Philadelphia Welcomes Its First Pay-What-You-Can Restaurant


If diners aren’t feeling the menu at EAT Cafe in Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood, they only have to wait a week to find something new. The charity-driven restaurant adapts to donations they receive from partners. After serving an Italian menu one week, a shipment of green tomatoes might inspire a soul food theme the next. But no matter what’s for dinner on any given night, the meal’s price tag—pay what you can—stays the same.

EAT, or Everyone at the Table, became Philadelphia’s first nonprofit “community cafe” when it opened in the City of Brotherly Love at the end of October, reports. It takes its cues from dozens of similar restaurants around the country: Meals are served for a suggested donation of $15. If you can afford that, great. If you can pay more, less, or nothing at all, that’s fine too.

The Drexel University enterprise seeks to differentiate itself from other pay-what-you-can spots by operating in the style of a full-service establishment. Instead of serving themselves cafeteria-style, diners can come in four nights a week for a three-course meal of restaurant-quality food. Mariana Chilton, who runs Drexel's Center for Hunger-Free Communities, told, "I wanted to make sure this would not be confused with a soup kitchen. It sets the stage for a place where all different kinds of people would want to meet up and intermingle."

EAT currently sources their food from vendors and donors like Metropolitan Bakery, La Colombe, and Giant Food Stores. Their ultimate goal is to work with 60 percent donated ingredients with a target cost of $3.25 per meal and serve roughly 130 people a night. The cafe isn’t yet where it needs to be (they only served 125 meals in their first week), but the team behind it hopes that once word gets around, EAT will act as a space "to nourish the community through good food and fellowship."


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