- TALKING TURKEY: Fresh Start's turkey burger with fries.
We wouldn't say turkey is king at Fresh Start Cafe, but it talks pretty loudly. We ourselves had the Turkey Burger, a third of a pound of ground turkey on a bun with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions. For another 49 cents, you can add a slice of cheese. We did; we didn't want to get too healthy. And we got fruit salad on the side rather than French fries or "Fresh Start Potatoes," which are diced and fried with peppers and onions. How much can you ask of us?
Although a little dry, a common complaint about turkey, the turkey burger was not bad. For a turkey burger. If you care only for pleasure, you can order the Fresh Start Burger, which is like the Turkey Burger except it substitutes ground beef for turkey. And with the beef burger you can add bacon and fried egg for 49 cents each. You could probably do that with the Turkey Burger too, but people might look at you funny.
As it is with the burger, so it is with the Reuben (corned beef or turkey, your choice) and the patty melt (turkey or beef). Among many other sandwiches is a Turkey Delight — grilled turkey with bacon, lettuce, tomato and Monterey Jack cheese on toasted wheat bread. Of the non-turkey sandwiches, the Fried Cluck caught our eye. This is a crispy and well seasoned chicken breast on ciabatta bread with lettuce and tomato. The menu said something about chipotle mayo too, but when the sandwich arrived, it lacked any kind of mayo, or any other dressing. The waitress brought us some mayonnaise when we asked, but it entailed a small wait.
Fresh Start offers a bunch of big salads, including You're Nuts (craisins, apples, granola, mixed nuts and chicken on Romaine lettuce with fat-free raspberry vinaigrette dressing) and Ahh-m-Asian (mixed greens, scallions, crispy rice noodles, sesame seeds and mandarin oranges with ginger vinaigrette dressing). Fresh Start needs to work on these names.
A daily special plate lunch is available at Fresh Start too. One of us had the fried catfish. It was a generous serving — she took some home — but not as crispy as she'd expected, possibly a sign that it hadn't been cooked to order, as the turkey burger had been. The sides were serviceable turnip greens and a small, conventional salad.
Fresh Start has a few appetizers. We liked the fried pickles with chipotle dip. For what it's worth, these pickles were quartered lengthwise and fried; they weren't the fried pickle slices we'd seen before.
The cafe opens for breakfast at 7 a.m. and it serves up some hearty breakfasts indeed. No, check that. It doesn't serve them to you at a table. From 7 until 11 a.m., Fresh Start is strictly a takeout operation. We were told that it wasn't yet attracting enough breakfast customers to justify hiring a waiter. Some of the breakfasts on the menu seem a little elaborate for takeout, such as the avocado and bacon omelet, and the country ham with two eggs, biscuits and grits. You can add shrimp to the grits for 99 cents. Try the Southwestern Burrito — scrambled eggs, chorizo, green chiles, cilantro, onions and Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheese in a tortilla. It was more than we could eat, but we enjoyed it as long as we could.
The dining room is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The menu at Fresh Start is different from other downtown lunch and breakfast places; we plan to go back and try more of these things. But prospering won't be easy. A Subway and a Sufficient Grounds Express share the first floor of the Lyon Building with Fresh Start; the venerable Franke's Cafeteria, also serving breakfast and lunch, is across the street. The Fresh Start ownership is optimistic, though. According to the back of the menu, Fresh Start Cafes in West Little Rock and North Little Rock are Coming Soon!
Fresh Start Cafe
401 W. Capitol Ave., Suite 103 (The Lyon Building at Capitol and Broadway)
An engaging mix of healthy and un-. We hope the Little Rock Marathoners found the egg-white omelet with sliced mushrooms, onions, spinach and diced turkey, served with wheat berry toast and a fruit cup.
Breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday (take-out only). Lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the dining room open.
No alcohol. Credit cards accepted.