Soul food

Spread Peace Cafe

Roberta and Randy Tams and Chris Tinney consult before the dinner hour at Spread Peace Cafe.The Spread Peace Cafe, 50 N. Sierra St., will have its grand opening on July 31. Call 384-9300 or check out <a">

Roberta and Randy Tams and Chris Tinney consult before the dinner hour at Spread Peace Cafe.The Spread Peace Cafe, 50 N. Sierra St., will have its grand opening on July 31. Call 384-9300 or check out

Photo By D. Brian Burghart

For a moment, I wondered if it was even possible to have a soulful experience as a result of eating. Just for a moment; it only takes about that length of time to realize that almost every faith and service has an aspect of communion to it. I can think of many religious philosophies that have a ministry to feed the poor. I can think of entire religions that are more or less based on the idea of connecting to people though feeding them.

However, when I started hearing about plans to open a restaurant where, for every meal purchased, a poor person would receive a meal, I was skeptical. These organizations that use for-profit money to fund nonprofit plans often forget which direction the money’s supposed to go. I began to research co-owner Chris Tinney, and I found a lot of connections to accusations of multi-level marketing scams, but I didn’t see anything that struck me as actions beyond what many religious groups do. Then, I watched the group, including partners Randy and Roberta Tams and Tinney’s wife, Tysha, feed the homeless at tent city and spoke to the couples. At any rate, I decided to withhold judgment until I could see with my own eyes whether this restaurant even opened.

So last weekend, the restaurant had a soft opening, and, frankly, it looks better than I expected. The grand opening will be July 31. Hunter, Joy and I went there for dinner. It’s beautiful, both in concept and execution. It was pretty obvious that the staff was in training mode, and there were about 15 employees on the floor. The colors are primarily colors that exist in nature—celery and avocado, eggplant, potato skin—and the restaurant is of an open, “great room” design, with the kitchen exposed to the dining areas. There was also a bunch of multimedia things going on—flat screens on the walls, lights above a stage/dance floor/dining area, and as we ate, a puff of dry ice smoke poofed out over us.

The Tams and Tinneys were there, although I noticed everyone but Chris left before the 6 o’clock hour, which is when they deliver dinner to tent city. Chris was soon to follow. Hunter and I ordered 20 chicken wings at 50 cents apiece, and Joy ordered a Bob Marley wrap ($9) and then 10 more chicken wings, which Hunter and I mostly ate. All the food was very good.

As we ate, we were chatted up by the very friendly servers Emily and Dominique and before long even the chef, Steve, was over at our table, asking how we enjoyed our meal and explaining a bit about the philosophy behind the food choices. I don’t want to go too far into it, but the idea is to be as “sustainable” as possible, with little oil (for example, the chicken wings were baked) and little meat (the chicken wings were added at customers’ demand) on the menu. After the grand opening, the restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and into the night for bar-style munchies.

I think these people have a true, honest vision for this restaurant, and I think the business model has potential to succeed. Plans are already being made for future restaurants in other cities. I know that many restaurants fail without the added obstacle of feeding the poor, but these people are already doing that and have been for about a year. And no, just because we ate 30 chicken wings and a wrap doesn’t mean they’ll be taking 30 chicken wings and a wrap down to tent city; it’s more likely they’ll be taking PB&J sandwiches.

Do I feel more soulful for having eaten at the Spread Peace Cafe? Probably not, but I do feel more mindful. After all, how often do you sit and talk about the people who don’t have the money to eat at a nice restaurant on the river? And how often are you actually able to help those who feed them just by eating?