Best New Restaurants 2022: Freedom a la Cart Café

This small Downtown café offers a tight menu of sandwiches, salads, baked goods and coffee—all for a good cause: Freedom's mission to support and empower survivors of human trafficking.

Nicholas Dekker
Sandwiches, bowls and pastries from Freedom a la Cart Café and Bakery

Freedom a la Cart’s Downtown café and bakery space is the culmination of more than a decade’s worth of work supporting and empowering survivors of human trafficking through employment, resources and training. What started as a food cart grew into a box lunch and catering business before blossoming into a fully fledged café and bakery. And the verdict: The food is terrific.

The Downtown café, which opened in the spring of 2021, is cozy and brightly lit, with a small patio out front and a colorful mural decorating one of the exterior walls. A small but focused breakfast and lunch menu is supplemented by fresh-baked pastries and full coffee service.

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The culinary team is given the flexibility to go beyond simple sandwiches and salads. See the rosemary breakfast sandwich, for instance, built with housemade rosemary-lemon breakfast sausage, soft eggs, provolone, lemon aioli and arugula on a fresh croissant bun. Or the trout toast layered with smoked trout, creamy feta and a poached egg on pumpernickel. Even a simple and comforting grilled cheese sandwich is given the royal treatment with a blend of cheddar, goat and Swiss cheeses layered with sweet and zesty habanero-apricot jam on crisp sourdough.

More:The Story Behind Freedom a la Cart’s new Downtown Café

Side Dishes

On-the-Job Training: In addition to providing an expanded kitchen for catering services, Freedom a la Cart’s dedicated café space offers its employees more opportunities for workplace training. Little details like chalkboard signs introducing your daily baristas and listing their favorite drinks continue to promote Freedom’s mission by reminding guests of the people behind it.

Don’t Judge Me: One of Freedom’s signature sandwiches is named in honor of Judge Paul Herbert, who founded CATCH Court, a longtime partner of Freedom a la Cart. Standing for “Changing Actions to Change Habits,” CATCH is a specialized docket in Franklin County Municipal Court designed to assist survivors of human trafficking.

Meet the Chef: Behind much of Freedom a la Cart’s café and catering menus is chef Laurie Sargent. Her previous accomplishments include stints as a pastry chef at the New Albany Country Club and instructor at the former Columbus Culinary Institute. Chef Sargent’s guidance ensures that the café’s menu continues its winning streak.

Freedom a la Cart Café + Bakery

123 E. Spring St., Downtown


This story is from the February 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.