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'Like a restaurant in the Crossroads,' soup kitchen revamp serves healthy food with dignity

Posted at 9:53 PM, Jan 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-31 23:36:25-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — "How are you this evening?"

Cheerful service. Ambience lighting. Exposed ceiling beams. Original brick walls. A little jazz music and conversation.

And, of course, healthy comfort food.

These are the makings of a great night out.

That's the approach Bishop Sullivan on Troost takes at its brand new One City Cafe, redefining what a soup kitchen should be.

"We're here to meet them and greet them and serve them from beginning to end," manager Doug Langner said to a group of volunteers before dinner service started at 4:30 p.m.

One City Cafe serves dinner Monday through Friday. Volunteers take orders and fill glasses.

"Our old space looked like any soup kitchen you'd imagine, and now we have people say, 'Wow, this looks like a restaurant in the Crossroads.' And we think we'd stack up pretty well," said Langner.

Thursday night's menu was teriyaki chicken and meatballs, jasmine rice, broccoli, a roll, and mixed greens. You could choose from coffee or tea, which guests said wasn't watered down for once.

"It's always delicious, always satisfying," said Alexandria Knauff, who came for dinner with her son, Jasaiah.

The cafe is open to anyone.

"I'm a single parent, so it really benefits us a lot to save a few bucks and get a nutritious well-balanced meal," Knauff said.

Kenneth Mobley said it's a great place to come when you need some help between paychecks.

"I used to eat here before the renovations. It's wonderful. They put a lot of work and time and effort into it. It's beautiful," said Mobley.

The chef behind all the food is Dwight Tiller, who was the former chef for the Kansas City Chiefs. His focus is on healthy but satisfying fare.

Langner said many people who come through Bishop Sullivan don't have access to health care and oftentimes don't get a balanced meal.

"It's a neat thing to be able to offer more choices. We want to be able to give anyone a choice as when we go to a restaurant. We want to have that for everyone in our community," said Langner.

Soup kitchens should be a place where the community gathers.

"If you're down in the dumps or depressed, you'll get picked up here," said guest Bo Grizzly.

Straub Construction did the renovations as a partner with Bishop Sullivan.

Langner said many people commented they've never been in a real restaurant before and that's what their space feels like.

"Food brings back memories of good things in our lives, and to be able to sit in a nice atmosphere and know you're being fed and fed in decent way with dignity, it only uplifts the spirits. That's one of the big things we're so excited about," said Langner.

Bishop Sullivan hopes to expand dinner service to the weekend.