Side Dish

Booming business

The pleasure of your company is requested on the evening of Oct. 17 at a three-course prix fixe dinner prepared by Brasserie Margaux executive chef Chris Zarkades. Service begins at 5:30, with the last seating at 7:30. Dress: casual. Admission (service compris): $15.

No, that's not a misprint. Chef Zarkades's $15 bouffe is one of a monthly series of celebrity-chef benefits for The Boomtown Caf鼯B>, the unique downtown cafe where self-respect is served twice a day, five days a week, along with fried eggs and hash browns, meat loaf with mashed potatoes, and so forth.

With a brief interval for financial regrouping, the Boomtown has been serving hot, tasty meals to the homeless (and anyone else who cares to walk through the door) since December 1999. A dollar and a quarter gets you a choice of three breakfasts; it's $1.75 for your lunch selection. If you don't have cash, food stamps will do; if you don't have food stamps, you can sign up to work—15 minutes bussing or washing dishes earns you a meal.

The 300 meals served daily are just the tip of the Boomtown iceberg. The parent nonprofit started catering for Seattle's homeless shelters three years before the cafe opened in a storefront across the street from the King County Courthouse, and it still serves 8,000 meals a month in shelters.

The drab, ill-presented, eat-it-or-else quality of shelter food was what got Robert Kubiniec and his Boomtown colleagues thinking about a place where the homeless and other unfortunates could get a bite to eat under more civilized conditions: "We wanted to get away from 'Beggars can't be choosers,'" says Kubiniec. "Here you're not begging, you're paying for what you get, and you choose what you eat. Along with choice comes dignity."

A buck or two doesn't cover the full cost of a meal, of course, and the Boomtown depends on many diverse forms of support to make up the difference: direct contributions, government and foundation grants, and benefits like Evening at the Boomtown, not to mention discounts from food suppliers.

"We have a wonderful relationship with Sysco [Services, a major food distributor]; they actually contacted us when we closed for lack of funding last fall and helped us make our case to all the food vendors whose products they represent," says Kubiniec.

The Boomtown also depends on you. Drop in for dinner where the other half dines; I guarantee it will make your next meal taste even better

For more information, call 625-2989 or go to www.boomtowncafe.org.

Dish it, people: sidedish@seattleweekly.com.

 
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