You have options at Fresh Twisted Café
You know the feeling, when you suddenly think, “For lunch, I really want an organic beef burger on a gluten-free bun and an all-fruit, no-sugar-added, vegan smoothie with a dandelion root supplement, washed down with a bottle of Vortical Energy Water, with marionberry-pie-flavored ice cream for dessert.” And there’s only one place to go where you can have all that: Fresh Twisted Café.
Fresh Twisted’s outside wall advertises organic coffee, lattes, sandwiches, soups, burgers, bagels and juices. But the wall is just the tip of the iceberg. There isn’t room to mention the quesadilla menu, the Tillamook ice cream (eight flavors), the salad menu, the wrap menu, the breakfast-burrito menu or the croissant menu. Nor does it have space to list the fresh baked goods, the “local star twissle” (which is apparently honey), the fair-trade chocolate or the truffle bar. In other words, you’ve got options here. The smoothie menu offers 16 supplements, including noni and moringa powders (Google them). Most cafes have a menu; Fresh Twisted has eight, and the chalkboard menu behind the counter starts out covering the wall behind the counter and spills in joyful appendix over three more walls.
This sort of cornucopia of super-abundance can be intimidating and overwhelming, but at Fresh Twisted it’s merely boundless exuberance. And it’s explained by the café’s origins. It began as a fruit stand called Hernandez Farm. The owner, Doug Hernandez, isn’t a chef; he’s a farmer. He started out on his family’s farm in Fresno, opened the fruit stand in Chico and wanted to do something with the leftover fruit. His solution: smoothies. Since his smoothies were (and are) the best in Chico, sales took off, and, in the logic of fruit stands everywhere (ever been to Casa de Fruta near Hollister?—it started as a fruit stand and is now a small city), he began to add things. Fresh Twisted is the result.
If you grok fruit stands, you know what Twisted’s food is like: clean, unpretentious, healthy and all about the freshness of the ingredients. No “cuisine” here; no reductions, no bacon terroir. Prices are low: wraps $6.75, moderate-sized smoothies $5, breakfast burrito $6.65. Hummus is a free sandwich condiment, which alone would make me love the place. I don’t like the burgers—the beef is so healthy it’s lost most of its taste—but I like everything else. And the smoothies will bring you back if nothing else does.
But, much as I like the food and the prices, what won me over is the ambiance: bustling, crowded, familial. Lots of kids (in fact, there’s a great kids’ play area at the back of the dining room). Big leather couches with old magazines for lounging. It’s hard to tell the staff from the customers. Hernandez told me they tried uniforms and it didn’t feel right, so now the employees dress the way they want to. What it all reminds me of is a kitchen area at a commune at dinner time.
My only other complaint is that name. “Twisted” implies you’re going to be waited on by some goth with a tongue stud and practiced ennui. Nothing could be further from the truth. The place is a paean to working-class practicality and clarity. For instance, the eating area has a table loaded with a box of aluminum foil, to-go boxes, basic condiments, paper plates, paper bags, and such.