Monday, April 16, 2007

Real Food for Less

Ever hear stories about people who couldn't pay their restaurant tab and had to wash dishes to make up for it? Apparently, it really happens. In the LA Times today is an article about the SAME Cafe (the name is an acronym that stands for So All May Eat), a Denver restaurant that serves good food on a "pay what you can" system. The restaurant, which serves 2 soups, 2 salads, and 2 kinds of gourmet pizzas everyday, uses seasonal ingredients and offers food to anyone, regardless of how much money they have in their pockets. If the patron doesn't have a dime to his name, he can pay for his meal by working for a while in the cafe, washing dishes, wiping down tables, or mopping the floor. Brad and Libby Birky, the owners of the cafe, manage to make it work with some unorthodox methods:
To curtail waste, the Birkys don't set portions for their food. Customers take plates from a stack by the entrance and tell Brad how to fill them: a taste of the couscous with olives and feta cheese, a full bowl of the creamy squash soup, a thin wedge of the pear-and-gorgonzola pizza. They are always welcome back for seconds.
What strikes me about this concept isn't just that poor people are getting a meal, but that they're getting a good meal, full of nutritional value and flavor. Edan and I were talking about this just yesterday, noting that, too often, the only food available to lower-income families is fast food or junk food. Here, for once, is a place that not only presents good food, it also offers varying portion sizes for varying budgets. If only this had been around back when Chris Rock was hungry for ribs.

No comments: