This past week at the new Goodwill in Glassell Park, my scores included a Prada shirt for $3.99 and a huge plate of roast chicken, rice, beans and tortillas for $7. That's because this particular Goodwill now serves food.
Cafe G opened in a former Kmart building May 1 as part of Goodwill's massive new community center on San Fernando Road, which includes two stores, employment services, Goodwill Southern California's offices and the large café.
The café is part of Goodwill's job-training program, which aims to familiarize community members with the culinary industry. It looks very much like a cafeteria but, apart from the daily special, food is made to order rather than coming off a steam table. A waiter takes your order and gives you a ticket, which you pay for at a cashier. You're given a number to take to your table, and food is delivered, along with incredibly attentive table service from an army of bussers.
Most of the offerings run along the lines of standard cafeteria lunch fare: burgers, pizza, sandwiches, salads. I had a totally worthy tuna salad sandwich on multigrain bread for $5.50. My dining companion took a slightly riskier route and went for the fish tacos. There's no doubt there are better fish tacos to be had (probably on this block), but the mahi-mahi was fresh and cooked well, and the tacos came with a generous amount of avocado on flour tortillas with cabbage and chayote and a lime chipotle sauce.
The real deal of the day, though, was the roast chicken special, which was just a massive plate of food for the price. Other bargains on the menu include a list of smoothies for $3. The Goodwill house smoothie is made of spinach, banana and apple.
The workers at the café are learning customer service (and doing a damn good job of it, too), but also back-of-the-house culinary arts. Most food is made from scratch, and they're even baking the desserts and pastries, including almond croissants, muffins and bread pudding.
The entire new Goodwill complex feels incredibly clean, bright and airy, and the café is more modern and colorful than any other cafeteria I can think of. Across the hallway and past a huge mural of the L.A. River by Frank Romero sits the main store, which is so big and well organized that it looks like a regular department store. It would take you hours to get through the whole store — good thing there are smoothies and more to fortify you for your shopping.
Café G: 3150 N San Fernando Road, Glassell Park. 323-223-1211.