What’s the quickest way to find great food? Follow the crowd. If the throngs of hungry students cramming the lobby of Constitution Hall are any indication, Freshëns, the new restaurant therein, is doing something right.

Offering salads, sandwiches, smoothies, quesadillas, and rice bowls, this menu is geared toward scholars who need a refreshing, invigorating midday pick-me-up. For those missing Build Pizza, a diverse menu of flatbreads is also an appealing option. These cheesy specialities are adorned with creative and unconventional toppings such as red peppers and pesto, or even “Nashville Hot!” chicken with provolone, pickles, and home-made habanero sauce straight out of Tennessee

Rice is nice

When it comes to the rice bowls at Freshëns, diners can traverse the globe without leaving campus. Consider the baja queso and frito grande from Mexico. Try the Kansas City BBQ or the sesame-infused Thai Chicken. One thing is certain: a $10 meal at Freshëns is a better deal than any weekend getaway fare.

Terrific toasted cheese

But sometimes all you want is a taste of home. For such moments I highly recommend Mom’s Grilled Cheese, which is exactly as wonderful as it sounds. Made with toasted sourdough bread, I approve of this superb, stretchy, melty mix of cheeses–complemented especially well by a small cup of steaming tomato soup. The bread is crisp and intriguingly bitter, the way great sourdough should be. Cheddar and provolone meld together to create a terrific bite. In all, I would be hard-pressed to find a better dish anywhere on campus.

Super salads

Elliott Parrish

Every salad at Freshëns is served in a crispy crepe shell. The thin, crunchy layer of French pancake makes an unlikely, albeit brilliant vessel for the dish. I especially favor the strawberry & kale salad, studded with dried cranberries, apples, sharp gorgonzola, grilled chicken and tossed in a fruity vinaigrette. Going vegetarian? Note that the Quorn imitation chicken is stunningly convincing.

Episode II: Return of the Smoothie

The closing of Create last semester left a smoothie void on campus. But no longer. Freshëns cranks out a whopping 18 varieties of smoothie, with names every bit as gutsy and creative as their flavors. Bangin’ Berry has proven to be an early crowd favorite, liquidating pomegranate, raspberries, blueberries, and bananas in one perky blend.

Some smoothies here are crafted for health benefits (see Super C Immune Support, Immunity Boost, and Super Fuel), while others are meant to invoke sun-splashed memories of summer vacation (Caribbean Craze, Maui Mango, and Peach on the Beach). My beverage of choice is the Tropical Therapy smoothie, complete with a tart combination of pineapple, coconut, and kiwi. If I squinted hard enough, the ferns on the quad looked almost like palm trees with this drink in my hand.

Elliott Parrish

Room for improvement

Like any new restaurant, the staff at Freshëns have yet to iron out all the kinks. On opening day, customers waited up to 90 minutes for their food. While wait times have decreased somewhat since then, online ordering remains unavailable. Read: avoid Freshëns when in a hurry.

Further, the menu sports a few ingredient choices that are less than ideal. Several of the flatbreads come drizzled with ranch dressing unbefitting of such cuisine. And the queso blanco cheese sauce is neither appetizing to look at nor taste. These are minor blemishes on an otherwise excellent pallet of comfort food.

Odds and ends

Elliott Parrish

Along with this momentous addition to the AU dining scene, Cravetown, a 9-to-midnight quick service concept, will cover the night shift in Freshëns’ place. As the entire venue is rearranged to accommodate these new businesses–as well as the sale of fresh supermarket produce–Spoon University will continue to publish reviews, recipes, and recommendations.