Sunday’s protest outside of Goldie falafel shop left us with much commentary, elevated demand for shawarma fries and tehina shakes and a question that no one seems to be asking: What causes do Philadelphia restaurants support? Also: Shouldn’t we patronize places whose beliefs we share?
With a little help from Google, anyone can pick a restaurant for its menu, prices, ratings, and availability of reservations. But if you’re a diner with a civic mind, you might also want to look beyond the obvious, into where your money goes after you’ve signed the check and tipped generously.
Maybe you prefer your Detroit-style pizza with a side of social justice, or want your cheesesteak to back the blue. If you’d like to your French brunch to support seniors, your brown butter gnocchi to help kids access healthy foods, or your four-star, farm-to-table dinner to contribute to both restaurant workforce development and Asian American cultural preservation, well, you’ve come to just the place to find out where to have your next meal.
Note: Many local restaurants with heart generously donate gift certificates to great local charities like neighborhood elementary schools, nearby animal shelters, youth sports organizations, and all sorts of nonprofits. The restaurants below, however, regularly support specific causes.
Second note: This is far from a complete list. Please, send us your favorite Philadelphia restaurants, based on the causes they support.
Looking for coffee shops with admirable missions? Check this out:
UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS’ RIGHTS
Chef-restaurateur Cristina Martínez has long leaned into her own story as an undocumented Mexican restaurant worker to inform not just what causes she supports, but what diners she supports too. On Saturdays and Sundays, she opens South Philly Barbacoa before the crack of dawn (5am) in order to feed workers returning from overnight shifts. Her full-service restaurant and bar Casa Mexico helped earn her a the “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” James Beard Award.
Martínez has also collaborated with Jose Andres’s World Central Kitchen to serve 33,000 people during Covid, starred in a documentary about her life and helped draft a legislation to protect undocumented workers in Philly.
South Philadelphia Barbacoa, 1140 S. 9th Street. Casa Mexico, 1134 S. 9th Street
CHILDHOOD CANCER, NUTRITIONAL EDUCATION
In 2006, chef-restaurateur Marc Vetri (Vetri, Fiorella) and business partner Jeff Benjamin founded the annual Great Chefs Event, a one-night, multi-chef benefit dinner for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. (Alex’s is a nonprofit that supports research on, awareness of and families experiencing pediatric cancer.) The fundraiser, held at Urban Outfitters HQ, has raised close to $5 million, and inspired charitable copycat events in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Jackson Hole.
Vetri and Benjamin’s success led them to found the Vetri Community Partnership, a nonprofit that offers cooking classes and nutrition education to 30,000 people in Philly and Camden annually. They do this with both a mobile and brick-and-mortar teaching kitchen, SNAP-ed programming, classes in culinary medicine, and an out-of-school-time cooking lab for kids.
Vetri Cucina, 1312 Spruce Street. Fiorella Pasta, 812 Christian Street
A mission trip to El Salvador inspired Kim and George Mickel, owners of the By George stall in the Reading Terminal Market, to found Hunger Burger. The trip, and Tom’s shoes. For every burger sold, the couple donates a meal to a child in need. They do this locally through Philabundance, nationally through Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Program, and in El Salvador through Kings Castle.
1136 Arch Street
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
Restaurateur Muhammad Abdul-Hadi founded Down North Pizza with a mission to employ and support returning citizens. To that end, their staff consists solely of people who’ve been incarcerated, including pizza genius and head chef Michael Carter. Down North workers start at $15 an hour, have access to a pro bono attorney to deal with parole and other terms of release issues, and can live in one of two onsite apartments.
Their square, Detroit-style pies featuring spicy-sweet “norf” tomato sauce inspire lines down the block of eaters from far-and-wide. And, like any good neighborhood pizzeria, Down North serves salads, wings, fries and shakes too.
2804 W. Lehigh Avenue
NORTH LIGHT COMMUNITY CENTER
Since 2010, Winnie’s Manayunk has raised more than $75,000 for nearby North Light Community Center, which hosts a summer camp and after school programs — and also offers utility assistance and a substantial amount of food to neighbors in need. Winnie’s times their giving with St. Patty’s Day, so that their “Hearts O’Clover” dinner is also a nod to owner Winnie Clowry’s heritage.
