It’s reverse bikini season. You know how in spring, thoughts turn to your body on the beach in June? Well, this time of year it’s all about trimming a few pounds so you can gain five celebrating the holidays. Toastique on Balboa Island has arrived just in time with healthful cuisine that’s way more fun than some punishing diet.
This is the first California location of a franchise founded in Washington D.C. by former D1 collegiate cheerleader Brianna Keefe. There are stores in D.C., Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia, with more in development across the country. It’s a daytime, counter service spot with coffee and breakfast/brunch items such as smoothies, bowls and toasts served on slices of whole grain goodness by Bread Artisan Bakery.
The franchisee is Orange Seed LLC which is owned by Rhea Cayenne, her husband Lyndon Baptiste, Anthony Capolino and his wife Lesley, who is Lyndon’s sister. So, if you prefer to support a family business, there ya go.
“We tended to do holidays once or twice a year and we'd see each other for like two weeks. And then we thought, well that's never enough,” Cayenne said. The pandemic made them realize they could no longer defer the dream. “We thought, yeah, maybe now is the time to make the move and get us all in the same place,” she said.
Born in Trinidad, Cayenne moved to London years ago and has resettled with her husband and two children, aged 8 and 13, in Orange County. She’s always been a foodie and as she and her business partners scouted for the right restaurant to invest in, Toastique caught their attention.
“I think my food revolution started in England because I followed Gordon Ramsay and all the chefs and did some cooking courses. But I've always cooked and baked,” she said.
“We kept our eye on the franchise market to see what was trending, but also if I had to be involved, it had to be something that had a little bit of food in it. So, this combination of juices, smoothies and toast resonated with me.”
Three of the co-owners have a Caribbean background, so expect fresh fruits, veggies and vibrant flavors. They plan to add more O.C. locations, so drop by and lobby for one to come to your town.
There’s no trace of the Starbucks that this restaurant replaced. The 1,235-square-foot space has been given a complete makeover. Its serving station was removed to open up the space and bring in all the light from windows facing the street. Clean lines and spare décor give it a Euro mod feel, a display of decorative surfboards on the wall add a beachy touch. There are bar seats and four tables inside; owners hope to expand with a bit of outdoor seating.
There are big, make-a-meal-out-of-this toasts, served on logo cutting boards with a knife and fork. You’ll need cutlery to dig into all the goodness because each slice of bread is piled high with smoked salmon pastrami, cream cheese, cucumbers and capers or mashed avocado with watermelon radishes and cherry tomatoes. Other choices include spicy crab, PB Crunch, three-cheese Italian and a Greek version with hummus.
Bowls showcase fresh fruit, such as the OG Açaí with strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apple juice, granola and cacao nibs and honey or the Black Mystique with activated charcoal, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, coconut, coconut water, kiwi, goji berries, granola and honey.
There’s a range of espresso drinks, smoothies and collagen iced lattes, too, and this is the place when you’re on a juice regimen. Just to name two, Cure is a sweet mix of pineapple, apple and spinach; Defender blends orange, carrot, apple and lemon and gets a hint of gentle spice from turmeric. Food items range from $6.50-$16; juices and coffees range from $3-$9.
The menu has been set by the franchise but there will be some local additions. Cayenne will add more oatmeal bowls and soups of her own creation as the weather turns cooler. “I love to make winter stews,” she said.
Toastique on Balboa Island is the first California location of a national franchise counter service spot serving coffee and breakfast/brunch items. PHOTO 1: Logo cutting boards with meal-sized toasts. PHOTO 2: Avocado Smash toast with with watermelon radishes and cherry tomatoes. PHOTO 3: An array of samples of cold pressed juices. PHOTO 4: Toast with smoked salmon pastrami, cream cheese, cucumbers and capers. PHOTOS 5 and 6: Açaí and other bowls crowned with fresh fruit and other toppings. Photos 1 and 5 courtesy of Toastique. Photos 2, 3, 4 and 6 by Anne Valedespino, Culture OC
What to order
Start with a juice to whet the appetite. We found the Metabolize addictive with the fresh taste of cucumber, pineapple, apple and mint, spiked with jalapeño. Our favorite toast was the Tuscan Tuna which tasted like a French pan bagnat just back from a trip to Italy. It stars tuna mixed with sundried tomatoes, capers, scallions, herb vinaigrette and black olives. These fresh ingredients are laid on a bed of bib lettuce and the savory flavors are balanced with a drizzle of sweet balsamic glaze. Finish your meal with a coffee; the beans are from Kéan so the espresso drinks are robust, even the mocha is coffee forward, not too sweet.
The last word
This menu seems made for coastal Orange County with its fresh produce and collagen lattes. During a recent lunch shift, Cayenne was showing off a certificate of recognition from the U.S. House of Representatives signed by Katie Porter, offering congratulations on the grand opening. “I definitely think it has already started fitting into Orange County here on Balboa Island,” Cayenne said. “The feedback has been wonderful. The residents love the food and bring their friends to try it. We've got lots of repeat customers already and we only opened two weeks ago.”
Info: 226 Marine Ave., Newport Beach, 949-430-9395, https://toastique.com.
Open: Since Sept. 16. Regular hours: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. daily for now, look for hours to extend to 7 p.m. as staffing increases.