A Restaurant Where You Pay What You Can Afford For The Meal?
It sounds like something out a movie, but it’s actually right out of Denver, my home city. And this wonderful idea is not only incredibly innovative and generous, it’s also working well and making thousands of needy people happy in the process.
So All May Eat Café (SAME Café) was founded by Brad And Libby Birky, a couple who moved to Denver from Illinois. They had worked in various shelters and soup kitchens for eight years before they decided to take a chance and open SAME Café. They paid off their car, saved up around $30,000 and then sank it all into one of the most amazing café’s in America, if not the world.
The principal is simple; pay what you can. The menu in SAME Café suggests prices for certain meals, but they are simply that – suggestions.
Examples included $5-$15 for a complete meal (which is cheap even on the high end) and around $3 - $6 for one course, such as soup. For those with enough money to pay a decent amount for their meal, it’s a guideline. For starving musicians and artists, homeless people or anyone else down on their luck, the meal could cost a buck or even a few cents.
If you have no money at all, no problem. You can work off your meal in the kitchen washing dishes, clearing tables, mopping floors, peeling vegetables, whatever you can do to pay back what you have just ate. It’s the kind of payment plan that gives people a real sense of worth. It’s not a soup kitchen, it’s not charity, but it is the most flexible and humanitarian restaurant out there.
It’s not only the concept that is fresh though. Brad and Libby Birky have put an emphasis on healthy food, like fresh organic fruit and vegetables. Many of the people who come in for a bite to eat at SAME Café haven’t seen these items for a long time (and in this economy, a burger is cheaper than a handful of fresh broccoli). And although the menu changes daily, you are guaranteed two types of pizza, soup, salad and a homemade dessert.
As you can imagine, Brad and Libby already know they won’t exactly get rich with this kind of venture, but as their volunteering background suggests, they are in this for people ( to be exact, the beauty and grace of feeding people), not money. And the last I heard, they were applying for non-profit status.
Brad has been quoted as saying "everybody should be able to have a good, healthy meal, whether they can afford it or not." I tip my hat to you Brad, and your wife Libby. In times when capitalism is king, you have both risen above it to do something truly special and unique.
For those of you in the Denver area, SAME Café is located at 2023 E. Colfax Ave., between Race and Vine streets. Opening hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday. Payment is cash or check, no credit cards.
You can also check out their website: http://www.soallmayeat.org
UPDATE: Brad Birky was kind enough to get in touch with me and point out a few changes to SAME Café. First, as you can see from the verbiage that's been crossed out, there are no longer suggestions for meal prices. Brad and Libby felt that the suggested prices put too much pressure on people to donate a particular amount. And second, SAME Café now has offical not-for-profit (501c3) status, which is great news.