Café 54, Tucson

Food for a Cause: 5 Restaurants that Give Back

By: Jessica Dunham

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September 10, 2018

Feed your belly and your soul at these Arizona restaurants that support their communities.

About the author

Jessica Dunham

Jessica Dunham

Jessica Dunham is a travel, food and fitness writer whose work has been published in PHOENIX Magazine, Runner's World, Phoenix New Times, Valley Guide, Phoenix Travel Guide, Modern Luxury Scottsdale and more. She is passionate about all things Arizona, especially spontaneous Saturday daytrips around the state. She can be reached at

There’s something magical about a delicious meal. It brings friends and families together, it recalls happy memories and it fills the belly and satiates hunger.

Perhaps that’s why for these Arizona restaurants it was a no-brainer to link good food with a good cause. Next time you're hungry, consider the following Arizona restaurants that whip up award-winning cuisine while giving back to their communities in need.

Café 54, Tucson

Operated by Coyote Task Force, a Tucson-based organization that helps adults recovering from mental illness find employment, Café 54 is an upbeat lunch spot that makes a rotating menu of great salads, sandwiches and burgers. The gourmet bistro in downtown Tucson provides hands-on job training for men and women with mental illness as they prepare for competitive employment.

Stop by Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the popular tuna melt (cranberry tuna salad layered with Swiss cheese) or a fresh-grilled salmon salad. Tip: The ice-cold strawberry lemonade pairs perfectly.

The Joy Bus Diner, Phoenix

When The Joy Bus Diner says they’re 100% nonprofit, they mean it. Every penny you spend on a made-to-order breakfast or savory lunch goes to support The Joy Bus, a charity that delivers chef-crafted meals to people with cancer. Since 2011, The Joy Bus has been bringing good-for-the-body, fresh fare to homebound cancer patients, coupled with a friendly visit.

Staff and guests at The Joy Bus Diner in Phoenix, ArizonaCredit: Debby Wolvos and The Joy Bus Diner

Now, with the recently opened brick-and-mortar namesake, we can all help with an honorable cause and enjoy an inspired meal. For breakfast, there’s nothing better than the roasted chile Benedict. Want a to-go warmer for your coffee? The friendly servers will happily oblige.

Mission Possible Café, Phoenix

Help combat hunger and homelessness in Greater Phoenix when you visit Mission Possible Café. This Mexican–American breakfast and lunch eatery uses every dollar you spend to support the Phoenix Rescue Mission, a nearly 70-year-old charity that helps men, women and children struggling with trauma, hunger, homelessness and drug addiction. The charity’s services include emergency shelters, meals, vocational training (including job search and placement) and recovery assistance. The tasty dishes at Mission Possible Café range from hearty burros to flavorful green chile pork stew to burgers and wraps.

Not Your Typical Deli, Gilbert

The stacked sandwiches at Not Your Typical Deli in Gilbert have earned big-time accolades, true. (Travel & Leisure’s “Best Place to Get a Sandwich in Arizona,” for one.) But the real reason to go? To support the deli’s mission to provide people with developmental disabilities the culinary training, skills and experience they’ll need for jobs in the restaurant industry.

Pastrami sandwich and chocolate chip cookies at Not Your Typical Deli in Gilbert, ArizonaNot Your Typical Deli's sandwich and cookies have been praised by Delish and Travel & Leisure. / Credit: Isaac Kiehl

Not Your Typical Deli supports the community in other ways, too. You’ll see the work of local artists on the restaurant’s brightly painted walls and Arizona-made products and ingredients front and center on the menu.

The Refuge Café, Phoenix

The Refuge Café, a cozy neighborhood coffee shop, breakfast bar and lunch hot spot, sells art by international refugees who now call Arizona home, and gives a portion of the proceeds to local charities.

It also partners with a host of other nonprofits, which support families, women and children around the Valley. Refuge Coffee Beans’ coffee roaster program offers disabled veterans part-time jobs as they ease back into the workforce. What does all of that mean for you? No need to feel guilty about ordering that second glass of wine or going overboard with the restaurant’s tempting tapas menu.

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