Your hard-earned dollars could be spent at any of Los Angeles' myriad restaurants, but why not pick a venue that gives back to the community? L.A. Weekly talked with food businesses that engage in charitable giving about why they have opened their hearts to cause-related initiatives such as animal rescue, domestic violence and feeding the homeless.
For its 18th anniversary in April, Emporium Thai is partnering with UCLA Children's Hospital, creating a prix fixe menu, with $6 from each meal going to the charity. "My parents had 12 children and we didn't have a lot when we were young," says Emporium Thai owner John Sungkamee. "But when my mother won the green card lottery in 1990, that enabled us to come to the United States and build our dreams. My mother was so grateful; we felt very lucky. From then on, she made sure we understood the importance of giving back, as a way of saying thanks. It feels so good when you can make a difference in the world." 1275 Westwood Blvd., Westwood; (310) 478-2838, www.ethaicuisine.com.
The restaurant created the Piece of the Pie program: "We generally meet as a team and determine what causes are important to us and go from there," says Kellye Vassar, general manager. "Once we have a charity chosen, it's a collaborative decision with the Mohawk Bend team, chef and charity to determine what the pizza will be, and then the charity names the pizza." For each of the special pizzas sold, $4 goes to the local charity. For March's Pizza on Wheels pizza, for instance, $4 goes to the Skid Row Learning Center. 2141 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; mohawkla.com.
Dog Haus has a yearlong collaborative chef series in partnership with No Kid Hungry. They put together limited-time, chef-created items on the menu, and $1 from the sale of each product is donated to the charity. "All three of the company partners have young children of our own, and we really believe that no child should ever have to go without a meal," says André Vener, partner. "There are unfortunately so many people out there who have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. We want to do what we can to eradicate that fear." 105 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena; (626) 577-4287, doghaus.com; and other locations.
The Stalking Horse
The brewery focuses on a different charity each month. In March, it's multiple sclerosis; $1 from every purchase of the Pico Pisco for Progress cocktail goes to the National MS Society, the largest private sponsor of MS research in the world. "It's important to us that we're active in our community, and a large part of this is being aware of the issues that are happening around us," says Ron Carey, general manager. "Giving back does so much to help those in need and contribute to the common good, and it is our way of connecting with and supporting the community." 10543 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.; (424) 832-7511, thestalkinghorsepub.com.
Cassia/Mendocino Farms collaboration
At Mendocino Farms through March 25, you can buy Cassia's special charity collab, the lemongrass chicken sandwich, which is inspired by Cassia's chickpea curry with flatbread. All profits will be donated to the People Concern, a local nonprofit that helps those who are homeless, hungry or victims of domestic violence. "We hope to rally whatever resources we can gather and support the charity in their life-saving work," says Bryant Ng, chef and co-owner of Cassia. "They provide shelter, counseling, work training and food to those in need at their five shelters throughout L.A." Various SoCal Mendocino Farms locations, with the exception of DTLA and WeHo.
The restaurant selects a local charity such as the Dodger Dream Foundation or the American Cancer Society to donate to each month. "As a youngster, growing up in Compton, I always volunteered my time and helped other underprivileged kids in the neighborhood," says Roger Guydon, co-owner. "It has meant a lot to me to work with the kids supported by the LAPD's baseball team's Just Say No to Bullying, Drugs, Crime and Gangs campaign." 2320 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; (818) 846-6620, rogersburgersusa.com.
This pet-themed coffee shop serves organic, freshly roasted coffees and teas, raising money for about 20 local animal rescues. Its motto is "have a cup, save a pup," as 10 percent of every cup goes to saving a pet's life. "Each month, we have fundraisers and pet adoptions; we have raised $17,000 last year," says Darren LaBorie, co-owner. "We are opening our second location in Eagle Rock late spring/early summer, which will have its own dog park. We look forward to hosting more events and continuing to raise awareness for all our animals in need in L.A." 3320 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 300-8734, muddypawla.com.
Whole Foods Market
Shoppers can help the Whole Planet Foundation every time they shop with a donation at the Whole Foods register. The organization's mission is to alleviate worldwide poverty by providing microcredit loans. "It was very exciting when I got to see firsthand how these loans help to build small businesses in L.A.," says Mary Moon Hernandez, marketing field associate. "We helped a woman and her daughter with their first loan of $500, to start selling books. They took out a second loan for $1,000 to purchase perfume and clothes for her shop. She is now working with other women in the area who are part of this program, to support one another and create their own successes." Various locations around L.A.
BevMo! donates the proceeds from its weekly wine and beer tastings to local pet charities. It raised nearly $7,000 last year for animal rescue organization the Lange Foundation. "We've clearly seen the incredible connection our customers have with pets, and the money raised will certainly help those animals most in need of assistance," says BevMo! CEO Dimitri Haloulos. 35 locations around L.A.; bevmo.com.
RhondasKiss.org in partnership with SBE's Cleo
Actor Kyle Stefanski started the charity Rhonda's Kiss in honor of his mother, who died suddenly from pancreatic cancer. Cleo is donating $1 from every purchase of specialty cocktail the Cleo Kiss, to Stefanski's foundation. The drink consists of Bombay Sapphire gin, crushed cucumber, pomegranate, fresh lime and Prosecco. "It's our hope that together we will raise money toward the significant funding for the many people who can't afford the costs associated with treatment," Stefanski says. "We are happy to have Cleo on board to help with our cause and know they are devoted to giving back to the communities." 8384 W. Third St., Beverly Grove; and L.A. Live, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., downtown; sbe.com/restaurants/brands/cleo/.
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This nonprofit organization picks up leftover food and other excess supplies from businesses and donates those goods to homeless shelters. It's actively seeking new restaurants to partner with as well as volunteers who can assist.
"One in four people in L.A. don't know where their next meal is coming from, yet we're constantly throwing good food away," says Crystal Ortiz, co-founder. "Plus, many restaurants are under the false impression that they are liable for the food they donate to shelters. So they end up not donating because they don't want to risk lawsuits if something went wrong with the donated food. Our aim is to bridge the gap between the resources and the people that need them."