Celebrate One Year of EAT Café, Philly’s Pay-What-You-Can Restaurant

Drexel's community café is holding an open house tonight.

EAT Café | Photo courtesy of Drexel University

When the concept was first announced, it seemed too good to be true: how could a full-service restaurant give its guests the option to sit down, order, and eat without paying?

But that’s exactly the mission of EAT Café, a project of Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities (EAT stands for Everyone At the Table).

After a year of operation, it’s been so successful that they earned a 2017 Best of Philly nod for dining that’s doing good.

And tonight, they’re inviting the city over to celebrate their first anniversary.

Tonight, October 26th, from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m., guests are invited to EAT Café, located in a renovated rowhouse at 3820 Lancaster Avenue, to learn more about this unique community restaurant and sample some great food.

Drexel estimates that during its first year, around one quarter of EAT Café’s guests did not pay for meals. Customers who are able to pay more than the suggested price — originally $15 for three-course meal — invest back in the cafés mission, making it possible for those who can’t pay to eat as well.

Chefs Margie Felton (L) and Valerie Erwin | Photo courtesy of Drexel University

Since opening last October, the café has gone through some changes: Valerie Erwin, onetime owner of the erstwhile Geechee Girl Rice Café, and Margie Felton, formerly of Chaat & Chai and Weaver’s Way Co-op, took over from opening chef Donnell Jones-Craven in late spring.

Erwin and Felton’s menu focuses on what they call “international home cooking” — comforting dishes from cuisines around the world. The current menu, which will change with the seasons, includes items like smoked pork shoulder with mashed potatoes and sweet and sour cabbage, spaghetti with meat sauce, and curried potato and cauliflower vegetable cakes with tomato-cilantro-mint chutney and Indian yellow cabbage.

The menu has changed in other ways, too: rather than offering a set menu of three courses for $15, they’ve made their offerings a la carte — with a suggested price for each — and added more small plate and vegan options. The tweaks are a response to customer feedback and are also designed to reduce food waste.

Tonight’s open house goes from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m., and while the regular menu will not be available during the party, refreshments will be served. RSVP here.

EAT Café [Best of Philly]