Eateries in the West have chosen to abandon menus with set prices in favor of seasonal dishes and suggested donations.
The request “Check, please” is now passé in several eateries in the West that have chosen to abandon menus with set prices in favor of seasonal dishes and suggested donations. How much for a helping of chile- and lime-seasoned trout? A slice of cranberry-chicken pizza? A cup of butternut squash soup and a sliver of a ginger-plum pie?
Diners themselves decide at Salt Lake City’s One World Cafe (801-519-2002, oneworldeverybodyeats.org ), a model for restaurants in several cities. After selecting from a buffet of largely local and organic delectables, patrons reach into their pockets and pay what they can.
“The beauty is that everybody can afford a healthy meal,” says founder Denise Cerreta. Those who can’t pay are encouraged to help out—by sweeping, busing dishes, or weeding the café’s garden. “We’re a hand up, not a handout,” she says. Offshoots have sprouted in other Western states, including One World Spokane in Washington (509-270-1608, oneworldspokane.org ) and SAME Café (720-530-6853, soallmayeat.org ), one of four Denver restaurants on this model. Proprietors nationwide have begun turning to Cerreta for her professional advice.
A quixotic pursuit? Perhaps, yet regular patrons range from attorneys and doctors to students and artists. Those who can pay more do, covering those who pay less. Janice Raschko, founder of One World Spokane, insists that the values-inspired approach is viable. “People feel they’re part of something bigger here,” she says.
Photography by Scot Zimmerman 
This article was first published in November 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information