There's a new player in the fast casual arena that would like to add another f to the description: fine. It's called Fresh to Order, a truly uninspired name, to be sure, and its motto is fine food fast. Or, more accurately: fine. food. fast. The conceit here is that even if you want to have a quick meal, you don't have to settle for sandwiches, burgers or crappy food.
Sandwiches are certainly available at the Waterford Lakes newcomer. Burgers, too. But you'll also find what the menu describes as "entree long plates," though I'm not sure what that means other than that the plates are not square. Here you will find such things as Brown Sugar Roasted Pork Loin, Almond Chicken Skewers and Chicken Wild Mushroom. Several of these items are available in smaller portions — three-quarters, rather than half, but I still like the option of having a smaller entree.
I selected the Coconut Curry Salmon, which was available at $12.50 for the 3/4 size. The full portion was only a buck fifty more, so there isn't much incentive for choosing a smaller size. Even odder, the soups are offered at $4.90 a bowl or $4 for a half bowl. That's idiotic.
I was able to add a soup to my entree order for just $2 more, though I have no idea if it was a full or half bowl, though I'd be willing to take a guess. I chose the Chicken Tortilla soup, which had very nice aspects of having been made on the premises, with big chunks of chicken and carrots in a broth dotted with globules of chicken fat. Some crispy tortilla strips were sprinkled on top just before serving so that they weren't soggy. It was a fine soup for two bucks; I'd have protested at $4.90.
The salmon wasn't very curry-like, though it was nice to have a fish option in a fast food setting that wasn't deep-fried. The two medallions of salmon (a fish that doesn't always lend itself to medallions) were nicely grilled. I liked the corn relish that topped the fish, and the wheat berry rice was nice, although a bit dry. The long plate also included a stack of mixed greens and wedge of bread. Was it $12.50 worth of food?
It's also nice that folks who dine in can eat off of real plates with actual metallic utensils. I suppose some dishwashing is built into the food costs.
The space is bright and open with booth and high-top seating. Guests order at the counter and then take a number stand to the table of their choice. The food is delivered when ready. Don't take the fast part too literally — we're not talking about food that's necessarily ready to go.
Also nice was that someone was at the door greeting newcomers. Still, there seemed to be an air of confusion among workers as well as guests who weren't quite sure where to stand while they looked over the menu.
You can see the menu online and be ready to order before you go. But, oddly, the online menu has no prices unless you choose to order your food online, then go through a series of screens to determine which location you'll be visiting, when you want to order and so forth. Only then, after you choose an item, will the price appear. That's pretty clunky.
But let's give credit for trying something beyond the basic fast fare. Fresh to Order (they would love for you to adopt the shorthand of F2O, but I'm not down with that) started in Atlanta and has eight locations in Georgia and two in Tennessee. The Waterford Lake location is the company's first in Florida.
Fresh to Order is at 851 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando. It's open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-203-2060.