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TASTE TEST: Fresh to Order offers nutrition in a hurry

The market salad with Ahi Tuna and shrimp at Fresh to Order in Merrillville.

Fresh to Order, which opened last year at 540 81st Ave in Merrillville, is a chain, but a small one with locations concentrated in the metro Atlanta area and Noblesville.

Pierre Panos, a South Africa native of Greek descent who opened his first restaurant in Johannesburg, started Fresh to Order with the philosophy that "great food doesn’t have to leave you broke." It aspires to be a "fast fine" restaurant, combining the convenience and ease of a fast-casual joint with the chef-driven culinary experience one would expect at a swanky fine-dining joint.

The varied menu features paninis, salads, bison burgers, small plates like crispy calamari and salmon roasted corn hushpuppies, and large plates like almond chicken skewers and prime steak medallions.

Fresh to Order offers a wide array of salads, either in full servings or half salads that come with a choice of "chef-inspired" soups like tomato bisque or wild mushroom.

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The market salad blends mixed baby greens with a lot of sweetness from mandarin oranges, cranberries, golden raisins, julienned apples and candied walnuts. Toasted almonds add more crunch and texture, and balsamic vinaigrette balances it all out with a tart acidity.

The salad can be topped with one or more proteins, including blackened chicken tenders, ale-laced chicken tenders, blackened lime shrimp, almond-crust tuna, grilled salmon, seared tofu, fire-grilled chicken breast or grilled steak.

Whatever permutation you prefer, it adds up to a fresh, healthy and satisfying meal. The presentation and plating are classy but the prices are much lower than a white-tablecloth place.

Fresh to Order is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

For more information, call 219-915-0005 or visit freshtoorder.com.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.