Tired of the lunch rush at Mother’s everyday where 9-5ers would quickly grab their lunch only to speed back to work to eat it at their desks, Jay and Elizabeth Lewis knew they had to do something about Costa Mesa’s lack of healthy food options. Inspired by the beach cafe’s of Jay’s native Australia and the surf culture of Newport and its surrounding neighborhoods, the husband and wife team put their entrepreneurial heads together and came up with a plan to mitigate that lunch rush: OUTPOST KITCHEN.
Despite its off-the-beaten-path location in the industrial side of town, the restaurant has quickly become Costa Mesa’s neighborhood cafe. “We see some customers two to three times a day, five days a week. Some people bring us oranges and red peppers from their gardens. Someone even dropped off an ear of corn the other day!” laughs Jay, a chatty and friendly surfer whose smiling face lets you know this is exactly what he wants to be doing.
His aim was to create a casual place where people could stop in before work or on their lunch breaks, a place with communal tables where friendships could be made and fostered, and a place comfortable enough boardshorts and flip flops don’t get the side-eye. He wanted to make his restaurant somewhere he could teach his patrons the importance of putting good food into their bodies; a place people would leave feeling energized instead of tired. “I don’t want people going back to their office and falling asleep cause they’re in a food coma.”
The menu changes seasonally— about five times a year— and people are especially keen to trying whatever new items come with it because the track record at OUTPOST KITCHEN is this: Everything is good.
Ingredients are delivered fresh daily, and they’re serious about that— there are no freezers or microwaves in the whole establishment. The organic, farm-raised, and non-GMO food is all made from scratch. They work with local farmers, bakers, and purveyors. Community is what’s important to Jay. Everything from the food down to the restaurant’s’ interior is local— “The glass is from the guy next door, the granite is from down the road, a local artist did the menu…” he trails on.
“My number one value is my customer. This is not for me. This is for everyone else,” explains Jay. “We’re a community kitchen, a place that people can call their own, a good meeting spot. We are somewhere people can come together and not feel intimidated. They can come from outside and still feel part of the community.”
And quite a community it has become, regularly attracting the masses with lines out the door and a healthy splatter of professional athletes all wanting to come for its fresh food. “We get a lot of Ducks, Lakers, and Clippers players coming in,” he says, not to mention all the athletes from the nearby action sports’ headquarters.
With plans to expand into dinner hours and negotiations currently underway to open another location by Christmas, life is good at OUTPOST. It’s well worth the trek to the outskirts of town to try, and when you do be sure to say hello to Jay, who’ll have you feeling like a local in no time. Oh, and before you go, break into your old record collection because they’re always down to throw a vinyl on the ol’ record player. Because after all, it’s a community kitchen for the public, and you’re in charge of the soundtrack.
Lindsay DeLong is the Managing Editor of The Fullest She’s of the firm belief that the only thing that could make Outpost Kitchen any better is if they imported fuzzy little Koalas direct from Aussie-town. But until then, she’s completely okay with their Vanilla Oat Porridge. Find her at email@example.com or on social media via @lindizzaster.
Photographs by: Marielena Verdugo.