Thursday, October 18, 2012

A New Take on Food at Fresh Griller

Fresh Griller
2 Hutton Center Dr.
Santa Ana, CA 92707

Through the course of the last three years of this blog, I am not sure we have run across a restaurant like Fresh Griller. I guess you can say it is very unique. I mean we have eaten in over 350 different restaurants, and not seen anything like Fresh Griller. Sure there are components of the restaurant we have seen before, but if you asked us to describe Fresh Griller, we would probably say it is a little like this restaurant, and like that restaurant, with just a little pinch of this restaurant. In simpler terms, it is kind of a hybrid of other eating establishments, but very much unique to itself.

We were recently invited to try Fresh Griller. Before leaving the house I did a little research. They have been open for just over two months now. Started by an ownership group of a couple restaurant veterans, they embarked on a journey that went across the country, as well as to other parts of the world to come up with a concept that got them to be excited about the restaurant business again. What they found out during these travels is that food is at its best when it is done simply, when it is fresh, and when food has the least number of steps from the farm to your kitchen table. To be honest, when we showed up here I kind of thought this was going to be more like a Flame Broiler, but it turned out to be so much more.

We got to Fresh Griller at 6pm on a Friday night. There were a few people drifting in during our visit, but with all of the high rise office buildings around here, they definitely get their fair share of customers during the lunch rush. Right when you walk in the door you are met by two large signs that tout their philosophy here. There are no microwaves, freezers or can openers here. Fresh Griller is focusing on fresh, simple, and natural menu items. Let's take a look at the ordering process.

The ordering process is done in four stages at Fresh Griller. First you choose how you want your meal. The three options include bowl, salad or wrap. Then you choose chicken, steak, veggie, or a combination of any of these. Now it is time to bring on the stuff. Seven options are offered to go along with your meal. They range from the mundane, white or brown rice, to the more exotic offerings like, Mediterranean beans, ginger pico de gallo, a squash blend, a pepper and onion blend, or a Thai kale slaw. Then they have six sauces to make a decision about. This was the hardest part of choosing my meal for me. Options include, sweet ginger,  barbecue sauce, balsamic vinaigrette, teriyaki, aji verde, or a wasabi ranch.

Ordering was painless with the two employees behind the counter. They were very helpful, and answered all of our questions about the products. Our creations were placed on a tray, and we were off to explore what we had ordered.

I had no hesitation as to what kind of meal I was going to get, I got the bowl, with a combination of chicken and steak. The sirloin was chopped into bite size pieces, and was very tender. The chicken, marinated boneless breast meat was also far from being called dry. I went the simple route with my bowl, only adding brown rice and the pepper/onion blend. The rice was fine, but the peppers and onions were cooked to very pleasing crispness, which added a good texture to the bowl. What really made this for me was the sauces. The wasabi ranch was a decent choice. It went well with all of the veggies, and coated the meats well, but the sauce that really popped with flavor was the Aji Verde. This South American inspired sauce will be my only choice on future visits here. Great unique flavor, with some real bark behind it. I even took some of this home with me, and made a sandwich with it the next day. Really good.

Katie also went the bowl route for her meal. At first she thought she was going to miss the absence of cheese here, but the flavors on her plate squelched those fears. There were so many new items for her palate to comprehend, that she did not miss cheese. She was very happy with the Thai Kale Slaw and the Ginger Pico De Gallo. This plate of food piqued her taste buds into finding her perfect combination on future visits here.

Besides the wraps, bowls and salads, Fresh Griller offers Pita Chips and Humus. Sorry I did not get a good shot of the pita chips, but the humus was one of the freshest we have had. I am used to humus being a little more firm, but it tasted great. To give it a little more pop I added the aji verde sauce to it, and that made it even better.

The attention to detail does not get lost at Fresh Griller when it comes to beverages either. No Coke or Pepsi here, they offer Pure Cane Fountain Drinks, Gourmet Brewed Iced Teas, and Natural Bottled Beverages. I am not a soda guy, so I did not try those, but the tea was wonderful. They offer four unique loose leaf teas, each equally good.

Two dessert items are on the menu at Fresh Griller. They are very proud of their "Fruit of the Gods" Yogurt Parfait. This layered dessert has fruit on the bottom, slightly sweet yogurt on top of that, and then granola is added for a little crunch. I am not a big yogurt fan, but even I found this enjoyable. Not crazy sweet, but it still tastes like a dessert that is not going to make you have to jog an extra mile or two. I especially loved dipping the Ginger Snaps into the yogurt. The Ginger Snaps they sell here are made by Camela's, and they are dairy and gluten free, so no guilt when you eat 25 of them, right?

Fresh Griller was a great new place. Part Chipotle, (for their ordering style), part Flame Broiler, (for their bowls), and unique to itself. The only problem that I see for this concept is that people will not be able to identify it, so they may avoid it in favor of something they know. This would be a mistake. The food was very fresh, the flavors combined to create great tasting food, and the vibrant colors made the food even more appealing. After eating here we struck a very nice balance. We were full, but did not have that heavy feeling that makes you feel sluggish and lethargic. Guess that is what happens when you eat healthy food. One last thing to mention are the prices at Fresh Griller. All meals are $6, which is a great deal due to the portion sizes.

After talking to John from Fresh Griller, I kind of got the impression that this is kind of the test restaurant to gage how the public will receive this restaurant and concept. Right now, since they are in the shadows of many office buildings, they are only open Monday through Friday 11 to 8. We hope people give them a try, so they open more locations very soon.

We would like to thank everyone at Fresh Griller for the opportunity to try out your restaurant. Thanks go out to John Costello, who walked us through the process of Fresh Griller, gave us a little history of the place, and answered all of our questions. Thanks for the great conversation. Also thanks to the Assistant Manager Heather, who really made sure we were happy with everything. We should also mention the girls behind the counter who put everything together for us. They were very friendly and knowledgeable about their food. Lastly, we wanted to acknowledge Ali Metzger at Bolt PR for contacting us and introducing us to Fresh Griller. Thank you very much Ali!

For more information about Fresh Griller, check out their web site here:


  1. Did I miss it? How many grills did you give the place? Got caught up in all the choices, yatta-yatta and might have overlooked it.

  2. Anonymous - We don't rate places that invite us for dinner. All of the opinions are ours, but we do not rate them. Thanks for the comment and reading the blog.

    1. I was expecting something very unique after reading your intro. This place sounds like Chipotle with the ordering process and the meal options (burrito/wrap, bowl or salad). The owners needed to travel around country to figure this out?

  3. Anonymous - Like I said in this post, there are some aspects to this restaurant that are like Chipotle, and other places as well, but the food that you get here is way fresher than anything you can get at Chipotle. Also the flavors of the sauces here are way more intense than the only hot sauce they serve at Chipotle, which is Tabasco. Try this place out and you will see there is a noticeable difference between Chipotle and Fresh Griller. Thanks for the comment.