The Dish List: Gaufree
Where: 3851 Alton Parkway Irvine, 92606
How Much: $5-15
Hours: Mon-Thu 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Fri 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sat 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sun 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Rating: 3/5
Gaufree is one of the newest restaurants to come along since the mainstreaming of chicken and waffles, with its official grand opening two weeks ago.
Located in the West Park shopping plaza on the corner of Alton and Culver, Gaufree’s first branch is relatively close to UCI’s campus but not quite convenient, though the restaurant itself is nothing to complain about.
The interior is reminiscent of an east coast sandwich shop and a cafeteria-style restaurant with bright walls and wooden and metal tables. It reminded me of the times I went out to lunch with my dad on the East Coast (which is a good thing). The atmosphere is definitely unique in Orange County and stands out from the other restaurants in the area. One unique element is the inclusion of TVs that continually project positive words of wisdom while you are waiting for your food. I can say that I did not mind waiting for my food.
Gaufree runs like your typical chicken and waffle sandwich joint with a few twists, one of them being their Philly Cheesesteak waffle sandwiches. Some other options include falafel, kale, and pepper and salmon, among others. There is also first-class ice cream in the back for $4, with several flavors including Turkish coffee, dark chocolate orange and toasted coconut almond chip.
For my first visit, I had their take on the usual fried chicken and waffle sandwich, here called the organic buttermilk fried chicken and waffle. It could have been better. The chicken seemed to lack flavor, even with the spices added to the batter before frying. However, the lettuce and tomato did seem to add something that other places seem to leave out. They also have many dipping sauces to choose from, which allows for experimentation and gives you a reason to come back. I would recommend the BBQ, but that’s just because I love that combination. The crispy fried chicken contrasted well with the soft and fluffy waffle and I left wanting to buy some more.
You can buy fries and a drink with your sandwich for three dollars more as part of their “Warriors Combo” for $12.95, which is what I did. The Belgian Street fries are forgettable on their own, though again they do have a wide variety of dipping sauces including a honey garlic sauce that goes quite well with the fries and left me quite surprised. The employees will tell you that the Boylan Artisan soda is among the best soda they’ve ever had and while low on calories and sugar I would recommend you avoid paying extra for it, unless that is you get cream soda or root beer.
At the core they can make a decent chicken sandwich. So what about the other items on the menu? On my return trip, I got the pulled pork sandwich for $7.95. I will admit that the pulled pork on its own tasted great, but it does not belong in a waffle so I just ate both separately with a fork. That is not to say that I left unsatisfied. I actually liked the fact that the meat had enough flavor and I could see other people ordering the same thing. After I left, I felt as though I wanted to come back again and try some of the other items on the menu, and plan on doing so at some point in the future.
So how is it in comparison to Bruxie? Personally, I was not as impressed with Bruxie as I thought I would be, but the same can be said of Gaufree. It would be similar to comparing KFC to Popeye’s: some will prefer one over the other for all sorts of reasons. While offering new thrills to Irvine in the form of chicken and waffle sandwiches, it doesn’t quite hold up to the hype the owners would have you believe the place deserves, but they can deliver good food and that is all that really matters.