Last Friday I had lunch at Cafe Reconcile with my friend Julie and her daughter Maria who were back in town over the weekend. Although Julie lives in Tampa she comes in every six weeks or so to do volunteer work at Cafe Reconcile.
This place was founded several years ago by a Jesuit priest to help foster a good work ethic and opportunity for the underprivileged teenagers in Central City.
Now run by a nun this cafe on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. gives these kids six weeks of hands-on experience in the food services industry. They all get a chance at waiting tables, serving food, cooking food and playing host/hostess five days a week. They are trained in restaurant skills as well as life skills with the hope that once they finish there they will have a better chance at getting at least an entry level job at one of the many restaurants around in New Orleans.
This cafe is the only one I know of the country that provides this kind of unique opportunity.
And the food? Well, the food is great. Typical New Orleans fare like red beans and rice, gumbo, jambalaya, fried catfish, and killer bananas foster bread pudding. My favorite is the baked dark chicken with okra and collard greens. The chicken meat seems to be flavored through and through. Yum.
This is the only place I know of where you perform a much needed public service just by having a great meal. Your money for the meal supports the cause, you sitting at the table gives these kids the chance to practice their skills. It’s a win-win all around. Cooking star Emeril Lagasse has thrown his lot in with the cafe by being a big supporter and will soon be opening a facility on a floor above the cafe.
And what kind of clientele frequent this place? It seems to be a great place for business people and others who just want to grab a great, inexpensive, quick lunch. The service can be a little quirky at times because you have non-professionals just learning the ropes but it’s one of the things that makes the place endearing and makes it one of my favorite places to eat.
Give it a try.
Please leave a comment. Tell me what you think.