Freedom Farms Cafe spotlights locally raised food
Freedom Farms Cafe and Carry-Out has a limited menu of made-to-order items, but the takeout options are nearly limitless.
The cafe opened a year ago along Route 56 in Allegheny Township in the small building that formerly housed J.D.'s Roadhouse and Hessom's Restaurant.
The cafe originally was called The Market at New Kensington, but two factors prompted the owners to change the name last fall.
Sales manager Amanda Noah said they wanted cafe customers to make the connection with Freedom Farms, the family-owned Butler County farm featured on the national television show “Farm Kings.” The reality show, which airs at 9 p.m. Thursdays on the Great American Country channel, features the King family's efforts to expand their farming business and the public's appreciation for locally raised food.
Noah said they also weren't familiar with the area — or the sensitivity of Alle-Kiski Valley locals who protested the cafe's reference to New Kensington, technically located several miles away despite the building's 15068 ZIP code.
“We felt this new name better reflected our business,” Noah said.
And it does — sandwiches and soups are served fresh from chef Dale Miller, while the rest of the store is filled with an array of takeout options. Coolers are full of pre-made wraps, salads and soups. Plus, there is plenty of produce, breads, eggs, meats, cheeses and ready-to-bake pastries.
Freedom Farms Cafe & Carry-Out gives diners the option of stopping by for a freshly made lunch, taking home pre-made food for dinner and grabbing some groceries for the rest of the week.
Noah said as many of the ingredients as possible are sourced from Freedom Farms, including eggs and meat from their free-range chickens. They're also beginning to raise pigs this year and are considering adding cows in the future.
They freeze vegetables and chicken so they can use it year-round; the rest of the produce is supplemented from the Strip District, Noah said.
The fresh baked goods — cakes, doughnuts and pastries — plus ready-to-bake pies are made at Boldy's Homemade Goodies, a Route 8 bakery the King family bought in 2009.
The cheeses and meats, including deli cuts, are bought from The Farm at Walnut Creek in Ohio, Noah said.
“We're really passionate about food and food quality,” she said.
Noah said the cafe was a natural progression for Freedom Farms. Lisa King, the mother of the 10 King children, always whipped up some cooked food to sell at the Route 8 farm market: “Since she's cooking for so many people, she'd throw on an extra pot to sell.”
The cafe offers a unique mix of modern and down-on-the-farm amenities. Sandwiches can be ordered from a touchscreen computer or in person at the counter. Quirky Freedom Farms T-shirts are displayed on one side of the store, while canned preserves and pickled vegetables line other shelves. The interior is clean and well-stocked.
There are four tables inside the cafe and four more on a porch outside. While there was plenty of room the afternoon we stopped, we could easily envision the tables being full during a busy lunchtime.
Freedom Farms Cafe offers about a dozen breakfast and lunch sandwiches on the regular menu, plus a few daily specials and a soup of the day.
We sampled one of the specials, the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($7.49), which Noah said has been “selling like crazy. We can't keep up.” The sandwich featured very tender shredded pork in a barbecue sauce that was more sweet than spicy. It was piled on a Kaiser roll and served with coleslaw and fresh-cut fries.
We didn't realize at the time of ordering, but we could have swapped out the side of fries that comes standard with sandwiches for the vegetable of the day, which was sauteed squash and zucchini.
With our Lisa's Chicken Salad Sandwich ($3.50), we ordered a cup of the soup of the day, Winter Sausage and Sweet Potato ($2.95 for a cup or $5.45 in a bread bowl). It was a hit: a creamy orange-tinted broth swimming with chunks of sweet potato and sausage and a hint of spice.
The chicken salad, which Noah said also is a top seller, included cranberries and diced sweet bell peppers. The salad stuffed the croissant we selected.
The Turkey Bacon Melt ($6.50) also left us plenty for later. We selected a wheat bread and were told that, because the wheat slices weren't as large as some of the other bread options, they basically gave us two full sandwiches. The toasted bread was full of Cajun-flavored turkey breast, pepper jack cheese, thick slabs of bacon and a smear of mayonnaise plus fresh lettuce, tomato and onions. We struggled to finish just one of our loaded sandwiches and took home half the fries, as well.
From the cooler we selected a Portobello Mushroom Wrap ($3.99). The spinach-color tortilla was stuffed with slices of mushroom, red pepper and tomatoes plus lettuce and Swiss cheese. Although packets of dressing or mayonnaise were available, we found the fresh, moist vegetables provided plenty of flavor.
We also selected a pre-made Turkey Salad ($5.95) which included salad greens, several slices of cucumbers and a few slices of pepperoncini, grape tomatoes, several rolled slices of the Cajun turkey deli meat and a little cup of shredded cheese.
We grabbed a 32-ounce container of Thai Chicken Soup ($7.95), which Noah said is a new offering. Curry provided a yellow tint to the thick soup, which also included chunks of chicken, vegetables, peanuts and basil.
The display case of doughnuts and cakes was tempting, but we already were craving pie, since the cooler of ready-to-bake pastries was one of the first things we saw when we walked in the door. We selected an Apple Pie ($9), which we popped in the oven for an hour as soon as we got home. We were very pleased with our choice — this was among the best apple pies we've ever had. A perfect crust was filled with well-seasoned apples but none of the super-sweet jelly common in store-bought pies. You could easily pass this off as homemade.
We're looking forward to stopping back in the summer when more Freedom Farms-grown produce will be in season. And, there were several other varieties of pies we need to sample.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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