Gaufree, Irvine Waffle Restaurant of Sweet and Savory Persuasions, Is Now Open
Some foods are able to cross over boundaries we don't realize exist. We cook eggs for dinner, have steak for breakfast. Kale is no longer a mere garnish; we eat them as chips. In recent years, waffles evolved from morning meal to dessert holder, then from chicken cohort to sandwich basic. They are the coolest thing since sliced bread. Their texture and taste can be manipulated to pair well with meats and sweets. So it's no surprise restauranteurs are embracing the concept.
Gaufree is the doing of Paul Hortobagyi. However, we cannot stress enough how this is also a family affair. Daughter Marcela monitors the dining area, his son puts finishing touches on a killer ketchup-like sauce. Even his wife, who he met while they were acrobats in the circus (You think we're making this stuff up, don't you?) is in the back breaking down chicken. Paul's education and life experience sent him far and wide. But his talent for creating menus is a natural one. He also understands the value of people and relationships, mentioning some respected LA-centric chefs as his friends.
Yet you're here to read about the food. How does the French word for waffle measure up to existing competitors? A better question should be: What makes them stand out? Backyard Bees honey, Scarborough and Pitman Farms are just some of their preferred vendors. McConnell's Ice Cream out of Santa Barbara is the scoop of choice here, just as Boylan pop rules. In addition to these fine purveyors, Gaufree serves Belgian beer and California wines.
Okay, so on to the waffles. These are soft and pliable, not the crispy variety. What made an impact on us had to do with other components contributing in a big way. A street fry is simply a fry until it's dunked in a magical, mystical tomato condiment. Their fried chicken breast retains moisture, but the kicker is a Meyer's Rum chipotle molasses dip, containing subtle heat which completed every bite. Options we weren't expecting were gluten free versions, protein style lettuce wraps and an "Anti" waffle on pretzel bun.
More surprises: Sizable salads with optional albacore tuna or port wine glazed tofu. For a change of pace, check out the creamy Thai Kaffir dressing. We never even made it to their desserts, but the nutty peanut butter pie with sea salt caramel looks like its own blog post. We're not completely sold on waffle texture, but to each their own.
Gaufree Artisan Waffle Sandwiches is located at 3851-A Alton Pkwy, (949) 222-5622; www.gaufree.com.