Eat Outside The Box

California restaurants for a cause.

The New Year seems to bring out the resolutions in us—we mull over how we’re going to make up for holiday sweets and carry over our generous spirit into the coming months. So what if you can be a charitable citizen and healthy epicurean at the same time? Turns out you can at these four CA eateries.


Homegirl Café, the culinary child of Homeboy Industries, is a restaurant with a mission: to get at-risk women off the streets and into the kitchen to carve out futures in the food service industry. The result is a modern Downtown L.A. spot with a menu of delicious Latin-inspired foods including my favorite, red mole tacos. With the funds going back into programs like cooking classes, organic gardening and baking (hand-in-hand with Homeboy Bakery), Homegirl Café serves up both food and purpose.

Karma Kitchen, a volunteer-driven program on Sundays within Taste of Himalayas restaurant, takes a different approach to dining. After a lunch of vegetarian Indian dishes like veggie korma and dal, you are given a $0.00 check that reads: “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those who dine after you.” Guests have embraced the concept so much that Karma Kitchen also has outposts in Chicago and Washington D.C.

Forage, a Silver Lake eatery, uses local, organic ingredients via the urban farmers’ Home Growers Circle to whip up seasonal fare. The pursuit? To create a haven that turns foodies into locavores who learn the art of farm-to-table.

Cart for a Cause, a food truck with a rotating roster of celebrity chefs, travels about L.A. selling $10 healthy eats to customers. Proceeds pay for three meals for a homebound senior in the St. Vincent Meals on Wheels program. Stay tuned on their Facebook page for upcoming locations.

Looking for inspiring, out-of-the box restaurants somewhere else? Check out these unique places across the country:

– Off the Waffle – Barter services and products for waffles in Eugene, Oregon.

– Same Café – Donate time or money for your meal and feed others in Denver, CO.

– One World – Pay what you can or volunteer for a homegrown meal in Spokane, WA.

– A Better World Café – Volunteer or pay what you can in exchange for sustainable fare in Highland Park, NJ.

– The Comfort Café – Volunteer-run restaurant with a flexible portion/flexible price model in Denver, CO.

– Rogue – Pay more than the menu price and the rest goes to charity in this “kitchen & wetbar” in Vancouver, BC.

– peaceNcarrots – Wholesome food at a pay what you can price in Boulder, CO.