Let me tell you about a new restaurant that has recently become part of Johnson City’s Tree Streets Neighborhood, just in time for the holidays. One Acre Café has set up shop at the corner of West Walnut Street and Southwest Avenue. Open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, the menu features the “Triple S” of lunch fare: sandwiches, soups and salads, along with a daily hot lunch special and several kinds of desserts.
The décor is bright, cheerful and clean, the staff uniformly pleasant and helpful. All in all, what you’d expect from a newly opened restaurant looking to make a name and niche in the local marketplace.
One Acre Café, however, walks a different path from your standard lunch counter. The place and the people who run it are at the forefront of the struggle against hunger in our town. Rather than making a big news-splashy effort involving food distribution to as many as possible, One Acre Café’s effort is on a personal level: one meal served to one hungry person.
You don’t have to be needy to stop in and receive a well-prepared, tasty meal from these folks; you just need to be hungry. Ordering your meal at the One Acre Café couldn’t be simpler. You enter the restaurant and are greeted by a smiling volunteer. Michelle, the cashier, goes over the current day’s selections, takes your order, tells you the cost of the meal, and gives your ticket to a server. The server delivers your ticket to the kitchen while you find your way to a table in the bright and comfortable dining room.
One Acre Café’s kitchen is managed professionally, and strives to use only locally grown produce, locally baked breads and homemade desserts. Your order is cooked and served to you along with whatever drink and dessert you decided on.
After your meal, you bring your ticket to Michelle once again, and this is where One Acre Café surprises you. Michelle reminds you of the meal’s suggested cost and asks what you are prepared to pay for it. You can pay more or less than the suggested price. You can even tell Michelle that you can pay nothing at all, but be prepared to volunteer some of your time at the café in lieu of cash payment.
On my recent lunch-time visit with my dining partner, I chose a half-sandwich of ham and Swiss on a honey wheat bun, matched with two side dishes; a vegetable medley and red bliss potato salad. My partner ordered the roast beef and smoked cheddar on toasted ciabatta bread with the same two sides. As it was a warm day, we decided to leave a cup of the turkey noodle soup for our next visit.
Our sandwich orders took about 10 minutes to prepare, which gave me some time to peruse a Cobb Salad that was being served at a nearby table. The diner had ordered a medium-sized portion, though large size is also available. The vegetables were fresh, as were the rolled slices of smoked turkey, the hardboiled egg sections and fresh green avocado that were attractively arranged on the plate. After a splash of fresh-made Italian dressing, our neighbor was quite happy.
As for our sandwiches, I was impressed with the mild acidity of the auburn-hued tomatoes matching the slightly sweet cranberry mustard that complimented the ham, cheese and honey wheat bread nicely. My dining partner liked the mix of flavors provided by the roast beef, smoked cheddar and roasted garlic in the aioli spread with the nut-like flavor of the ciabatta bread. The vegetable medley side order was good, but couldn’t match the tasty potato salad. The suggested price for each of our two orders was $4, which we gladly paid, along with some extra for their effort and some cash for the servers’ tip jar. One Acre Café’s menu changes daily, depending on what the daily trip to the market turns up. They do carry-out orders as well.
It isn’t often that you can watch your contribution to a cause be put to immediate and proper use. Why not stop by the One Acre Café this holiday season for lunch with a difference? Do your part and ask to help out — their aprons are truly ‘one size fits all.’
One Acre Café
603 W. Walnut St.
Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Daily menu available on Facebook
Payment by donation