Pot Luck

Tunnel Explorer: Freshii

Not long ago, I mentioned over in Shiftwork Bites (God rest its soul) that my business unit had moved offices. Now on the other end of downtown, I have whole stretches of previously unexplored tunnel to roam, in search of the best Houston's subterranean restaurateurs have to offer. Of course, before I can get down below ground, I feel obligated to report on the options that have the benefit of the light of day. Surface-dwellers have to eat, too, after all.

The Shops at Houston Center serve as the gateway to my new tunnel adventures, forcing me to pass through their Mall Rats food-court offerings on my way underground. Last week, while meandering past the cookie shop (which had an oddly long line at 11:30, as if half the building's residents were choosing pecan sandies as a viable lunch option), I noticed a new resident, with a ridiculous name.

That name, Freshii, along with its bright green signage, naturally prompted me to check it out. As reported last year by Eating Our Words' Lauren Marmaduke, Freshii is a fast/healthy Toronto export focused on a green image, both literally and figuratively. Meals are based around a "build your own" concept that anyone who's eaten at Mission Burrito can appreciate. Choose a salad, soup, rice bowl, or noodle bowl base, and customize from there with sauces, proteins, fruits and vegetables.

I opted for a rice noodle bowl, filling it out with grilled salmon (which didn't taste grilled, and represented a $3 addition to the bill), carrots, broccoli, edamame, cilantro, sprouts and spinach, topped off with a mix of Sriracha and spicy peanut sauces. I watched as the friendly staff filled my order, grabbing produce and noodles, sauce and protein, and shaking it all up in a bag to mix. I know that the shaking thing is just one of Freshii's many efforts to eliminate waste and increase efficiency, but I must admit that it was disconcerting to see my lunch prepared in what looked like the kind of thin-gauge trash bag we used as receptacles in the women's restroom of a bookstore where I once worked.

Regardless, Freshii delivered on its promise of "fresh food. custom built." My lunch was light but satisfying, the savory peanut sauce and large pieces of salmon making it feel like a more substantial meal, and the crisp vegetables making me feel better about eating it. The wide rice noodles weren't even overcooked, slurping satisfactorily from my chopsticks instead of falling apart into mush. I probably would have liked the sauce to have a bit more oomph, and definitely would have liked more heat, but was impressed, overall.

While I may not make Freshii a regular stop, it's certainly nice to know it's there. The food is fresh and healthy, the options plentiful, and it all tastes pretty good. Plus, there's icing on the cake; Freshii (at least this location) carries a whole line of goodies from Sinful Bakery. I consoled myself with Sinfull's promise of vegan healthiness while I ate two gigantic peanut butter cookies. Don't rob a man of a little bit of indulgent self-delusion.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall