also a sub-par version of something you could get at Chipotle. It had brown rice, black beans, red onions, tomatoes, corn, shredded cheese and what the menu called “fiery barbeque.” I’m not sure there was even any barbeque sauce on the wrap…and if it was on there, there was nowhere near enough of a flavor to call if fiery. It was basically a brown, mushy wrap with no distinctive flavor…all for more than 730 calories.

Freshii green smoothie
Freshii green smoothie

The other thing that I very much enjoyed was the Freshii green smoothie with kale, spinach, pineapple, avocado and low-fat frozen yogurt. It was surprisingly refreshing and light…and tasted nothing like the green ingredients that were in it. The smoothie has just over 250 calories in it, and I’m told they can add protein powder…which also probably costs more.

FOOD NOTES: I had high hopes for Freshii, but some of those hopes were dashed during my first dining experience. Some of the ingredients (lettuce, avocado) were less than fresh (bad lettuce, rock-hard avocado), some of their dishes are not as healthy as I’d like them to be (the salads) and the prices are a bit high since you have to pay extra to add protein to your meal. The smoothies are good and I’d like to give their breakfast options a try, but their hours are a little limited (they close at 7pm and aren’t open Sundays), so I probably won’t be able to make it back for a while. If you go to Freshii — just ask yourself, “Can I make this at home or get a better version at Chipotle?”

Quest for authentic Mexican food doesn’t end at La Mestiza

I can confidently say I have never had authentic Mexican food. I can also confidently say that based on what I know about authentic Mexican food I will probably love it. While I like the Americanized version of Mexican food that is so prevalent in Madison, I have been on a quest for something close to authentic for quite a while. I read a couple reviews on La Mestiza that said it was authentic and one of the best Mexican restaurants in Madison. Even though it lives in an aging strip mall, people have said it is amazing. I went with a friend for lunch, and the small dining room with a dozen tables and a small corner bar in the back was half full and pretty inviting. Even though one waitress was seating and waiting on everyone, the service was fast and friendly.

la mestiza chips:salsa
chips and salsa

We got chips and two types of salsa before ordering. The chips were very crispy and extremely fresh. The red salsa was smoky but didn’t have a lot of other flavor (I was hoping for some spiciness). The green salsa was tangier, and tasted like tamatillos and cilantro. Neither of the salsas impressed me, but the guacamole we ordered was fantastic. It was definitely the highlight of the lunch. It was perfectly chunky, fresh and had an amazing flavor. I’m not sure what made it so good, but I could eat that guacamole every day.

la mestiza guacamole
guacamole

I was excited about ordering the tamales because usually a plate of tamales is one flavor (generally shredded pork), and at La Mestiza the order comes with a chicken, pork and cheese tamale. My excitement was dashed when my tamales came out covered in a white sauce and were dry, kind of tasteless and had no heat at all. I was expecting the tamales to be covered in a spicy red sauce and come out steamy with flavorful fillings. The best part of my lunch was that the serving of guacamole was so big there was enough left over to eat with my tamales.

la mestiza tamales
tamales

FOODNOTES: I would consider going back to La Mestiza specifically to have the guacamole again. Maybe another one of the dishes on the menu would be better than the tamales (which I can only assume were dry because they are cooked ahead of time and reheated). The prices are very reasonable but most of the dishes don’t come with rice or beans, so you have to order and pay for them separately. The chips were very fresh but could have used a little salt, and the two salsas that came with the chips were mostly flavorless and disappointing. I was hoping for fresh spicy authentic Mexican food at La Mestiza, but I got bland food with fresh guacamole and chips, and probably reheated tamales. I guess my quest for authentic Mexican food continues. Please post suggestions for authentic Mexican restaurants in Madison!!!