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Raft Cafe: Tiny Spot, Tiny Menu, but Bring an Appetite

November 12, 2000

* It's Sunday, and there are so many crepes and omelets from which to choose. Here's a sampler of Sunday Brunch destinations in Orange County, culled from recent articles. Other reviews can be accessed at


The only way you could feel more at home at the Raft Cafe in Newport Beach is if the server asked you to wash the dishes. Don't worry, she won't. Sit back and enjoy the view of Newport Harbor and a delicious brunch on this comfortable patio on Balboa Peninsula.

The Raft is a little-known spot that has been a restaurant under various owners for 20 years. Eight years ago, Robert Redmond of Robert Redmond Catering bought it. The 13 tables can seat about 35 diners. And since the kitchen is tiny, so is the menu. But bring a big appetite and some patience when you visit, because though the food is great, the Raft doesn't take reservations (except for Friday and Saturday nights in the summer) or credit cards.

Breakfast consists of six entrees and three specials. Each one scored a perfect 10 from our party. The frittata al Macchrone is a pasta-based quiche, meaning it's made with cheese and cream. Unlike quiche, however, this clever pie is made with noodles and baked with a filling of mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and Parmesan.

The sausage and mushroom strada is a rich custard baked with sourdough bread, turkey sausage, and fresh mushrooms and herbs. Chilaquiles is two poached eggs with black beans over corn chips with a smoky salsa. Everything is freshly made, including the chips.

One of the most innovative dishes is the Raft's version of an omelet: a savory cake rolled around spinach, shallots and cream cheese. Picture a jellyroll without the jelly. This and the strada are the best dishes, most of which come piping hot and garnished with fresh fruit.

If you expect desserts for brunch, you may be disappointed. Sweets are limited to croissants, scones and bagels. But what it lacks in desserts the Raft makes up for in exotic coffee drinks. Espresso, lattes, chocolate coffee with orange syrup, and cappuccinos are available. Wine, champagne and beer are also on hand.

The Raft Cafe, 2816 Lafayette Ave., Newport Beach, (949) 673-0793. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

* A new Sunday Brunch review will run next Sunday in the Orange County Calendar.

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