Robin Hood is making a comeback with a modern, feel-good twist.
Unlike the traditional Robin Hood story in which the rich are robbed unwillingly, patrons of Robin Hood restaurant in Madrid are eager to pay more than their share so the homeless can have a good meal in a sit-down restaurant.
Here's how it works at the Spanish restaurant, according to NPR: Patrons come in and eat for breakfast and lunch. They know that they're paying for their meal plus extra to help feed the homeless, who come for dinner. Reservations are much sought-after, and celebrity chefs are lining up for a chance to cook there. As of this writing, lunch is booked through the end of March. At night, the restaurant is open only to the homeless, who enjoy a true restaurant experience with linens, real plates and utensils, and good food. It's a free meal, but there's no shortage of respect being served up as well.
The restaurant was started by Angel Garcia Rodriguez, an 80-year-old Catholic priest, who wants those who come to dimmer "to eat with the same dignity as any other customer ... in an atmosphere of friendship and conversation." Diners can use the WiFi for free, and if they don't have a phone, they're welcome to borrow one to make a call.
I think we all have a need for the sense of community that comes from sharing a meal. Robin Hood restaurant is meeting that need for its dinner patrons with respectability and dignity. And the concept is catching on.
A sense of community matters, no matter where you live
Not too far from me in Philadelphia is the EAT (Everyone at the Table) Cafe. The pay-what-you-can restaurant is a partnership between Drexel University and Vetri Community Partnership. The nonprofit restaurant believes everyone has the right to access healthy, hearty food with dignity. Diners get a three-course meal made from fresh ingredients. When the meal is done, the check arrives and diners are given the option to pay what they can, ranging from nothing at all to more than the amount of the check. As you can see, the menu offers healthy food with vegetarian and kid options.
The Robin Hood restaurant in Madrid and the EAT Cafe in Philadelphia are just two of many restaurants worldwide that are straying from the soup kitchen model and creating a dining experience with dignity. And that's not to vilify soup kitchens; they feed many in need. But these restaurants are an alternative that allows those who can afford a restaurant meal to pay-it-forward, allowing less fortunate patrons to eat a good meal in a nice place and leaving with their stomachs full even if their wallets are empty.