‘Everyone Has a Seat’ at The Table, a Pay-What-You-Can Restaurant

The Table has become a staple in the Portland neighborhood after just two years. Operating under a unique payment model, the operation offers up fresh, local food every weekday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“It’s a pay-what-you-can or pay-it-forward model restaurant. People pay the prices on the menu, but a lot of people pay with their time,” says Front-of-House manager Tara Mattingly. “If they can’t afford a meal, we want to give them an opportunity to get local and fresh foods, where they may not be able to.

Tara Mattingly, Front-of-House Manager

“Everyone has a seat here at our table.”

Don’t get the idea, however, that The Table isn’t a viable business. Though it is a nonprofit that operates in a church at 1800 Portland Avenue (services are held Sundays at 11 a.m.), the restaurant is able to keep its prices affordable and labor costs low thanks to volunteers, Mattingly says.

“They can work for maybe an hour and get a full meal,” she says. “I don’t think people know what to expect when they come in, but as they leave they say the food is so good, especially for the price.”

On the menu are a selection of soups, sandwiches and sides, prepared by chef Laura Rountree, who has worked at The Brown Hotel and Standard Club. Mattingly previously spent time at several restaurants, including The Old Spaghetti Factory, but says she’s found her home.

“Our mission is to get to know people so they keep coming back,” she says.

In fact, along with menus, guests at The Table receive a Mission Statement, which details the concept, including four payment choices: pay what you can, pay the amount listed on the menu, pay the menu price and a little extra to “pay if forward,” or give your time in service.

Mattingly says all sorts of people have visited The Table, ranging from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and other public officials to folks who live in the neighborhood and all around the area. The restaurant feeds more than 100 people per day and has even been featured on Guy Fieri’s Food Network television show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”

“When you’re doing something good, you will be rewarded,” Mattingly says. “When you dine with a purpose, you will always do well.”

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