Have Lunch At The Reopened Caritas Village Cafe In Binghampton
After more than a year of renovations, Caritas Village reopened in September with a new Executive Director, a revamped cafe menu, and a renovated event space that’s open to the public.
If you’re unfamiliar, Caritas Village is a beloved community center and restaurant in Binghampton. The space was founded by Onie Johns in 2006 (read more about her here) and for more than a decade served the community as a place for art, gatherings, and good meals.
In 2017, Caritas closed for renovations and has reopened with more than a fresh coat of paint: the organization has a new Executive Director, Mac Edwards, and a renewed mission to bring even more people into the space.
You may recognize the name Mac Edwards, from his previous endeavors as chef.owner of The Farmer and Pharm2Fork restaurants. If you’re missing his cooking, Caritas is your answer: Mr. Edwards is also the chef. The menu is a mix of his farm-to-table recipes and Caritas favorites.
I recently had lunch there with my pal Jeff, and was quite impressed.
We walked into the cafe, which has plenty of tables and a couple booths. We ordered at the counter, took our number, and settled into a table near the windows. There’s a daily soup and a daily special as well as casual cafe fare – burger, sloppy joe, salads, soups, veggie plate, quesadillas. The proteins, including the eggs, are all grass-fed and sourced from Marmilu Farms in Humbolt, Tennessee.
Jeff and I got the daily special – chicken thighs with roasted vegetables – and a whole chicken quesadilla (you can also get a half quesadilla). The chicken thighs were coated in a light but flavorful brown gravy, the veggies well seasoned and roasted crisp-tender. Honestly, the plate presented to us and its taste reminded me of dishes from The Farmer. A favorite from Caritas’ original menu were the quesadillas, which were served with a dab of guac and a little spicy ranch-like sauce. Good stuff.
Caritas is all about service, and no one who’s hungry is turned away for their inability to pay. Lunch item prices are between $6 – $8.50, so those who can afford it should pay it forward with an extra donation.
“Everyone who wants it can have bowls of soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cornbread,” Mac explained to me. “For some, this may be their only meal of the day.” Having a safe, clean, space to eat and relax for a while is so important for many in the city, and I’m glad that Caritas is there for this.
The unique atmosphere of Caritas creates a much more inclusive experience than a normal “soup kitchen” or shelter. On my visit, Memphians from different walks of life made up the lunch crowd – neighborhood regulars, a family with young kids, business people who grabbed lunch to-go, and folks catching up with friends. I will definitely be back, because my lunch was excellent.
Fun fact: Having lunch at Caritas Village is #246 on the list of 365 Things To Do In Memphis. Just another reason – besides the good food and great mission – to make a lunch date there.
The Caritas Village facility is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Upstairs, there’s a large space for events. Currently, you’ll find classes, live music, arts events, meetings, and more taking place. The space is also open for anyone to rent. I can envision all kinds of things: performing arts shows (there are dressing rooms), meetings, catered meals for a big group, corporate or non-profit staff retreats, or presentations. Contact Caritas directly for event rental information.