Cafe 180: Cooking Food for All

Cafe 180 cooks up lunch for everyone, whether they can pay or not.

Authored by Hope Marks

Photo by Jon Rose

Cafe 180 has opened its doors to the public for nearly a decade, serving about 12,000 meals a year to the South Broadway community, regardless of their ability to pay. Its core belief: Everyone deserves a meal.

Founders Julie Mihevc and Catherine Clements were inspired by SAME Café, a place on Colfax where everyone can eat and then pay what they can. In exchange for a meal at Cafe 180, people who aren’t able to pay contribute an hour of their time and energy at the cafe and in the community.

“We are a nonprofit, donation-based restaurant,” says manager Boo Crosby. “We believe all of our guests that come through the door should be provided a meal regardless of their ability to pay. For our friends who can’t afford their meal, we give them the option to earn their meal by volunteering.”

Photo by Jon Rose

There are no prices on the menu, which includes soups, sandwiches, pizza, and salads that have reviews averaging nearly five stars on Yelp. The cafe asks that those who can afford their meal make a donation based on their means or what they feel they should pay.

“The location of Cafe 180 in South Broadway was very intentional,” explains Sarah Lesyinski, Cafe 180’s executive manager. “Finding a location in the city that provides a collision of demographics was very important to us.” The South Broadway community borders on some of Denver’s high-end neighborhoods but has residents experiencing homelessness. “This location helps our dream come to a reality, where all walks of life are eating the same food with the same experience, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Tony is one of the people that has benefitted from Cafe 180’s program. He came to the cafe as a volunteer when he was living a stable life through parttime work and disability pay. About three years ago, Tony’s rent increased beyond his means and he became part of Cafe 180’s housing program, Housing 180, which subsidizes rent for people who need a boost. His volunteer service became work at the cafe in exchange for his rental subsidy. Tony, a successful graduate of Housing 180, now lives in a senior living community in Lakewood but has returned to his former status as a Cafe 180 volunteer.

The cafe is staffed daily by volunteers and is always looking for more people to help in the kitchen with Chef Braxton Adams or by serving patrons in the dining room. And you can help others simply by stopping in, enjoying a meal, and covering its cost with a donation.

Cafe 180
meals for everyone
3315 S. Broadway