Table Talk: Downtown Columbus' Freedom a la Cart opens new space with café, bakery

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group
Freedom a la Cart CEO Paula Haines is pictured at a new brick-and-mortar store,  Freedom a la Cart Café + Bakery + Catering, 123 E. Spring St. in downtown Columbus, on April 1. Freedom a la Cart helps survivors of human trafficking by teaching such service-industry skills as cooking and other life skills to help them plan their independence.

Customers went from eating on their feet to grabbing a seat.

Freedom a la Cart – once a food cart that was toted around central Ohio – officially opened its first sit-down restaurant, Freedom a la Cart Bakery + Café + Catering, on April 5 at 123 E. Spring St. in downtown Columbus.

The building is about 7,500 square feet, with offices on the top level, the café and kitchen on the ground floor and a commercial kitchen in the basement.

“I think it exceeds our expectations,” said Paula Haines, CEO of the organization. “I can’t think of anything more perfect than this space. I think it just feels like home.”

Freedom a la Cart recently moved from 5000 Arlington Centre Blvd. in northwest Columbus. Its current brick-and-mortar location, its sixth since entering the food industry 10 years ago, brings it closer to the people it serves, said Carissa Martin, social-enterprises director for the nonprofit company.

“The goal is to open more,” Martin said. “This is definitely the home we’ve been looking for a long time to house all we do, our different programs we do and house or staff.”

The café, which is open for breakfast and lunch, is pristine white, with exposed brick, a high ceiling with open ventilation and lots of natural light.

The menu was developed by Laurie Sargent, the head chef of the restaurant. Lara Pipia, the original Freedom chef, was brought in as a consultant.

“We just thought it was a fun way to bring her back,” Martin said of Pipia.

Pastries, bowls and breakfast sandwiches are on the menu at Freedom a la Cart Café + Bakery + Catering.

The menu features such breakfast fare as quiche, savory Italian pie, healthful bowls, sandwiches, salads and a wide variety of home-baked goods, such as brownies, croissants, granola bars, cookies and such, with new selections rotated in frequently.

One sandwich is called the “Don’t Judge Me,” named after retired Franklin County Municipal Judge Paul Herbert, who presided over the CATCH (Changing Actions to Change Habits) court for 11 years.

CATCH was designed was to help break women’s cycle of drug and alcohol addictions and get them out of human-trafficking situations.

Freedom offers several grab-and-go items, as well.

Individual items are $11 or less.

Sargent, longtime caterer and once an instructor at the now-closed Columbus Culinary Institute at Bradford School, said the food is fairly simple but has more than the occasional chef’s touch, such as smoked trout, feta, dilly beans, microgreens, a poached egg and black sesame seeds on a toasted pumpernickel.

“You taste everything,” Sargent said. “There’s no camouflaging here.”

Freedom’s mission is still the same: teach victims of human trafficking workforce training and life skills to help them transition back into society. Part of that training is to provide catering services, which still are offered at the new space.

It also offers a full line of coffee drinks at Freedom.

Barista Jewels Edwards, a victim of human trafficking, has been working at Freedom since September.

Edwards said the program has helped her turn her life around, getting the self-confidence she needed to enroll at Columbus State Community College and have another job as a server at a Columbus restaurant.

Freedom a la Cart Café + Bakery + Catering is at 123 E. Spring St. in downtown Columbus.

“I have full faith in the work they’re doing at Freedom,” said Edwards, who would not disclose her age.

Freedom a la Cart Bakery + Café + Catering is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. It's closed Sundays. Catering services are available on a daily basis. For more information, call 614-992-3252.

Bienvenidos burritos

Mexican cuisine is coming to Old Worthington.

Luis Munoz and his sister, Romana Munoz, are the managing partners of Chapala Mexican Restaurant, which is taking over the former Bruegger’s Bagels location at 530 High St.

Luis Munoz said he is renovating the entire building and hopes to open after July 4 with a liquor permit in place.

The roughly 2,500-square-foot space will seat 65 inside, with additional seating available on the patio.

Chapala, named after Mexico’s largest freshwater lake, will offer a small menu of assorted tacos, burritos, steak, pork and chicken dishes, something called an “avocadilla” (a quesadilla with vegetables and avocados) and a wide variety of side dishes beyond rice and refried beans, Munoz said.

Many dishes will be vegetarian.

“We have big plans,” he said.

Another feature of the restaurant will be craft margaritas, made with fresh fruits and fresh-squeezed juices.

“I think that’s something people are going to like,” Munoz said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary