FOOD: Free Range Cafe


In the heart of Newport Beach’s Balboa Island lies the quaint new restaurant, Free Range Cafe. Just opening in June of this year, it’s the latest food truck to go brick and mortar. The traveling truck was best known for its fried chicken sandwiches, but it now permanently resides in the popular destination of Balboa. Away from the hustle and bustle of Marine Avenue, the restaurant is in a more than ideal residential area of the island. Its location is conveniently set on Agate Avenue, the street you take to cross the ferry to the peninsula.
When walking in, enjoyable classical music plays to give customers a pleasant time without taking over their conversations. The service is generous and kind, making the time to get to know their customers. They recommend meals that would appeal to the taste buds of the specific individual. The atmosphere is casual, no need for formal wear.
The saying, “first impressions are often wrong” does not ring true at the Free Range Cafe. The instant we stepped through the restaurant’s glass doors, we were politely greeted by the wait staff and immediately seated wherever we so pleased. Their simple, yet modern style and cohesive layout of tables increasingly enlightened our moods.The waitress kindly suggested her favorite table, close to the window. Here, we would have some nice fresh air but never get too chilly. Water and menus were brought to us quickly — no dilly dally. The menus were easy to read and we ordered our entrees within an impressive five minutes of being seated.
We asked for the “OG Honey Sriracha Fried Chicken Sandwich” — one of their food truck classics– Mac and Cheese, and Avocado Toast. These dishes seemed the most diverse from the menu and would give us a larger scope of what the kitchen was capable of. The food was served after a respectable fifteen minutes, piping hot and straight from the kitchen. Each dish had a clean and simple presentation, yet the prominent presence of color and placement of the ingredients also gave an elegant feel. Before we had even tasted anything, we were already impressed.
The chicken sandwich was packed with flavor, and every bite introduced a new taste that you might have missed before. The sweet and spicy fusion of the honey-sriracha combination created a tang we could find ourselves craving. The yolk of the egg had that oh-so-satisfying and delicious consistency: we could not get enough. The buttery biscuit held the whole sandwich together without overpowering the chicken’s already strong flavors.
The avocado toast was made with only the freshest of ingredients, and it was a modern twist on the timeless classic. The delectable bread was made even more delicious with toppings of Sriracha, pickled onions, a shake of salt and another enjoyable egg. The dish offered every aspect one hopes to encounter when indulging in avocado toast.
Let’s talk about that mac n’ cheese. It was heavenly. Each noodle came coated with the perfect amount of creamy sauce. The crisp breadcrumb topping gave an added element of texture to the already delicious meal.
After such a wonderful dinner, we thought there was nothing more Free Range Cafe could add to ensure their customers left happy. We were wrong. Not only did they have a diverse selection of foods for dinner, their dessert menu was just as impressive. Without a doubt, we ordered the apple pie. It was served warm and featured a perfect balance of spices and a variety of textures, from the soft apples to the crispy crust. It was perfectly paired with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, only adding to the divine dish.
Now, whenever you find yourself on Balboa Island or are in need of a good dinner, Free Range Cafe should pop into your mind. It is a noticeable stop on your way to the beach, and we highly recommend you go try it yourself.