North Texas Daily

All for one and what’s for dinner?

All for one and what’s for dinner?

September 24
02:37 2015

Matt Payne | Senior Staff Writer


After cleaning out an antiquated kitchen-and-diner combination, local business Dorothy’s Kitchen Table established itself two months ago. They practice what the staff calls a dignified expression of charity.

Operating out of the old building across from Fred Moore High School off South Bell Avenue and Robertson Street, the restaurant has a “pay-as-you-can” policy. Monetary compensation is welcome, but not required.

It’s often the case non-monetary donations are preferred, staff member Hannah Loveland said.

“We’re focused on respecting the dignity of those who come and join us to share a meal,” Loveland said. “Many of us have struggled to get by before, and have had to awkwardly wait in line at a soup kitchen feeling irrelevant.”

A chalkboard behind the built-in bar advertises the meal of the day.

A chalkboard behind the built-in bar advertises the meal of the day. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor

With a name inspired by American journalist and women’s suffrage activist Dorothy Day, Dorothy’s Kitchen Table was created with Day’s philosophy in mind: respecting the lower class, the bourgeois of society.

The restaurant operates as an extension of the Catholic Worker Movement, a nonprofit organization established during the Great Depression as an affiliation with Day’s newspaper, “The Catholic Worker,” which is still printed today,

It is open Thursday mornings for breakfast and Friday evenings for dinner. Guests can return the favor through a variety of ways, whether they give a gift like hand-crafted soap, perform a guitar sing-along or offer help in the kitchen.

“The goal is not to seize what doesn’t belong to us to exploit people for a profit. We want to make people feel included and welcome,” Loveland said. “We’re taking what’s been given to all of us as a human race and spreading it in an appropriate way.”

The staff is united by faith, but also by mistakes, various struggles and a mutual desire to provide an inclusive venue for the entire community of Denton.

“There’s undignified, toxic charity that brings about a stark, insidious separation between people preparing food and those who eat it sometimes,” staff member Christopher Klabunde said. “We’re getting away from a cold transaction and making this a space for absolutely anybody who needs it.”

Active engagement with the local community is a guiding principle of Dorothy’s Kitchen Table. Every dish the restaurant serves is made with locally-sourced crops, namely from Johnson’s Backyard Garden off Mockingbird Lane.

Many patrons of the restaurant don't pay with money, so a musical performance is a common trade-off.

Many patrons of the restaurant don’t pay with money, so a musical performance is a common trade-off. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor

“We want to cook for others like we would cook for ourselves,” food preparer Maureen Leak said. “It’s part of our focus to grow with the community and be an outlet for the community to gather.”

As the restaurant cooperates with several local businesses in Denton to provide their ideal experience, the staff also aspires to offer their location to anyone interested in using it on days food isn’t served.

“Whether for UNT students [or] local business startups seeking a location to start from, the kitchen is meant to offer hospitality,” Leak said. “Personal sacrifice for a great benefit.”

Klabunde recalled a recent evening visit by a family of seven. Warm smiles, exuberant service and live music played in the background.

“It was so unorthodox to the father of the family. He was veritably startled by our approach,” Klabunde said. “I had the hardest time explaining to him the premise of the restaurant.”

As the weekly dinner progressed over the course of an hour, with steady conversation, the father ordered more courses. He would eventually feel comfortable enough to freely walk into the back kitchen, helping to prepare food and wash dishes.

“It was as if the guilt which came from visiting dissipated,” Klabunde said. “I think that’s what separates us from the stereotypical soup kitchen. We’re all united not only by our pasts, but by that idea.”

Featured Image: Workers from Dorothy’s Kitchen Table gather to speak about the restaurant, which is only open Thursday and Friday. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor

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