Ever get so busy you don’t have time to cook? Farm Fresh Fast wants to be there when those days hit, as a quick but healthy (and tasty) meal option. Kidding Around Greenville contributor and local mom, Kristina Hernandez visited Farm Fresh Fast and now she’s telling you just what to expect. File it away in the back of your brain, because you know that “too busy to cook” day is coming soon!
“Here are the duck eggs,” said Daniel Leyman of Lilac Acres Farmstead. He walked into Farm Fresh Fast when I did and was presenting the large eggs to Jonathan Willis, who owns the popular restaurant. Jonathan had found Daniel right before he opened Farm Fresh Fast and was buying the eggs to use for duck omelets.
When Jonathan talked about working with small farmers to source local ingredients for the new fast food farm-to-table restaurant, he wasn’t joking. Daniel’s farm consists of two acres at his home in a subdivision in Taylors that houses some ducks, chickens, goats and pigs on his property. So far, Jonathan has found 15 local farmers and works closely with them to ensure he gets the best possible ingredients. We can’t all go looking for great ingredients at local farms but we can eat them at Farm Fresh Fast.
The concept behind Farm Fresh Fast
Jonathan Willis created a meal planning and delivery service in January 2016 in Greenville that catered to busy families and professionals. As a certified nutritionist and trainer, he had the knowledge to create healthy and tasty food and saw a market in Greenville that would embrace it. And they did.
He accomplished his two-year plan in only eight months and was ready to expand the business to the next level: a fast food restaurant with the convenience of a pickup window and the taste and food straight from the farm.
Healthy and fast food are pretty much never mentioned in the same sentence and Jonathan set out to change that. He also knew that charging high prices for good food wasn’t the way to go and attract a base of customers that would regularly be able to enjoy the restaurant.
With the immense help of his then-fiancée Kaylee Gonzalez, who loves creating healthy alternatives and is a fitness buff herself, he set out to do what no one in the Greenville area has done: start a healthy, true farm-to-table fast food restaurant.
The Food at Farm Fresh Fast
Farm Fresh Fast sources 80% of its ingredients from local farmers and their goal is 90%. If tomatoes aren’t in season, they aren’t serving them. When lettuce is in season, the restaurant will have a killer salad in the works.
Jonathan started planning his menu back in the fall and worked with local farmers to start planting then so that he can have what he wants now – spaghetti squash, zucchini, and cauliflower.
A West Virginia native, Jonathan’s own background shines through in the Almost Heaven Fat-Free Cheddar-Stuffed Burger, which uses lean ground beef and pork ($12.99). The bun is made by Upcountry Provisions in Travelers Rest (which my oldest child devoured before I could get to it) and gluten-free options are available. The Seasonal Stiry-Fry is another highlight, using only local vegetables to create a satisfying meal ($8.99).
The meals are portion-sized yet filling. After having the Almost Heaven burger, I didn’t feel awful or too full. It was a perfectly sized dish with really good ingredients. Oh, and it was fast too – our meal was out in about 10 minutes.
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are all available and thoughtfully cooked and prepared.
“What you think about fast food – I want to flip it on its head,” said Jonathan. “Often you order something at a fast food place and don’t expect it to be right. You expect it to be mediocre. We want to be different, efficient, and we want people coming back for more. We are setting high standards for farm-to-table food.”
Vegan Options Are Super Popular
Since it’s opening, Farm Fresh Fast has created a “No Kill Menu“, featuring an Ancient Grain Bowl and Buffalo “Chicken” Wrap.
Willis has taken steps to work specifically with the Greenville vegan community, attracting the attention of local news even for his creative menu options that even meat lovers enjoy and that the vegan community are happy to support.
Farm Fresh Fast is food for the whole family
I needed ask Jonathan the question “will kids like the food?” He answers with a resounding ‘yes’!
Jonathan and Kaylee reiterate that the restaurant is kid-friendly and the pick-up window is especially geared towards busy parents just trying to get their kids something healthy to eat and to do it quickly.
My kids really loved the chicken and my youngest pointed to the cauliflower in the open kitchen, wanting to try it (she ate it all and took some to-go). The restaurant felt homey and welcoming.
Kaylee works at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate (where Jonathan’s other restaurant, Seedlings, is) and has plans for Farm Fresh Fast to engage families through educational opportunities with local farmers. She also says she’s the “fat in the relationship” with her husband, meaning she loves a treat now and then and works hard to make sure that healthy food isn’t boring or tasteless food.
“I want to show people what food is supposed to taste like,” she said.
They also have been working with Livewell Greenville to create nutrition charts for all menu items.
The menu has a rotating list of 20 grab-and-go items available for sale at the counter and at the pick-up window, including Hickory BBQ Pizza, General Tso’s Chicken over Rice, Chicken and Whole Wheat Waffles, Southwest Burrito Bowl, Turkey Chili, and the Spicy Chicken Wrap.
The Farm Fresh Fast vibe
The vibe at Farm Fresh Fast is just really cool – the décor is well-thought out, featuring tons of reclaimed wood (that Jonathan went and picked up himself from old barns in the area), hand-laid concrete counters, and lots of repurposed farm items.
There is an abundance of natural light and guests can get an up-close look at the way everything is prepared because the kitchen is entirely open to the dining room through the bar area.
The restaurant is aiming high.
“We want to be a company of the community,” explains Jonathan.
“It’s all about the fiscal eco-system – by eating here and eating local food where we purchase from area farmers, it’s a cycle that benefits the local economy. No one is doing this on a fast food scale.”
And consumers are ready for this. Nationally, mom and pop restaurants are growing faster than chain restaurants. Bloomberg reports that some big-time restaurant chains are shutting down and Americans want something that feels more like home: “Large chains seem rooted in the American experience. But times, and tastes, are changing. Customers these days believe locals have better food, service, deals and even decor, the Pentallect report said.”
Greenville is a good example of this trend as innovative, creative spots are popping up all around town, seeking to make eating out a community experience, which is exactly what Farm Fresh Fast is aiming for.
Plan your visit to Farm Fresh Fast
Farm Fresh Fast is open from 7 am-9 pm Monday – Thursday, 7 am-8 pm Friday, 10 am – 3 pm on Sunday, and closed on Saturdays.
Farm Fresh Fast
860 S. Church Street, Greenville
Have you ever visited a farm to table fast food restaurant?