Donate-what-you-can café opens in downtown Roanoke

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 5:27 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A new restaurant is open in downtown Roanoke with a different spin on how much you pay for your meal.

It’s a welcoming spot to enjoy a bowl of soup, some popcorn or a sweet treat, all things even a dinosaur may enjoy.

“Ursula is a little stuffed Tyrannosaurus Rex… she’s been a part of my husband and my relationship for a long time. She’s just a delightful presence in our lives and she was the right, she had the right sensibility to name the restaurant after,” said Ami Trowell, Ursula’s Café co-owner.

The café's name isn’t the only unique thing about it.

“Anything we have in the café is a donate-what-you-can, so what that means is we have a suggested price, and then you donate whatever you are willing and able to donate. So that could be all of that donation suggestion, some of it, or even none of it, of course and you’re also welcome to donate more if you feel so inclined,” said Trowell.

The owners say they opened the restaurant and non-profit after seeing a need to feed people in the Star City.

“We’re seeing more and more people who’ve appeared to be unhoused and certainly knew that food insecurity was rising for all folks in our community, but of course around the country as well, we wanted to be able to address that in a way that gave people some choice, some dignity, but also really healthy delicious options as well,” said Trowell.

“You’ll have a mix of people from different areas of life that will be in the same space together, perhaps sitting at the same table. We have this big, long community table over here and so, that’s part of it too, to bring people together,” said Jordan Fallon, Ursula’s Café co-owner.

But they need the community’s help to keep the bowls of soup coming.

“Everybody gets to contribute what they can. So just like the bowls of soup that we make, you have a potato or you have some tomatoes or you’ve got the pot, or you’ve got the fire for the pot, everybody contributes what they have and that makes the soup richer so that makes the experience great for everybody,” said Trowell.

The café is all volunteer-based and of course can always use a helping hand.

It’s at 511 Jefferson Street SW and is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. For more information on Ursula’s, click here.