The idea that everyone is worthy of access to healthy, local food is hardly progressive. However, there is something entirely innovative to the mission of The Table, the recently opened lunch spot located in Louisville’s Portland neighborhood. “Everyone Has a Seat at Our Table” is emblazoned along the seafoam green wall adjacent to the entrance of the restaurant, where I had the pleasure of dining on a recent, bitterly cold Tuesday afternoon.
The atmosphere of the dining room was instantly warm, tables full of patrons chatting happily as they tucked into bowls of steaming soup and platters of ample sandwiches. Large, wooden beams are scattered throughout the space and overhead, and floor-to-ceiling brick walls add to the cozy ambience of the restaurant. We were greeted cheerfully by a host and quickly shown to a table along the back wall, one of the only available, as news of this forward-thinking restaurant has quickly spread. Two menus were presented, one with the daily lunch offerings and the other a “mission menu” of sorts, detailing the purpose and drive behind The Table.
The official mission of The Table is as follows: “To provide a restaurant that serves locally grown food with amazing taste, at an affordable price, where all can enjoy the flavor of community.” This mission is fulfilled primarily via a “pay-what-you-can” business model. That concept is translated quite literally into the dining experience at The Table, where prices are noted on the menu, however you are only asked to compensate the restaurant to the best of your ability. Those who are unable to offer monetary payment may instead extend their time in service, ensuring that everyone in the Louisville community is afforded a healthy and, as I found it, deliciously hearty meal, regardless of means. With the exception of the chef and restaurant manager, all those working at The Table are volunteers, and I sensed immediately that everyone was proud to be a part of this one-of-a-kind concept.
After scanning the concise, yet varied, food menu, my friend and I elected to start our meal with The Table’s signature golden potato soup and the seasonal warm acorn squash salad. The soup was of the “stick to your ribs” variety, large chunks of golden potatoes swimming with melty shards of cheddar and fresh chives. The bacon jam crouton perched on the edge of the bowl was a perfect garnish to this soup, which could easily serve as a meal in and of itself. The acorn squash salad was the definition of seasonality, the purée of squash held in a savory pastry basket and set atop a bright mess of every assortment of local, leafy greens and lettuces. House-crisped bacon bits and crumbles of blue cheese rounded out this perfect winter salad.
Six sandwiches grace The Table’s menu, and we opted for the smoked chicken and meatloaf and cornbread offerings, along with a side order of the Parmesan fries, which our server insisted was a must-try. Indeed she was right — the fries are crisp and indulgent, everything you want in a french fry experience, the sprinkle of Parmesan cheese a proverbial cherry on top.
The sandwiches were equally satisfying, the meatloaf sliced thickly and layered with sautéed greens and a gravy sauce and sandwiched between a crumbly cornbread bun. The smoked chicken sandwich has been on the menu since the restaurant’s opening and was a standout, featuring shredded pieces of lightly smoked chicken accessorized with salty-sweet bacon jam, red onion, kale and buttermilk ranch dressing. Browned and melty cheddar cheese topped off the bun, a delicious and visually pleasing addition to the presentation.
Overall, our meal came to just under a suggested $28, a fantastic value in any regard. Tipping is not required. But the offer is available to those who would like to leave something above and beyond the suggested meal value with every dollar used to continue the humble mission of this honorable establishment. On its own, The Table is an excellent addition to the Louisville dining scene. The fact that it was built to bring every corner of our community to one communal table makes it, in my mind, extraordinary.
The Table is located at 1800 Portland Ave. They are open for lunch only, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Volunteers are always welcome and you may sign up here to be a part of continuing The Table’s mission.
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