Freshroll, ‘Asian-inspired’ build-your-own restaurant, opens in Berkeley

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Freshroll, a build-your-own restaurant serving “Asian-inspired” bowls, sandwiches and wraps, opened on Telegraph Avenue on Jan. 13.

With three Freshroll restaurants already open in San Francisco, this is the first to open in Berkeley at 2334 Telegraph Ave. The decision to open its doors in Berkeley felt fitting and was based on an appreciation for the Berkeley community, according to Freshroll founder Nam Hoang.

“We feel that students are the voice and energy of the future, and we wanted to help feed that fuel,” Hoang said in an email. “We were originally not planning on opening up any additional restaurants, but the unit became available and it just ‘felt right.’ ”

Freshroll allows customers to customize their bowl orders by choosing a base of either rice, noodles or salad along with a protein, toppings and sauce. Customers can either choose their own topping combinations or order from a list of Freshroll “flavors.”

Vegetarian protein choices, such as portobello mushrooms and sesame lime tofu, are also offered. Menu items are largely gluten-free and ingredients that are not can be removed upon request.

In addition to the main course items, the menu includes freshly made beverages such as ginger basil lemonade and mint lychee iced tea.

“All of our drinks are made fresh – our Mint Lychee Tea is brewed fresh with pureed fresh mint leaves,” Hoang said in the email. “Our basil limeade ginger uses pureed fresh basil with fresh ginger juice and fresh squeezed lime.”

One of the most popular menu items is the NamNam sauce created for their FreshSandwiches, a twist on the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, according to Hoang. The restaurant’s signature item, however, is the Freshroll, a spring roll-inspired wrap.

Customers Britney Stewart and Lauren Krupa said the food they ordered was “delicious” and “filling,” and that they thought the restaurant was a bright and engaging environment for a community of college students.

“I got the sandwich and I really like it, it’s lemongrass pork, it was delicious,” Stewart said. “It seems like it could be an affordable place.”

As part of Freshroll’s soft opening, menu items are being offered for 20% off. The discount may be extended for another week and is intended to encourage students to try the new food, according to Hoang.

Hoang left a career in finance to pursue his childhood goal of opening his own restaurant when he invested in Freshroll, which first opened in San Francisco in 2012, according to Freshroll’s website.

“So many lessons and hardships were had with operating our first restaurant, and there were many times I thought about throwing in the towel,” Hoang said in the email. “But now we are so grateful to have a chance to be a part of the Berkeley community.”

Devaki Dikshit is a business and economy reporter. Contact them at [email protected] and follow them on Twitter at @DevakiDevay.