Earlier this week, we decided to try the new O’Naturals Cafe on 25 in South Asheville as we were without water during my lunch break. It felt like stepping into either Chapel Hill or Atlanta: so shiny and just plain boring. You can chose from sandwiches, salads, noodle dishes, and soups (they add flatbread pizza after 4pm), and after spending five minutes perusing the wall menu and seeing nothing that really jumped out, I went with the Chap Chae. I think most of my disappointment came from the fact that the protein is not included even though the small noodle dish cost almost six dollars with no side; my honey ordered the teriyaki, and he added tofu. The tofu added an extra two and thirty to the dish. When I eat cafeteria style food like this in a big homogenous environment, I expect cheap or if not cheap then good, but O’Naturals is expensive and bland. The portion was okay, but the vegetables in my Chap Chae were tiny and super thin, so they provided no flavor or texture. Although the mushrooms were the exception in the size factor, they were not cooked longer than the time it took to heat them up so they were flavorless. The sauce was a disgusting saccarine sweet concoction that again did nothing for this dish. I deigned to try my partner’s dish, and wow! I am so glad I ordered the super sweet noodle dish. The tofu was heavily smoked and overpowering. Not even my ginger ale could wash the taste out, so again I was glad for the overpowering sweetness of my dish.
Another thing to keep in mind is that O’Naturals advertises itself as a great, organic spot for fast food. As this is a big selling point, it is quiet disheartening to learn that only one-third of their menu is organic (this is proudly displayed over the lunch line). However, their website does not bother to mention this fact, but it does use the overtly vague natural quite a bit.
If you are looking for a cheaper, faster, and tasty lunch, please avoid O’Naturals. The cold veggie dumplings available in the cooler at Earth Fare across the street cost much less and are much more satisfying. Additionally, Earth Fare has a decent sandwich counter which offers comparable sandwiches for less money and better ambience. Eating at O’Naturals made me cry for China Palace South’s wonderfully economical lunch and friendly waitstaff.