Naples restaurants: Fresh Start Cafe lives up to name in more ways than one — JLB

Fresh Start Cafe, part of Lulu's Kitchen of St. Matthew's house, offers exceptional service and an amazing breakfast burrito.

Andrew Atkins
Naples Daily News

My first step into Fresh Start Cafe makes clear the name is apt. 

A smiling hostess. A beaming server. The subtle chatter of any eatery just past the lunch rush.

Yes, I think to myself. Whatever happened up until this moment is done now. I’ll start again, right here, at this table, in the bright, immaculate and altogether underappreciated Fresh Start. 

Fresh Start Cafe is inside of Lulu's Kitchen, run by St. Matthew's House.

I’ll start with a banana muffin, an omelet and some fresh fruit. 

Fresh Start Cafe is part of Lulu’s Kitchen of St. Matthew’s House, a facility housing all of the nonprofit's culinary operations. St. Matthew’s House, as an organization, serves those with mental illness, the homeless and the addicted. 

The restaurant is a way to expand its social enterprise program, which provides job training and employment to St. Matthew’s House residents (and also generates funds for the nonprofit’s operations), according to its website. Some addiction program graduates train for a career in the restaurant industry within Lulu’s Kitchen — a literal fresh start. 

Other social enterprise programs include a car wash and detailing center and thrift stores. 

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The server asks if I'd like my muffin warmed. Of course I say yes, to my eventual bliss: a fragrant confection all rapturous warmth and sweetness on my tongue. Fresh Start Cafe seems to excel in its pastries, as a cinnamon scone was just as scrumptious and supple. 

The rest was standard fare done well for a reasonable price. The chicken on my culinary compatriot’s sandwich was overcooked to the point of dryness, but the fries come in their own miniature fryer basket and are better than any found at some fast food joint. 

Fresh Start Cafe IS more than just its pristine, bright dining room and cute tableware, though.

Enter the drive-thru. 

I don’t know if I somehow missed these many options when I dined inside, but the flavors I experienced sitting in my car far eclipsed everything I’d eaten here before — banana muffin included. 

Fresh Start Cafe also offers smoothies, like the mango pineapple and orange ginger carrot smoothies.

Well, except for the orange ginger carrot smoothie. I ordered it thinking I could convince myself it was good, that I was a changed, healthier person who was into this sort of thing.  

That particular beverage tasted a little bit like pre-chewed salad. I imagine that's how it's supposed to taste. Some people are into low-sugar mish-mashes of various fruits and vegetables, and I'd be lying if I didn't feel at least a little healthy. But as far as enjoying it, I am simply not one of those people — despite my efforts on that particular day. 

So, I found the mango-pineapple smoothie quite suitable, thank you very much.

The Southwest Burrito, with chorizo, egg and cheese bringing it home.

I outright devoured the Southwest burrito. For the sake of suffering, or maybe salivation, I drove half an hour before I took a bite. Do you know what kind of torture it is to smell something so good in the seat next to you, to force yourself not to reach into the bag for a taste? 

It wasn’t like a french fry I could sneak. This burrito was all or nothing. When I finally let the burrito crash into my face, it was everything I’d spent 30 minutes dreaming of as it tempted me from the passenger seat. 

Did I buckle my burrito in? Maybe. 

Pepper jack cheese oozed between clouds of scrambled eggs snuggled tightly in a bed of chorizo. In between pockets and crevasses in the meat and egg, a healthy sheen of grease pooled and shined in the light. 

I smiled before I all but unhinged my jaw to take a bite. I rarely demolish anything quite as uncivilized as I did this burrito, but this was takeout and I was alone and, anyway, tomorrow’s a new day. 

Tomorrow’s also another chance to go to Fresh Start, to support someone’s fresh start, to grab another muffin, another wrap, another whatever, buckle it in and go about the day. 

Jean Le Boeuf is the brand under which our restaurant critics have written for more than 40 years. This article came from staff writer Andrew Atkins. Follow our critics at facebook.com/jeanleboeufswfl or @JeanLeBoeuf on Twitter and Instagram; email jleboeuf@news-press.com. Connect with this reporter: andrew.atkins@naplesnews.com. 

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Fresh Start Cafe

2125 Airport Road S., Naples

Price: $-$$

Web: st.matthewshouse.org/how-we-do-it/lulus

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. 

Etc.: Indoor and outdoor seating, drive-thru, staff wears masks, 

Sample menu


Eggs benedict, 10.99

Full stack of pancakes, $7.99

Guacamole & egg bowl, $7.99

Southwest burrito, $7.49


Juicy Lucy burger, $10.99

Grouper sandwich, $14.99

Cobb salad, $8.99

Blackened salmon BLT wrap, $11.99

What the symbols mean

$ - Average entree is under $10

$$ - $10-$15

$$$ - $15-$20

$$$$ - $20-$25

$$$$$ - $25 and up