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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Fresh Potato Factory R: Potatoes are often considered humble food, but at the Fresh Potato Factory in Northridge, potatoes have attained royal status with a multitude of deliciously innovative touches to serve vegetarian and vegan diners. Opened in August 2013, this casual eatery has gained the attention of nearby CSUN students who can call in their orders and then dash in for a quick pick-up between classes.

Z: Located in a strip mall on Reseda Boulevard just south of Prairie Street, the Fresh Potato Factory has only a few tables but a lively business of loyal take-out fans and casual diners.

R: The eatery was the creative concept of Shawn Mahdavian and Shervin Shahidi, two savvy young men who strive to provide fresh, healthy offerings without the trappings of a fancy restaurant. The décor is simple and unadorned, yet hip with a cool industrial vibe.

Fresh Potato Factory Z: Customers will encounter metal tables and chairs, cement floors, high ceilings with exposed ducting, cool little stick-figure potato people painted on the wall, and pop music, all part of the modernista ambience.

R: Orders are placed at the counter where foods are prepared quickly. The menu offerings consist of potato filled sandwiches and paninis, baked potatoes, baked fries, or smashed potatoes, salads, chili, and a daily vegan soup special. Those ordering baked potatoes, baked fries, or smashed potatoes can choose two toppings from a selection of 20 tempting items.

Z: All the foods are organic. The potatoes are large and are either golden (similar to Yukon gold) or sweet potatoes. Also available is Daiya vegan cheese, Facon Bits, (tempeh flavored like bacon), and Vegenaise (vegan mayo). If customers turn to the Sauce Bar on the left, they can choose from about a dozen sauces to enhance their potato meal. Some sauces and toppings are vegan and some vegetarian. Also available are Oogave sodas in a variety of fun flavors like strawberry-rhubarb and mandarin key lime in addition to root beer, ginger ale, and cola. Other juices and sodas are available in the refrigerated case.

R: Our friends, Joan and Larry, were also eager to experience this fun approach to potato dining and joined us on our adventure in spudland. After perusing the menu, Zel chose Lentil Soup and Golden Fries topped with Grilled Onions and Olive Tapenade. She also selected the Mediterranean Salad with Daiya cheese we planned to share. I ordered the Sweet Potato Soup and a Sweet Panini.

Fresh Potato Factory Z: Joan also chose Lentil Soup, along with the Mixed Fries that included both the Golden and Sweet Potatoes topped with Hummus and Grilled Onions. Larry opted for the Baked Golden Potato topped with Sour Cream, Facon Bits, and Butter, along with the Green House Salad.

R: My plump and flavor-drenched Sweet Panini consisted of roasted sweet potatoes, garlic aioli, roasted bell peppers and onions, olive tapenade, and tomatoes all heaped into freshly baked ciabatta bread. Served with an earth-friendly approach, foods arrive on paper-lined metal trays to conserve waste. The serving utensils, napkins, and paper products are biodegradable and compostable.

Z: I couldn't resist--that panini looked so juicy and delicious I had to have a bite. It didn't disappoint--it truly was delicious. Who would have thought putting sweet potatoes into a sandwich would make such a tasty meal? Great concept--our hat's off to Chef Rose Kai for composing such a flavorful sandwich.

Fresh Potato Factory R: Chef Rose is a master in the art of seasoning. The Lentil Soup, Sweet Potato Soup, and the two attractive salads are also some of the best we've encountered.

Z: The generous toppings of grilled onions and olive tapenade on my voluptuous baked fries could not have been more perfect. Since they ran out of the vegan sauces, Chef Rose made us a rich, creamy Vegan Pesto. Together with the toppings, the pesto made a fabulous flavor combo to dress the modest potato in grand style.

R: Larry's dinner choice clung fast to tradition--he was a happy diner with his golden baked potato abundantly slathered with sour cream, Facon bits, and butter. His Green House salad, tossed with a tangy lemon dressing, really tickled him, though. He kept expressing a steady stream of positives about it all through dinner.

Fresh Potato Factory
Z: Joan and I both tasted Larry's salad and agreed it was so flavorful we just might order it on our next visit. Another of our favorites was the tasty Lentil Soup made with lots of spinach and thickened with potatoes.

R: The owners' philosophy is to offer only truly fresh, organic foods. There is no freezer in the kitchen and no deep fryer. All the "fries" are baked to offer a genuinely healthy meal, while none of the food ingredients have been exposed to irradiation. There are no hormones, pesticides, toxic chemicals, fertilizers, or food additives in the foods. In addition, all the cleaning products used are eco friendly. The restaurant is a participant in the Zero Waste LA program and was mentioned in the Los Angeles Times.

Fresh Potato Factory Z: You might think a meal of fresh, organic foods with all the extra toppings and sauces would be a bit pricy, but it's surprisingly reasonable. Here's the scoop: baked fries and baked potatoes $6.00 to $6.50, paninis and sandwiches about $7.00, soup of the day $6.00, salads $7.00 to $8.00. Other offerings include chili, samosa, and a variety of fries (chili cheese, truffle, or garlic). They even have hash browns for breakfast on the menu!

R: The Fresh Potato Factory offers great food at great value. Their restaurant plan could be the next successful concept to take off across the country. Who knows, perhaps the owners have already thought of that.

9420 Reseda Blvd., #6, Northridge, CA 91324
Phone: 818-886-8156
Hours: Monday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Closed Sunday
Website: http://www.freshpotatofactory.com

Reviewed May 2014

Click here for past Dining in Paradise reviews

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