A number of civic-minded folks in Denver have started restaurants, breweries, ice cream parlors and coffee shops with a mission to give back to the community. At these special spots all over town, you can support meaningful causes while you dine.
A Tasty Variety
Every scoop, cup, dish or drink you buy at these eateries makes a positive impact. Kind of like TOMS Shoes, but way tastier.
Located in a 28-foot-tall milk can with an always-eager crowd out front, no matter the weather, Little Man Ice Cream is hard to miss in the Lower Highland (LoHi) neighborhood. Less well-known is their Scoop for Scoop program: Every scoop of ice cream you purchase is matched with a donated scoop of dry goods to a community in need around the world. (As if you needed another excuse to eat more ice cream!)
This unique coffee shop serves up some of the best brews in town with a twist: It's part of a middle school where adolescent baristas get real-world experience on everything from accounting to marketing. Pinwheel Coffee also serves tea and tasty food from its location in northwest Denver.
In a world where restaurants often succeed on a razor-thin margin, it’s no small feat that Chook Charcoal Chicken donates 1 percent of all sales directly back into the Denver community. With four locations and delicious fare, this is a win-win you’ll love.
Denver’s favorite Asian eatery/table tennis hall, Ace Eat Serve, supports a number of community partners while emphasizing sustainability in its operations by offsetting energy usage with wind power, composting and local sourcing.
This Denver breakfast icon has mushroomed to more than 50 locations in 10 states, including 13 in Colorado. It’s known for more than morning delicacies like mascarpone-stuffed French toast: Snooze is an industry leader when it comes to sustainability, and it also donates 1 percent of sales back to community causes.
TAG Restaurant Group
Taking its name from founder/restaurateur Troy Guard’s initials, TAG operates several restaurants in Denver, including upscale downtown steakhouse Guard and Grace and Los Chingones, a purveyor of Mexican street food with locations in RiNo and the Denver Tech Center. For its community efforts, TAG focuses on education and donations to the Food Bank of the Rockies and other charities.
Another restaurant group known for local favorites Root Down and Linger, Edible Beats takes sustainable operations to another level with a 6,000-square-foot garden that supplies about 20 percent of the restaurant’s herbs and vegetables. The company also emphasizes local sourcing from more than 50 local producers and purveyors.
Famous for its burritos, Illegal Pete’s is also on a mission to help starving artists. At any of its various locations in Colorado and Arizona, touring musicians can eat for free. This sometimes leads to impromptu performances and allows patrons to meet the artists. Illegal Pete's has nine Denver-area locations.
Located on East Colfax Avenue, SAME Café (short for So All May Eat), is a nonprofit restaurant, which serves up locally sourced fare on a donation-only basis to anyone, regardless of ability to pay. Diners can volunteer for 30 minutes or make a donation that they feel is fair.
With more than 20 locations in Denver and Colorado’s Front Range, Santiago’s is a staple for breakfast burritos, green chile and other Mexican offerings. Over the last 20 years, it has donated more than $2 million to a number of charities that help children with medical and other issues.
Fire on the Mountain
Spicy chicken wings and craft beer are on the menu at locations in Highland and Washington Park. The operation diverts about 75 percent of its waste stream away from the landfill as it supports community partners and schools with charitable donations.
Staffed With Soul
When you frequent these establishments, you’re also supporting employment opportunities for disabled, homeless or disadvantaged folks.
Comal Heritage Food Incubator
Fresh, Latin-American lunches meet good vibes at Comal Heritage Food Incubator. The restaurant empowers women of Denver’s Globeville neighborhood — many originating from Mexico, El Salvador, Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia — to share their traditions while learning about culinary arts and business.
Located on South Broadway in downtown Englewood, Brewability Lab was founded by a special needs teacher who realized there was a lack of employment options for adults with disabilities. This friendly joint offers a chance for you to support the staff as they develop their talents under a unique training program. Beyond the craft beers, a kitchen dishes up pizzas and bar fare.
Young adults disconnected from school and/or work are invited into year-long apprenticeships at Prodigy, which provides unique opportunities for marginalized northeast Denver residents. In a converted garage with murals on its side, the atmosphere at its original location on Colorado Boulevard is as distinctive as its staffing program. There’s a second location in Globeville.
Just north of Brewability in Englewood, CAFE 180 prepares soups, salads, sandwiches and pizzas with a simple policy: Those who can pay, pay. Those who can’t pay (about a third of the customers) give some of their time in exchange for lunch.