"We are not vegetarian. We just don't serve meat.” This statement, spray painted across the side of the new Fresca on Addison, is confusing at best and seems a bit less than straightforward. A spade is a spade, right? Thank goodness this isn't a theme in the new, slightly alternative vegetarian bistro at Cary and Addison.
The restaurant features repurposed chairs, self-serve water, hard lines and floating booths. At first glance it looks hastily thrown together, a mishmash of whatever could be found to place bodies in seats. On many return visits I have found this is not the case. Specificity, detail and reuse are more the style at Fresca with undertones of environmental consciousness and neighborly attention. On two of my visits, the Farm to Family bus owner was parked across the street and taking solace from the bitter cold at one of the booths with a press pot of Illy coffee.
The menu is unabashedly and entirely vegetarian. Faux meat creeps in a few places but really isn't needed. A sandwich ($7.50 with one side) of broccoli raab and white-bean spread catches perfection for me in the heartiness category. Slightly on the messier side, the pasty white bean (think hummus texture) is lavishly spread over roasted-till-almost-tender garlicky raab. Egg salad, thinner than others I've had, is great on the right-out-of-the-oven wheat pita.
Pizzas ($7) are hit and miss. The roasted cauliflower rendition would have hit awesome if not for the overly charred crust the few times I ordered it. All the burned edges take away from the light tomato sauce and better-than-good pizza crust. The fake-bacon, potato and egg pizza is a bit confusing but flavorsome as well. I was taken aback mildly by the poorly placed, over-way-too-easy, egg. Only on one slice, it sat conspicuously uncooked. My companion was just as perplexed, so we ended up staring at the slice for the entirety of the meal.
I could make a habit of heading to Fresca midday for the house or daily special soup ($4 cup, $7 bowl). I love how both choices always seem to be on the lighter side. The house is a creamy, from coconut milk, butternut squash. Smooth and inviting, a cup just isn't enough. I fall in love with a mushroom broth-based soup because of its big earth taste and fat slices of tender onions. Whoever is cooking is using salt to taste splendidly. On another occasion, a delicate vegetable soup is a nice balance of root vegetable and caramelized onions, pleasant and aromatic.
Dessert is a mix of homemade cookies and cupcakes. A chocolate cupcake is a great ending to a meal on one day, and on another, a crumbly peanut butter oatmeal cookie ($2) is slightly on the expensive side but sheerly delicious.
Service is outstanding even though it's an order-and-sit type of place — an all-hands-on-deck establishment. Jenna Sneed, the co-owner, must never leave the restaurant because she serves me deftly and unobtrusively every time I dine save once. Jimmy Sneed (father to Jenna, previously of the Frog and the Redneck, Carena's Jamaican Grille and others) has been washing dishes the last few times I've popped in.
If Fresca on Addison doesn't want to directly embrace the solid vegetarian cuisine it's producing, I'm OK with that, as long as the side-stepping includes soup or a peanut-butter-oatmeal cookie.
Now … about that weird white naked mannequin. … S
Fresca on Addison
22 S. Addison St.
Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Closed Sunday (until spring)