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Stanton Stephens

Cafe Momentum

Stanton Stephens
Cafe Momentum is a nonprofit venture that employs juvenile offenders and pays them fair, living wages to help teach them life skills, leadership and, of course, how to work in a restaurant. Because of the employees’ fair wages, any tips left behind are considered donations to the mission. As such, it’s easy to praise the restaurant without ever mentioning food, just by dwelling on the life-changing effects it has on young people who deserve this chance to work and grow. But here’s the thing: Cafe Momentum is a genuinely good restaurant, one that consistently manages to stand out from the glut of Southern kitchens around town.

Top pick: Menu items rotate along with the interns and the professionals who teach them, but look for market-fresh fish with seasonal sides, savory crawfish beignets or an excellent plate of shrimp and grits.

The downside: Because of the nature of the restaurant, the food and drink options are fairly limited, as are the hours. That’s not a bad thing; it eliminates decision fatigue, and the drinks don’t have much markup at all.

Fun fact: After showing off its program at pop-up dinners in other cities in 2019, Cafe Momentum is teaming up with national foundations to try replicating its charitable model in other cities. Although future locations may not share the Momentum name, and will partner with local chefs elsewhere rather than becoming a true “chain,” it’s an inspiring example of a good idea catching on.

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