In Shawn You’s world, there are two types of people: those who eat raw fish and those who don’t.
He and business partner Benson Chan are catering to the tastes of both at their trendy new eatery at the corner of 3rd and Market, fronting a resurgent Strawberry Square.
Named “Freshido,” which translates to “fresh way,” the restaurant with the clean, cosmopolitan vibe opened to eager eaters last month. Already, they are serving between 100 and 150 customers over the normal, two-hour lunchtime, You said.
Many customers converge upon Freshido from nearby state and county offices, as well as Temple and Harrisburg universities. Their “second stage” of customers consists of willing-to-drive-downtown suburbanites and West Shore office workers.
When asked what customers are saying about the fledgling restaurant, You answered modestly.
“They like it,” he said. “They like the food. They like the design of the restaurant. It’s a totally different experience.”
Customers are less understated.
“This is damn good,” said a 20-something blonde clad in running gear as she daintily picked through Freshido’s signature dish, the Hawaiian “poke” (two syllables) bowl. “It’s like a sushi salad.”
A baby boomer county employee said, “I wanted to build my own bowl, but I messed up and they built it for me, but I couldn’t have picked any better. It was perfect.”
You said that Freshido meshes Korean food with Japanese, accented by a hint of Hawaiian.
The service design mimics a Chipotle. Customers move through the line while workers behind a glass counter assemble their custom-made meal from the colorful array of 60-plus choices.
Diners can build their own poke bowl by selecting from a medley of dark and lime greens, deep purples, pale peaches, carrot oranges and melon yellow.
They first choose their base rice, then meats and seafood, followed by countless fresh ingredients and sauces. With so many ingredients and toppings to choose from, the combination of tastes and textures is almost endless. Tuna, salmon, shrimp, scallops, chicken, beef—it’s all there for the picking. An average meal costs about $10.
“Customers can be their own chef,” You said. “Just try the different ingredients. Try different sauces. Use your imagination. Be creative.”
To keep the food at its maximum freshness, Freshido prepares only the food needed for that day, You said, and it’s all locally sourced.
“It’s very healthy,” You said. “It’s just like a salad.”
Freshido is the latest entrant in a freshness invasion taking over downtown Harrisburg, following on the heels of the new Fresa Bistro and Provisions grocery store.
You and his co-owner decided that fast food should not be synonymous with frozen, fried and fattening. He noted that a cheeseburger and French fries can sit out at room temperature for a week, and, loaded with preservatives, still won’t decompose.
“Think what that does in your body,” he said.
So, they decided to launch a new concept that is simply fresh fast food.
The health benefits are displayed right on the menu board: an improved immune system, better cardiovascular health, weight loss and a multitude of vitamins.
The food also boosts your taste buds, whether you opt for surf and turf, sesame tofu or sushi burritos.
You came to the United States 19 years ago, when he was 13. His parents operated a restaurant in Cherry Hill, N.J., where he worked as a dishwasher in the early days, as the only son in a family of seven children. His parents offered to turn the restaurant over to him, but he declined.
“I wanted to go out and try new stuff,” he said.
Enter Freshido. The hours are long at his new enterprise, but his dreams are growing alongside those vast fruits and vegetables. He wants his restaurant to be a “prototype for Japanese fast food” and hopes that, someday, shops like his will be all over the country.
To fill his 19-person staff, he hired a host of local college students, including full- and part-time workers.
“We want to provide job opportunities for students.”
Freshido also offers a cozy escape.
The decor is urban factory chic, with dark, red-brick walls, clean lines, small wooden tables, pendant lighting, wooden-crate ceiling tiles and spare, black-and-red chairs. The simple décor reflects the simple food philosophy, You said.
The partners also operate Shogun Fusion near Costco in Lower Paxton Township and Kondu by the Harrisburg East Mall in Swatara Township.
They hope soon to open restaurants in Hershey and Mechanicsburg and to expand the menu with even more options. They also plan to launch an app for iOS and Android so Freshido fans can see the specials daily and order quickly and easily. Also in the works is catering for private parties.
The young Freshido owners think big but believe they have the recipe for success. The visibility in their new location is good, You said. People see them when they walk to work or on their way to Whitaker Center or Strawberry Square.
“Healthy is simple,” the sign on the message board says.
And judging by the buzz Freshido has generated so quickly, it’s also delicious.
Freshido is located at the corner of 3rd and Market streets in Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.freshido.com or the Facebook page.
Author: Diane McNaughton