After first opening its doors to the public on Jan. 8, A Place at the Table has become a unique dining experience for the Raleigh community because of its welcoming atmosphere and pay-what-you-can system. 

“It is a really special place,” said Josh Hancock, the cafe manager. “It holds a lot of meaning for so many different people. It is a place where you can enjoy great food and not worry about money [with the pay-what-you-can-model].”

Founder and executive director Maggie Kane had a concept of a restaurant that was a place to unite and build the Raleigh area. A Place at the Table was created with the mission of combining community and great food and put it in an environment where everyone is welcome “regardless of means” as their motto states.

“We offer healthy options for the whole community to eat together with the concept of being able to pay it forward and volunteer for others,” Kane said. “The opening response has been awesome and people really enjoy the concept.”

The café-styled restaurant is open six days a week from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and serves dishes such as waffles, quiche, paninis, salads and soups. These dishes are focused around health with several options available for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diners.

“I think everyone should try the waffles,” said active volunteer Zinith Barbee. “As a breakfast option, it is very good. The chicken noodle soup is also a good recommendation. There is a lot of fine dining options on the menu for everyone.”

Kane, who graduated from NC State in 2013 with a degree in international relations, used her time and experiences on campus to prepare her for her current work.

“I loved going to NC State. It helped me develop my skills and education while making me think about the bigger picture,” Kane said. “The community and professors really encouraged hands-on learning. NC State is also where I met my best friends and got involved with campus ministries that grew my passion.”

Located on West Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh, A Place at the Table is not only a space to enjoy food, but it is also an environment that encourages giving back and looking out for your neighbor.

“What separates us from any other restaurant is that is pay-what-you-can,” Kane said. “We are nonprofit and allow people to pay however they like. Whether it is paying more or less than the suggested donation, paying it forward to give to someone else’s meal or volunteering to earn your meal, we want to give everyone the option to enjoy healthy dining.”

Through tasks like doing dishes and washing tables, volunteers can make an impact for the community restaurant all while earning themselves a meal of their own.

“As a volunteer, I do whatever is needed of me,” Barbee said. “I like sweeping the front sidewalk in the mornings and cleaning the windows. This place has a huge impact for sure. A lot of people have been waiting for a place like this to open that is all about serving people.”

Kane encourages students to come downtown to A Place at the Table, try some of coffee and food and consider giving some of their time or resources to helping other people in the Raleigh area.

“I know it is tough time being a student in college, but I encourage students to come on out and invest some time into volunteering,” Kane said.