Eat Well, Do Good: Restaurants That Give Back

Feed your belly and your soul at these philanthropic spots around the world.

Eat Well, Do Good: Restaurants That Give Back

Birrunga Gallery & Dining offers pre- and post-release support for Indigenous prisoners.

Courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland

What if you could save the world by eating cinnamon rolls and sliders? You’d be all in, right? Then we have good news for you: Many restaurants and cafés around the globe—both close to home and far across oceans—have altruism baked right into their menus. They may train and employ immigrants, support specific health issues, spotlight Indigenous cultures, or introduce guests to underrepresented communities—but what they all have in common is the use of food to help make a difference. On your next trip, seek out do-gooder eateries like the ones below—or plan a special trip just to try one; they’ll make your travel, your stomach, and your heart happy.

Sister Srey Cafe

Siem Reap, Cambodia

This cheery café hires Khmer students and trains them in hospitality, English, personal development, banking, and health and hygiene. What’s more, a portion of the profits goes to clearing land mines.

Birrunga Gallery & Dining

Brisbane, Australia

An Indigenous-owned art gallery, café, and wine bar, Birrunga supports emerging Indigenous talent and also runs a charity that provides pre- and post-release support for Indigenous prisoners and their families. Don’t miss the café’s modern spin on Native Australian bush food: Think crocodile, kangaroo, and emu sliders.

The Black Bull at Gartmore

Loch Lomond, Scotland

Located within Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, the Black Bull literally gives back to the community—because the community owns it. In 2019, Gartmore’s 350 villagers collectively purchased the historic but declining inn, and it now sustains visitors with locally sourced seafood and residents with local work and pride.

Sweet Jordan’s

Paris, Tennessee

As an adult living with Down syndrome, Jordan St. John discovered he had a huge love of baking but a limited set of opportunities. So he and his parents created their own—and not just for themselves. Today, their neighborhood dessert and coffee shop employs some 30 special-needs adults, and its pies and brownies are nearly as popular as the staff.

The Clink

Brixton, England

The colorfully named charity the Clink runs culinary and horticultural training programs—and even public restaurants—in prisons. The goal is to reduce recidivism, improve public safety, and change perceptions by helping graduates find meaningful work.

DV8 Kitchen

Lexington, Kentucky

House-made cinnamon rolls and grilled PB&J would be worth ordering most anywhere, but at DV8 your order is worth even more. Restaurateurs Rob and Diane Perez founded DV8 Kitchen after experiencing the nationwide opioid crisis firsthand: Over the course of a decade, they’d lost 13 of their employees to drug addiction. Now their bakery and sandwich shop works directly with treatment centers to hire and support those who are in recovery and provide them with life and work opportunities.

Comal Heritage Food Incubator

Denver, Colorado

When you grab lunch at Comal, you’re supporting the hospitality and business education of immigrants and refugees—as well as your own. The students here are locals who come from Mexico, Syria, and Ethiopia, among other countries, and you can learn about their food traditions while they learn about entrepreneurial and food-services skills.

Many Emma's Torch graduates have found work at top restaurants.

Many Emma’s Torch graduates have found work at top restaurants.

Photo by Michael George

Emma’s Torch

Brooklyn, New York

As the Emma’s Torch culinary director likes to say, the menu at this Brooklyn café is “American food cooked by new Americans.” Those new Americans are the refugees, asylees, and survivors of human trafficking who make up each class in the nonprofit’s culinary education and apprenticeship program. At the end of 10 weeks, graduates have the skills (and connections) to work in the NYC restaurant scene, and some have even added their unique flavor to menus around the city.

>> Next: Emma’s Torch Is Helping Refugees Succeed in the Food World

Billie Cohen is executive editor of AFAR. She covers all areas of travel, and has soft spots for nerd travel, maps, intel, history, architecture, art, design, people, dessert, street art, and Oreo flavors around the world. Follow her @billietravels.
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