A group of restaurant industry workers plan to start a nonprofit, pay-what-you-can restaurant called Ne Si'ka at 9216 SE Ramona St. in Lents, near the New Copper Penny.
According to James Layton, a head prep cook at Southland Whiskey Kitchen who's worked at "everything from the greasiest greasy spoons to Atwater's," he got the idea in November 2012 when he read about Jon Bon Jovi's Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, New Jersey, a donations-only restaurant with no prices listed on the menu.
The restaurant is intended to help those who aren't assured of their next meal; those who can't afford to pay can volunteer in the kitchen, or work out other arrangements. But it's also meant to be a functioning full-service eatery.
"This'll be an actual sit-down restaurant that anyone will want to go to," says Layton. "It's for everyone, not just people with food insecurity issues."
They plan to have eight central items on the menu, which is not yet determined and will depend heavily on donations from food purveyors. The group has put up a survey online asking what community members would like to see served.
Currently the restaurant is trying to raise about $9,000 to conduct a feasibility study, which is subject to an 80% reimbursement grant by the Portland Development Commission. To that end, the organization has already held five different pop-up dinners.
The group is also holding a fundraiser tonight, December 12, at Lents' Eagle Eye Tavern, from 6 pm to midnight, with bands, a DJ, and a raffle that will include homemade scarves and hats; a refurbished pink bike; a wedding blanket; 13 donuts a month for a year from Voodoo Doughnuts; and a number of restaurant gift certificates. A $20 donation is suggested.