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Today we doff our caps to Dahlia Ghabour, food and dining reporter at the Louisville Courier Journal, who on Monday filed an important news item about local restaurants with social missions: Growing trend of pay-what-you-can restaurants in Louisville offer safe spaces and service.

Ghabour’s survey begins in Portland at The Table.

In 2015, The Table stood out as one of the only Louisville-area restaurants of its kind — a ministry in disguise — opening doors and providing new food options for people in low-income areas who might not be able to afford to eat out otherwise. Since then, at least five more restaurants with social missions have opened in the Louisville area, taking their food service one step further.
Scarlet’s Bakery opened in 2015, followed by Cup of Joy in Louisville and 8th Street Pizza in New Albany, Indiana, in 2016. In 2017, DV8 opened in Lexington, and last year the Portland area nonprofit Love City opened a barbecue restaurant called Porkland BBQ.Together, the restaurants are offering pay-it-forward and pay-what-you-can business plans.

Her list of Louisville-area restaurants with a social mission (and one in Lexington), with addresses and hours:

  • 8th and Main: 141 E. Main St. New Albany, Indiana. Monday to Thursday,11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Associated with Clean Socks Hope ministry.
  • Cup of Joy: 2507 Bank St. Tuesday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Associated with The Haven Ministries.
  • DV8 Kitchen: 867 S. Broadway, Lexington. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Associated with nine different resource groups.
  • Porkland BBQ: 2519 Cecilia St. Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Associated with Love City.
  • Scarlet’s Bakery: 741 E. Oak St. Wednesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 106 Fairfax Ave., Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • The Table: 1800 Portland Ave. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Associated with Promise Ministries.

For readers interested in looking under the hood and seeing how these pay-what-you-can business models do it, a 2017 piece by Maura Judkis at the Washington Post is insightful: ‘There’s a dignity to this place’: Inside the world of pay-what-you-can restaurants.

As hard as the job is for owners, it’s also tough on chefs. When many of your ingredients come as donations — ground turkey one week, couscous the next — every week’s menu is a “Chopped” challenge. The chef has to be part teacher, part social worker, too.
“You have to love on people, and you don’t have to do it from a distance,” said EAT’s (Cafe, Philadelphia) chef, Donnell Jones-Craven.