FreshBooth: Fast food with a healthy twist

Students in the downtown area looking to get a quick and healthy lunch should try out FreshBooth, the newly opened restaurant by two Western students.

Located at 201 Queens Ave., The restaurant is a modern looking single room with solid white and green walls, only decorated by a few photographs hanging on one wall.

There are a few tables that can seat a total of 12 patrons, plus several bar seats facing the window looking outside. Otherwise, the place is pretty empty.

The radio plays loudly in the background, tuned to a station playing trendy music and advertisements. It could benefit from being turned down, but perhaps it is more for entertaining the people who are working there or waiting for their food.

The four staff at the counter were all very helpful and friendly as I struggled to decide what to order. Two managers showed up while I was eating and asked me for feedback and to let them know if I needed anything.

They were slower than expected to prepare my burrito, taking about 10 minutes. On my second visit to FreshBooth, my salad came very quickly, leading me to believe burritos just take extra time.

Everything comes in take out containers, presumably to encourage getting your meal to go.

They seemed to be turning orders pretty quickly, avoiding any real build up as a couple dozen people came in over the course of an hour or so.

Menu items include several different salads, wraps, burritos and bowls, all for around $10. Everything is customizable and has the option of adding protein for an extra $1-2.

Drink options were limited to Coke, Coke zero, juice, water, coffee and tea. The sign outside the restaurant advertises smoothies, but when I inquired about them on my second visit I was told smoothies wouldn’t start being available until a few days later.

What I ordered:

Rio Burrito with Spinach Pita: Rice, corn, beans, onion, tomato, cheddar cheese, lots of chicken, very light on the sweet onion sauce. Somewhat sweet overall and good medley of flavours. Pita bread is phenomenal. Pretty filling, but could be a bit more substantial.

Green Tea: Decent, nothing special. Came scorching hot to the point of being undrinkable even after 10 minutes.

Kale Caesar: Not very filling. Long pieces of tofu, tomato, romaine, kale, parmesan, crispy wontons and standard Caesar salad dressing. Unique take on a Caesar, but could benefit from a better dressing.

Rating:

Price: 4/5: Everything is well priced for a light meal, but could be more filling. Given the healthy ingredients, things were fairly reasonable.

Atmosphere: 3.5/5: Very modern and simple design that fits with the healthy clean feel. Background music could be better. Feels very empty.

Service: 4/5: Really fast overall but the burritos take a while. Everyone was very friendly and helpful.

Food & Drink: 3.5/5: Excellent burrito and pretty good salad. Sizable variety of healthy menu options. Limited and fairly unhealthy drink selection, plus scorching hot tea that wasn’t great.

Overall: 3.5/5

(Source: Western Gazette, written by me, edited by the Gazette)

If you want to try it yourself:
201 Queens Avenue
http://www.freshbooth.com/

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Covent Garden Market Must Trys

Field Gate Organics

While most groceries stores in London will give you a standard cut of meat, this deli offers good quality organic beef, and trust me, you notice the difference. For $10 you can get a portion of organic striploin steak.

I seasoned mine with salt and pepper, coated it with a bit of olive oil, then cooked it on a cast iron pan on high, 3 minutes on each side, and rubbed it with butter and garlic as it was cooking. It came out amazing.

The Chocolate Factory

For $4 you can get a good-sized slice of amazing fudge from this chocolate shop. They have several flavours to choose from including Rocky Road, Skor, and Vanilla. My personal favourite is Heavenly Goo- a mix between chocolate and vanilla fudge, with caramel in the middle.

Pétit Paris

This is the only place I know of in London where you can get good quality French Macarons. They’re sold for $2.25 a piece, or $12 for 6. There are always several different  flavours which change daily, such as Black Currant, Key Lime, Birthday Cake, and Raspberry.

Manitos

To be totally honest I’ve only ever had the Chicken Melt (Panini) here, but for that item alone this place needs to be on this list. On several occasions I have come all the way downtown just to have it for lunch. It has chicken, havarti cheese, bacon, green onion, and garlic aioli.

Olive R Twist

If you’re looking for a filling meal to go along with your alternative pub experience, you should check out Olive R. Twists down by Covent Garden Market.

Olive R. Twists is good for going out with a group of friends for some drinks and bistro food, but don’t expect it to come cheap. However, there are coupons in the Western Student Guide that could make for a less expensive trip, including a free brunch offer!

Since they do not take reservations, I had to wait for about 20 minutes for a table in the packed restaurant.

The restaurant is dimly lit with black tables and offers a less crowded, somewhat upscale pub-like atmosphere with a full bar on one side and many TVs lining the walls. It seats around 60 people inside, plus a large outdoor patio that curves around.

Conversation was made difficult by the noise level, though I made the mistake of accidentally coming on a London Knights game night. The restaurant may usually be quieter.

We were seated at a corner table. Despite the restaurant being packed, the service was fast and the waitress took time to kindly offer menu suggestions when asked.

