Visit Bend Blog

Craving an uncommon dining experience? Common Table offers great food for a great cause!

December 2nd, 2011

Bend is jam-packed with amazing eateries, and I could devote 248 blog posts to gushing over my favorites.

But maybe you’re looking for something beyond the typical dining experience. Something that allows you to eat great food in a cozy environment while supporting a worthy cause and coming together with people from different walks of life.

Cheers to Common Table from the Visit Bend crew!

Sounds like a tall order for one restaurant, but that’s what Common Table is all about.

First things first – there have been some misunderstandings about this place since it opened a couple years ago. Common Table is not a soup kitchen or a food bank. It’s a non-profit organization that serves extraordinary food to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Theoretically, someone could pull up in a Mercedes and sit down to dinner with a guy who lives in his Buick.

Sounds strange, but not the way Manager Damon Gautoma explains it. “This is the time we all come back together,” he said. “The human family can join together and enjoy a meal.”

It might seem like lip service from some, but not from a guy like Damon who stood before our assembled group with tears in his eyes and shared his struggles with poverty. When people drop by and request a “grace bowl” – a free meal – Damon understands what a humbling experience that can be.

“It makes you so vulnerable to have to say, ‘I can’t afford to feed myself,’” he explained.

If you’re thinking the free meal consists of a cheese sandwich on stale Wonderbread, think again. The food here is designed to be nourishing and delicious. Picture homestyle comfort food with a gourmet flair.

The scrumptious roasted veggie salad at Common Table.

For paying customers, the prices are perfectly reasonable, with everything priced at $10 or less. I ordered the Gourmet Grilled Cheese sandwich, which was a concoction of fresh-baked local bread with a three cheese blend for $7. It was cooked to perfection, with a side of hearty chili that was the ideal balance of flavors and texture.

That was tons of food right there, but since my eyes are always bigger than my stomach, I also ordered the Roasted Vegetable Salad. It’s a mix of lettuces topped with roasted cauliflower, red onion, corn, and bell pepper, along with a sprinkling of mandarin oranges. The flavors were a lovely blend, and the salad large enough to share between two people for just $8.

Several others at the table ordered the burger, which consists of 1/2 pound of fresh, local ground beef, caramelized onions and garlic aioli on brioche bun for $9.50. A Visit Bend staffer described it as, “one of the best hamburgers in Bend,” which I can believe. The same volunteer added, “This is unlike any restaurant in Bend. The mission is so laudable that you can not only fill your stomach, you can fill your soul.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I won’t lie, the service here isn’t speedy. The thing is, you hardly notice. You’re so busy chatting and sipping tasty craft beer from local breweries, that you almost forget you’re waiting to be fed. Common Table isn’t about stuffing your face as fast as you can – it’s about savoring the experience, and helping a good cause while you do it.

Besides supporting Common Table by dining there, people can help in other ways. There’s a chalkboard near the front counter that lists items they need for donation. You can opt to volunteer for a shift in the kitchen or dining room. You can donate money outright, or purchase meal tokens for others. For more information, visit Common Table online or stop by the restaurant to enjoy a truly tasty meal for your belly with a little something extra for your heart.

 


5 responses to “Craving an uncommon dining experience? Common Table offers great food for a great cause!”

  1. Bill writes:

    Great story but I’ll never frequent this establishment. They discriminate, and in a day and age of equality for all humans Bend needs more open minded businesses and less religious based influence. The idea of common table is great but I was let down by their practices. And that’s unfortunate.

  2. Tawna Fenske Tawna writes:

    Bill, thanks for your comment! We’d love to hear more about what you’re referring to re: discrimination. We’re unaware of any religious component to Common Table. In their marketing materials, website, and in our conversations with staff and managers, they make it a point to emphasize inclusion of EVERYONE and focus on the “human family.” We’ve seen no evidence of any close-minded business practices or evangelical tendencies. Has your experience been different somehow?

  3. Laura writes:

    Common Table used to be one of my favorite places in Bend. Sadly, they made some egregious management decisions that completely undermined their credo of “Community.” Firing the entire paid staff with 6 days’ notice is not a good way to demonstrate good will to mankind How you treat your employees says far more about your than any glossy mission statement or swooning restaurant review.

    I’m frankly disgusted by the way CT is conducting it’s business. I hope it doesn’t survive.

    (For reference, see this TSWeekly article: http://www.tsweekly.com/chow/dining/social-entrepreneurship-in-the-21st-century-common-tables-struggle-to-maintain-its-mission-prompts-restructuring.html.)

  4. Tawna Fenske Tawna writes:

    Laura, We were also very saddened to learn Common Table had to make some pretty tough decisions to keep the doors open and allow them to continue serving the community. Layoffs are never a pleasant thing for the employees impacted, and are also heart-wrenching for the businesses forced to take those measures. We support the charitable goals of Common Table, and hope the tough choices they’ve made will allow them to continue their mission.

    Tawna

  5. Bob writes:

    Common Table faced a decision to either significantly reduce staff and overhead costs or close in early September. The leadership was also devastated to have to do this to the very loyal and faithful staff. They were facing the current remodel that has dramatically impacted their business, and they had been losing over $6,000 per month all summer. There was no cash left. But through some very generous people, loyal customers, and support from benefactors, Common Table is now operating at breakeven,is utilizing even more volunteers, and is looking forward to the completion of the building remodel and a new menu that will be fully in place next week. Common Table is now in better financial shape to continue to be a significant presence in Bend and a place of radical hospitality to everyone.




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