What: The Triangle’s first pay-what-you-can cafe
When: Tue-Fri 7a-2p; Sat-Sun 8a-2p
Why we love them:
Steamy lattes, fluffy quiches, and tables upon tables of chattering locals—from the outside, A Plate at the Table looks like your standard neighborhood cafe, but it’s much more than that. Behind the hustle and bustle of it all, there’s something inspiring at work.
Here, Raleighites from all walks of life gather for a good meal and a genuine sense of community that’s flat-out electrifying. Why? Because APATT is the Triangle’s first (and only!) pay-what-you-can cafe, committed to serving delicious and wholesome meals while preserving and honoring the dignity of all, regardless of means or margins. It’s one of about 60 pay-what-you-can cafes in the country and in case you haven’t yet heard the story of how the Triangle got in on this movement, we’re going to take it back to day one.
APATT was founded in 2015 by Maggie Kane, a Raleigh native and NC State grad who discovered her passion for service as she was volunteering at various soup kitchens around town. Soup kitchens do noble work, but their priority is feeding as many people as quickly and inexpensively as possible, leaving their guests with no choice and little comfort. Recognizing the power of food as a tool for connection, she was determined to find a way to honor these people—to give them the dignity of dining out, of having a tasty choice of food options, of being welcomed into a space and being told (scratch that—shown) they belong.
Fast forward to the present day, and APATT has given out 18,000+ meals, collected $262,000+ from customers paying it forward (I.E. paying more than the suggested price and/or buying meal tokens) and rallied locals for nearly 47,000 hours of volunteer work. But the truth is, you’d almost never know that the cafe is any different than your standard (albeit, v welcoming) spot.
Cheerful volunteers greet you at the door, drool-worthy dishes continuously roll out of the kitchen, strangers rub elbows at the community table, and you’re sure to see the founder herself bouncing about, embracing regulars and chatting up fresh faces.
So let’s be clear: this is Raleigh’s cafe, and just because it’s a sliding scale for those who need it doesn’t mean they’re sacrifice quality, at all. With a bonafide badass chef in the back, fresh ingredients, and food options for all—this place embodies full belly, happy heart on every level.
Score! They’ve got an all-day, big breakfast selection that can be as traditional or novel as you desire. Everything from classic open-faced Avocado Toast to Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits (topped with tasty Sage Country Gravy) to fancy Quiche & Eggs for days.
They also serve fresh, home-baked pastries and Pop-Tarts (yes, your childhood fave) that they’re notoriously known for revealing over on their social.
But be warned, certain items are so special, they’re only available on the weekends. Case and point? The Smiling Benny Waffle, the most delicious (and uplifting) dish topped with eggs benedict, bacon, and smothered with homemade hollandaise sauce. You’ll also have to be patient for Eggs Benedict until the weekend, but trust us, they’re absolutely worth the week’s wait.
We’re not sure why, but the “breakfast all day” concept seems to win all the glory. Eh hem, can all day lunch get a little love too (welcome to our TED Talk)? Luckily, here at APATT, lunch is up for grabs all day long.
Stacked sammies, fresh-pressed paninis, and colorful salads rule the lunch menu, but Chef Gravens is known for rolling out a surprise special or two. This week? A Black Bean Goat Cheese Melt pressed hot on Naan Bread, served with his secret recipe pickled veggies and a creamy Herb Pumpkin soup to round out the menu with warmth.
Skimpy salads no more, APATT has made sure there are healthy options for all, including three mainstay salad options that pack all the nutrients that anyone needs.
But on any given day know that you’ll have your choice of bread (no upcharge for gluten-free!) and they’re going to whatever it takes to make sure your meal comes the way you asked for it. One last thing, The Turkey Bacon + Avocado Club requires both hands and an unhinged jaw to eat it, but it’s well worth it.
There’s a full coffee menu with all your go-to espresso drinks, but because they’re brewing up a signature blend of Larry’s Coffee in-house daily, look forward to some seriously elevated sips.
They’ve got seasonal lattes on lock, sometimes sprinkled with edible flowers, sometimes designed with latte art, but always made with a whole lotta love from their staff and volunteers. they honor free refills, always.
Take your time to read through this section because it’ll explain how you can pay it forward and help support APATT's mission. For the most part, APATT looks, smells, and feels like a "regular" cafe, but you'll spot the tell something special is afoot when you check out for your meal. After you order, you’ll be told the “suggested price” and you’ll have a few options on how to respond.
You can (and should!) also buy a meal token for someone in need. Officially, these wooden tokens cost $10 apiece, but whoever brings one in can order whatever they like. Once you purchase them, you’re free to leave the token(s) in the cafe for the next person who comes in in need, or do your best Oprah impression and dole ‘em out around town anytime you encounter someone who asks for help on the street. Either way, you’re doing your part to spread the APATT love around Raleigh.
Also note that, since all the APATT staff make a living wage, they’re able to put 100% of tips straight back into APATT, providing additional meals for those in need. If there’s ever an extra meaningful time to tip, this would be it.