The very expansive and diverse menu has bistro, pasta, seafood and chicken dishes, along with a few Asian dishes for around $18 each. Pastas appear fairly expensive at around $20 each. Steaks are all $20 or more. Martinis are offered for $5 on Fridays.

Top Picks

Brisket Stacker for $13.99: Lots of red peppers, brisket and excessive sauce that dripped out, making a mess. Difficult to eat as the stuffing easily slips out. Bread is somewhat bitter. The beef was fatty and fairly salty but otherwise enjoyable and substantial. Very filling.

House Soup (came with sandwich; other options were salad or fries): Creamy potato broth, thin slices of potato, bacon and chives. Topped with a bit of sour cream. Initially has a creamy potato taste that is quickly overwhelmed by the heavy salt that ruined the soup.

1lb of Wings for $12.49: Came with 8 jumbo wings that, while large, were still on the pricey side. Got the recommended JD BBQ sauce, which was fairly sweet and a bit salty. Crispy skin, pretty heavy on the sauce (ask for extra napkins). Also came with four small lettuce and carrot sticks and ranch dip.

Overall Rating

Price: 4/5: For the most part a good bang for your buck, especially with entrées.

Atmosphere: 2.5/5: Great pub-like feel, but the noise level makes having a good conversation while dining difficult.

Service: 3.5/5: Was quick for the most part but forgot some requests like more napkins (she needed to be reminded) and was really slow to bring the bill.

Food & Drink: 2.5/5: Good variety but everything was overly salty, making multiple drink refills a must.

Overall: 3/5

(Source: Western Gazette, written by me, edited by the Gazette)

If you want to try it yourself:
130 King St. (London, ON)
http://olivertwists.ca/

Black Walnut Bakery Café (London, ON)

Newly opened on Richmond Row, Black Walnut Bakery Café has become my new go-to for off campus studying.

When I went here the first time I had an excellent experience. Super friendly and enthusiastic service, a nice homey atmosphere, and delicious homemade baked goods galore.

With several more visits in tow, I feel its time to deliver another review of this location.

Service

Each time I go here, I feel like I am being greeted by friendly acquaintances of mine. When I make a customized order they are genuinely interested in how it turned out (such as my rather unsuccessful green tea london fog with a shot of vanilla).

I usually like to include at least one shortcoming or a general area they could improve but I honestly can’t think of a single thing.

They are lightning fast, super friendly, and go over the top to make your visit an absolute pleasure.

Atmosphere

In my article for the Western Gazette,  I described Black Walnut as being a homey alternative to Starbucks and an excellent new study location (despite the relatively early closing time).

The past few visits have all been unique in some way. While there are certainly always students about with books and laptops, the crowd has a lot of diversity.

Lunch time is often met with an older crowd, who fill the café with conversation. The late afternoon, such as now when I write this at 3:30PM on a Wednesday, has few people sitting down, providing a quieter atmosphere that is perfect for studying (or writing in a blog).

Tables are abundant but can fill quickly during the busiest times of the day (lunch time and after work). There is also an outdoor patio that you should get good use out of while the weather stays warm.

There is always nice music playing in the background, adding to the relaxing atmosphere of the café.

The downside to picking Black Walnut as a study location is the lone outlet. Unless you are lucky enough to nab one of the two plugs, you’ll find yourself leaving as soon as your laptop dies.

Food & Drink

Pumpkin Spice Cruffin ($3): A muffin-shaped croissant with a creamy pumpkin spice filling that doesn’t overwhelm your taste buds. Much like the rest of their dishes, the sweet flavour did not overwhelm the pastry. Best eaten cut in half and with plenty of napkins.

Raspberry Chocolate Scone: This is one of the first times I’ve been able to finish a scone without needing a drink from it being too dry.

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Quiches ($6.50): Light fluffy quiche served hot with the perfect amount of fillings and a pastry crust that melts in your mouth. I’ve had Ham and Mushroom, and Mushroom and Zucchini, both were fantastic.

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Mushroom and Zucchini Quiche

Customized London Fog 12oz ($3.35): They were out of earl grey and the server recommended getting it with green tea and a shot of peppermint. It was amazing. I finished it faster than I intended and it took every ounce of self control not to buy another.

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Conclusions

Price: 5/5: Given everything is homemade and quite filling, the prices are very reasonable and you can get a filling meal or large snack for under $10.

Service: 5/5: Over the top amazing, no complaints.

Atmosphere: 4.5/5: Homey atmosphere that is great for studying that is only too loud at the busiest times of day. More outlets would be very beneficial.

Food & Drink: 4.5/5: Homemade baked goodsmade to perfection and amazing light meals. I would need to try more of their light meal options before raising this to a definite 5/5.

Overall: 4.5/5: Close to perfection. An amazing café that will keep you coming back for more. Perhaps my obsession with coming here to study has made me biased, but I have yet to hear a single serious complaint from anyone.

Try Black Walnut Café yourself:
724 Richmond St.
http://www.blackwalnutbakerycafe.com/