NPR Puts a national spotlight on EAT Cafe

The Salt - NPR's food blog - featured EAT Cafe as Philly's New Pay-What-You-Can Restaurant, bringing everyone to the table. Just over a month after our Grand Opening, the Salt's Kristen Hartke stopped by EAT Cafe during dinner service to see us in action and speak with staff, diners, and Community Advisory Committee members about EAT Cafe's origin, vision, and experience thus far. 

It all began five years ago, when Mariana Chilton, a hunger researcher and the director of Drexel University's Center for Hunger-Free Communities, realized something from her conversations with people in Philadelphia's poorest communities: Eating at a restaurant wasn't just a luxury; it was simply impossible.

"Sit-down restaurants don't even exist in many low-income neighborhoods," says Chilton. "There will be take-out spots or some fast food, but that's really it. There is simply no place where families or couples can sit down and have a meal together in a way that feels special. It's as if we have this idea that poor people don't deserve to go out to eat."

Chilton wanted to change that. Attracted by the idea of creating a nonprofit pay-as-you-go restaurant, similar to SAME Café in Denver and JBJ Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, N.J., Chilton rounded up an initial $250,000 in grant money to fund a similar project in Philadelphia.

Thus the EAT Café was born.

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