Nonprofit Cafe Offers Unique Way To Serve Everyone In The Community

By Jim Benemann

DENVER (CBS4) – The SAME Café is always a busy place over the lunch hour.

That’s good news for everyone who appreciates what this place along East Colfax Avenue brings to our community.

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There’s always delicious and healthy organic food on the menu, and also a heaping side of compassion.

That’s because this is more than a restaurant. Brad Reubendale took over as Executive Director about eight months ago and says the mission is going strong.

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“I keep calling it a magical community. It’s like no place I’ve ever seen. Where else are millionaires and the homeless hanging out and chatting over lunch? And I see that every day,” said Reubendale.

That’s because every diner can enjoy whatever is on the menu, no matter their ability to pay for it.

SAME stands for So All May Eat. The meals at this nonprofit restaurant have a suggested price, based on costs to the café.

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That’s what about half the customers typically pay, and some pitch in even more as a donation. But the others, even those with nary a nickle, get a full plate, too.

In return, they agree to spend about a half hour before or after their meal tidying up the place.

CBS4’s Jim Benemann interviews Patrick Hale. (credit: CBS)

Patrick Hale has become a regular. He had a nasty bike accident a couple years ago.

Hale dropped by the café and enjoyed its generosity for some free meals. In return, he worked on the cleaning crew.

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Now he’s healthy and can afford to pay for his food, but he still donates his time. He says he couldn’t even stand up after the bike accident and the café was happy to feed him. He enjoys repaying what he calls the café’s “touching offer” to help him out.

Pam Butler from Boulder and a pal dropped by for lunch. Neither had enough money to settle up at the counter, so they enjoyed a wonderful meal and then put in about 20 minutes working in the kitchen.

“I’m in a tough spot, but this really makes me feel good. It’s not a handout, and I enjoy being able to donate some elbow grease,” Butler said. “It’s good for my dignity to know I can in some way repay the café for being so generous.”

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People who come through the door often learn about healthy eating and make lifestyle changes. Those who donate enough time can learn the skills that help them get hired in the restaurant business around town.

Chef Tisha Steele see that happen a lot. The SAME Café has been serving up generosity and great food for 10 years now.

The founders Libby and Brad Birky moved on about a year ago. They’re no doubt proud to see the cafe going strong, and can feel good that there are now about 50 restaurants across the country that have sprung up with the same idea.

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Take it from me, the food is delicious. There were homemade soups and salads, along with whole grain pizzas on the menu the day I dropped by.

The plates went from full to clean pretty quickly! You’ll find the SAME Café at 2023 East Colfax In Denver.