Lesley Harb's love of food and hospitality has deep southern roots. Harb grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, but often spent time with her paternal grandparents in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Some of her favorite memories of that time were watching her grandmother spend the better part of every day in the kitchen, in large part becauase her grandma was happiest making sure her family was well-fed.
"There is something innately satisfying that comes from creating a meal and having the people you love devour it," Harb says. "To this day, I get a kick out of seeing the bowls come back to the kitchen as clean as a whistle."
You would think with these influences that Harb would go into business serving slow-cooked, deep-fried, Southern favorites. Instead, she and her husband Mike took a different route when they opened the first Fast N Fresh in March of 2009.
"Our vision has always been the same—fresh food fast. These days everyone is on the go. We wanted our place to be a place where people could create their own meal, exactly how they want it."
What sets them apart though is not just their fresh local products and quick service – it's the ease of customization, thanks to their customer-designed salads.
"Face it, we are all a little picky," Harb explains. "And that's okay. What sets us apart is that you can come to one of our restaurants and never have the same meal twice. You can double up on the protein if you've just come from the gym, choose a gluten-free dressing for your salad if you're gluten-intolerant, or indulge in a splurge dressing, on the side of course. It's all about choices."
Fast N Fresh isn't just about awesome, unique salads though: they also have a menu with well-loved sandwiches like the Turkey Bacon Ranch wrap, and the Wasabi Roast Beef sandwich.
The original Fast N Fresh at University Town Center has recently had a makeover. The chrome and wood décor with cheerful green accents is as fresh and modern as their restaurant concept. This same sense of style carries over to their Lakewood Ranch location and will undoubtedly translate to their new downtown Sarasota location, which is slated to open in December of 2014.
Fast n Fresh has been, from the beginning, an original. Still, to this day, people come in to our restaurants and are blown away by the fact that they can be the chef and design a salad how they want it. Whether they like 'just a little' dressing or want us to mix two of the dressings together, we will happily do that. In addition, we have our produce delivered daily. We use local produce, when seasonally available, and slice, dice and chop almost all of our toppings. Meats are grilled in-house and we make half of our dressing as well. We are honored to be part of such a collaborative group of restaurateurs.
Fast N Fresh: 8105 Cooper Creek Blvd, University Park, 941.315-4500