4266 Main Street
Old City’s Frieda for Generations is a charming for-profit cafe with community center vibes. During breakfast and lunch, Frieda serves a great basket of pastry and breads, classic quiche, omelets, tarragon tuna (or avocado) toasts, croque monsieurs and Niçoise salads. But the larger point of Frieda, say owners Thomas Steinborn and David Wong, a Cordon Bleu and Ecole Gregoire Ferrandi-trained chef, is fostering intergenerational connections.
The owners intentionally hire older employees — long overlooked in the restaurant industry — as servers and baristas. They also encourage all ages of customers to come in, have a seat, and get to know one another, making the spot a small yet mighty effort to combat ageism and promote community kindness.
320 Walnut Street
THE BLUE, THE RED AND THE RAINBOW
When original owner Joey Vento was running Geno’s Steaks, he set up a glass case on an outside wall featuring the emblems of police and fire departments he supported. (He also famously put a sign in the window: “This is America. Speak English.”) Vento passed in 2011, and since then, his son, the shop’s namesake, has run the business. Geno Vento still backs the blue and the red, along with charities benefiting children and animals. Also, he’s an out-and-proud gay man, so don’t bother coming here for a Whiz wit if you’re anti-LGBTQ+.
1219 S. 9th Street
HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION, MORE SUPPORT FOR IMMIGRANTS
Chef-restaurateur Jose Garces — Amada, Buena Onda, JG Domestic, The Olde Bar, Village Whiskey, more, plus being an Iron Chef — works with his ex-spouse Dr. Beatriz Garces, a dentist from Cuba, on the Garces Foundation. This nonprofit offers free English language tailored to members of the service industry, provides free medical and dental care to immigrants on Community Health Days, and runs a low- to no-cost dental clinic for those in need.
The foundation’s work grew out of Beatriz’s work with undocumented works from Jose’s restaurants who, fearful of getting deported for seeking medical care, trusted her to help.
Amada: 217-218 Chestnut Street, Buena Onda: 1901 Callowhill Street, The Olde Bar: 125 Walnut Street, Village Whiskey: 118 S. 20th Street, Volvér: 300 S. Broad Street
CULINARY CAREERS, ASIAN COMMUNITIES
High Street Hospitality Group (Fork, a.kitchen & a.bar, High Street, High Street Hoagies) has long offered their employees living wages, health insurance and 401ks while supporting local farmers, purveyors and artists. The group, helmed by James Beard “outstanding” restaurateur Ellen Yin, is known for feeding the community, especially during the pandemic.
Currently, their biggest causes are:
- Asian Americans United, known for its programs in youth leadership, and efforts to preserve and celebrate culture and community, especially in Chinatown
- Careers Through Culinary Arts (CCAP), a culinary / restaurant workforce development nonprofit for underserved teens
- SEAMAAC, the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition, a South Philly-based group that provides food support, social and health services, education and community development geared toward newer Philadelphia residents of Asian heritage
- Sisterly Love Collective, an alliance of women in the hospitality industry working to empower other women to thrive in the same space.
Fork: 306 Market Street, High Street: 101 S. 9th Street, a.kitchen + a.bar: 135 S. 18th Street, High Street Hoagies: 3401 Market Street
ISRAELI MEDICAL RELIEF
The first Thursday after Hamas’s October 7 attack on civilians in Israel, restaurateurs Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook decided to donate 100 percent of their profits from their popular restaurants Zahav, Laser Wolf, K’Far, and all five Goldie falafel shops to United Hatzalah.
United Hatzalah is a volunteer-staffed Israeli EMT group that prides itself on the speed they offer free medical help to people in emergencies. The organization also provides free EMT training to caregivers, high school students and widows seeking work. During the war, they have tended to both injured civilians and members of the Israeli Defense Forces. In one day, the Cook + Solo restaurant group raised more than $100,000 for this cause.
Goldie, several locations, K’Far: 110 S. 19th Street, Laser Wolf: 1301 N. Howard Street, Zahav: 237 St. James Place
Corrections: A previous version of this post characterized Cristina Martínez as married to her previous partner and cited chef Kurt Evans as a founder of Down North Pizza.
MORE BUSINESSES THAT STAND BEHIND CAUSES