INSPIRE Community Cafe
INSPIRE Community Cafe is the physical manifestation of the power that food has to promote change within a city. With an affordable and healthy menu, a promise to pay their workers a living wage, and several partnerships with local organizations like The Carpenter Art Garden, it is evident that this restaurant is unique to the city of Memphis.
Upon entering this restaurant, you will be greeted with kind smiles, a colorful, cozy atmosphere, and the buzz of pleasant conversation. Down to every last detail, it is apparent that INSPIRE aims to make this spot a home-like, welcoming space for all. Each time I have gone since they’ve officially opened, nearly every seat during lunch is filled with co-workers having business meetings, people catching up with friends, or even just students seeking a place to get some work done. The fast-casual style makes it an especially easy spot to go to hang out, especially as a Rhodes student with the college just down the street.
Although the food here is priced far less than most places you will find in Memphis, that in no way means that the quality of the food is lacking. Perhaps, the best part about the menu is its simplicity. No, they don’t have crazy complicated dishes that could never be replicated at home, but they have simple, whole foods that are prepared with flavor and intention. Also, because the food items are reasonably priced, the restaurant is able to bring in a wider range of customers in comparison to most of the other healthy spots in the city.
This place has everything from quinoa bowls to pancakes to smoothies to cappuccinos. My favorite item is most definitely the veggie chili with quinoa. Priced extremely reasonably at $6, you get a huge bowl flavorful of chili over quinoa. For these winter months, it honestly can’t get better than that! I also really love The Greenline Smoothie made with mango, banana, kale, spinach, and apple juice. You also can’t go wrong with a coffee or matcha latte!
This place’s mission extends farther than giving 10% of annual profits back to the community. It pays employees more than they would be paid at any usual food and beverage service position in order to give them a salary that is enough to support their families, it showcases local artwork such as the pieces from an artist at The Carpenter Art Garden there currently, it supports local brands like Thistle and Bee, and it is focused on bringing further access to affordable restaurants with fresh ingredients. They are a business run with complete transparency, very willing to tell exactly where their money is going and how they are able to sustain the business.
While talking with Kristen-Fox Trautman, the rockstar owner of INSPIRE, she said that she hopes that this transparency leads to the community support that will really allow this restaurant to keep going, especially with the affordable prices it has now. I firmly believe that INSPIRE will serve as a catalyst for change within the Memphis restaurant community, serving as a model of economic justice, community growth, and connection with others.