The Fastest Way to Experience Food by a Celebrity Chef

Have you ever watched a cooking show on television featuring celebrity chefs & wish you were one of those few in the studio audience that actually get to sample the food that’s being prepared? If you could, how much would you expect to pay for it? What if someone could offer you these dishes in a casual dining atmosphere at a reasonable price? There is an answer to these questions in Franklin, TN; a restaurant serves food like this for an amazingly affordable price. This restaurant is Wolfgang Puck Express.

For those of you unaware, Wolfgang Puck is an award-winning Austrian celebrity chef & restaurateur.  He is the author of several books, dozens of restaurants, and starred on a handful of TV shows. Wolfgang Puck Express is just one of three casual dining experiences offered by the chef himself. While you won’t be able to get a steak dinner or the like, Wolfgang Puck Express offers meals that can be prepared relatively quickly but doesn’t sacrifice on taste or quality. As taken from his website:

Wolfgang Puck Express features Wolfgang’s most popular dishes in a contemporary, fast-casual setting with affordable prices. The extensive menu features Wolfgang Puck’s hand-crafted gourmet pizzas, a variety of pastas, sandwiches, soups, fresh salads, including Wolfgang’s famous Chinois Chicken™ salad, and Wolfgang’s classics, such as ginger salmon and rosemary rotisserie chicken with garlic mashed potatoes.

Sound good? It definitely is and I’ve only had food like this from restaurants where my bill ended up being $50+ for 2 people.

Wolfgang Puck Express (WPE) is located directly next door to Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Franklin, TN. The visit to WPE was accidental; Haley and I were planning on eating at Carrabba’s but it seems they aren’t open for lunch. Needing a quick alternative, I chose WPE because we’ve driven past it numerous times but I dismissed it (because I once remembered that Wolfgang Puck sold coffee and the word “Express” just reminded me of a coffee shop). Upon entering, you are greeted by a wide open, simplistic dining area with a front desk where the host(ess) would take your order and give you a number where your food is brought out to you. Haley ordered a Pesto Chicken Salad on Focaccia (rotisserie chicken mixed with a garlic/basil/pesto sauce, red onions, and mixed baby greens) and Four Cheese Macaroni al Forno (a blend of mozzarella, fontina, cheddar, and gorgonzola baked with elbow macaroni pasta.) Seeing how they had freshly made soups, I ordered the Butternut Squash (butternut squash, sweet spices, and roasted red pepper swirl) with the Oven Roasted Chicken, Mushroom, and Onion Melt on Focaccia bread. While we waited on our meal, I couldn’t help but notice the large number of patrons dining as well as how amazing the presentation of food appeared.

Now don’t interpret my praise that this is the best tasting food in the world. I’ve eaten at “fine restaurants” before and this food is as good, but with all things fancy, some things just simply aren’t better. Take for instance Haley’s Pesto Chicken Salad. Haley is the biggest critic when it comes to chicken salad and she even said that it wasn’t the best chicken salad she’s had, but still good. The difference is that most traditional chicken salad has a bit of mayonnaise in it. This one used pesto as a replacement for the mayonnaise. The end result is something unique to the taste buds that are traditionally encountered when basted on grilled chicken breasts or a sauce when mixed in with chicken & pasta. Nevertheless, sometimes it’s best to just keep it simple… such as macaroni and cheese or cole slaw. Her macaroni and cheese was nothing fancy… no shallots, no mushrooms, no truffle oil, no bread crumbs… just a plain four cheese blend baked to a golden brown where a bits of singed cheese make a nice crispy shell. My cole slaw was a horseradish & Caesar based cole slaw. I’m not really a big fan of cole slaw. There’s something about watery, vinegary, mayonnaise drenching cabbage just doesn’t sit well with me. As for horseradish, I don’t like it unless it’s on sushi and tasting WPE’s cole slaw was kind of a kick in the mouth… I wasn’t expecting something creamy and spicy. So after a couple bites, I left it alone. I would have preferred regular slaw over that.

As for the soup…my love for Butternut Squash soup began when I saw an episode of Top Chef a few years ago. One of the contestants kept bragging about how awesome his butternut squash soup was and when he actually served it, he got glowing reviews. Since then I was on a mission to try it and actually found it on the menu of one of Lexington’s finer dining establishments. As you read in my Wallace Station post, I love soup and will make an effort to try any soup that doesn’t come out of a can or is thawed. So when I saw Butternut Squash soup on WPE’s menu, I had to get it. The squash in the soup was well blended (no chunks of squash) and had a very sugary flavor with citrus accents.  I am used to butternut squash having more of a salty characteristic than sweet, but it was good nevertheless.

As for my main dish, it was described as “heavenly”. The chicken was tender and juicy with the rotisserie flavor still apparent. The combination of caramelized onions and sweet red & yellow peppers added hint of sweetness to the smoky flavor of the roasted tomato sauce. Mix in gooey melted mozzarella cheese folded in and wrap it up in a fire toasted focaccia bread with a parmesan cheese and buttery coating, you have a wrap that is too wicked… especially for a price point of $7.75. The wrap was so big, I couldn’t even finish it.

Wolfgang Puck Express is definitely a place worth visiting for lunch or dinner. There are no long waits and the food is as good a quality as anything else out there. The pricing is slightly more than your average fast food establishment, but with exponentially better tasting food. I definitely plan on visiting again soon and would advise you guys to try it if you haven’t already. For those of you that have, what else is good? Seeing how Wolfgang himself created the menu, it would be hard to find something that isn’t as delicious as it sounds.

Wolfgang Puck Express
553 Cool Springs Blvd
Suite 100
Franklin, Tennessee 37067
(205) 771-9066

Bill Total: $24 for Two

Wolfgang Puck Express on Urbanspoon

Food:4.5/5.0 ★★★★½ 
Service:3.5/5.0 ★★★½☆ 
Atmosphere:4.0/5.0 ★★★★☆ 
Price:4.0/5.0 ★★★★☆ 
Overall:4.0/5.0 ★★★★☆ 

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