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LINC community revitalization opens sit-down cafe designed to benefit neighborhood

Neighborhood revitalization organization LINC has opened a new restaurant in Madison Square with the community in mind.
Kitchen staff

Kitchen staff /Eric Tank

Hours and location

1167 Madison Avenue

Monday - Saturday from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Sunday brunch from noon to 4 p.m.


Kitchen staff

Kitchen staff /Eric Tank

Dining area

Dining area /Eric Tank

Recently, LINC Community Revitalization held a soft opening for its newest initiative, Soul Food Cafe.

The Soul Food Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with an emphasis on southern cooking including plenty of BBQ options, fried green tomatoes and house signature chicken and waffles. They offer catering for events as well.

LINC reached out to neighborhood residents and asked what types of foods they would like to see featured on the menu. Efforts to reach neighbors include canvassing the area with a quarterly newsletter and holding public input sessions at local schools. 

"We try to incorporate ethnic foods -traditional southern cooking- but also something that everyone would like," says Jorge Gonzalez, Director of Economic Development.

The cafe initiative was envisioned about nine months ago after a privately owned restaurant that then occupied the space had closed. The idea arose out of the desire for a high quality restaurant in the neighborhood, says Gonzalez.

Soul Food Cafe fits with LINC's mission of community revitalization.

"Part of it is to ensure that we have a nice, quiet sit down restaurant that is going to employ residents in the neighborhood," says Gonzalez. "While at the same time equipping them with workforce development."

Each server has a job coach that serves as a mentor to them. Staff learn practical employment skills such as food prep quality and customer service etiquette. Gonzalez welcomes staff to stay on board, but considers it a success if an employee can move on to another job. It makes room for another individual to join the team, he says, and thus perpetuates the educational formation.

"That's one less person that's in need of public assistance or benefits because now they can earn livable wages," says Gonzalez.

The restaurant currently employs 11 staff. Servers are paid $5.40 an hour, nearly $3 more than the required $2.65 hourly wage for servers in Michigan, plus tips.

Don Everett, a professional chef and former owner of Grillmasters BBQ on Division, heads the kitchen. He brings with him his signature BBQ dishes. Luberta Clayborne, with 30 years of experience in the food industry and former deli operator at Duthler's Family Foods, manages the cafe. 

The restaurant is still in its preliminary phase and collecting feedback from customers. Gonzalez points out the flimsy paper menu currently being used as an example of this transient period. Once all the kinks have been worked out and information gleaned from the community, a more permanent menu will be set in place. Gonzalez hopes to host the grand opening within the next few weeks. 

"I would welcome everybody to come try the food," says Gonzalez. "When you think of soul food, there are some items that you've never tried before that you're going to find very delicious," says Gonzalez. 

Soul Food Cafe is in the northeast corner of the bottom floor of the LINC building on Madison. There are two entrances, one accessible from the parking lot, with the other opening into the outdoor patio and public sidewalk. The space accommodates 12 tables that seat between two and four people each. Local art hangs on the walls, blues plays over the speakers and there is a flat screen television displaying event dates, neighborhood news and LINC information. 

LINC Community Revitalization is a nonprofit development corporation that offers a variety of neighborhood services including economic development, resident services and real estate development. Offices are located at 1167 Madison Avenue.

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