Next time you head out to eat in St. John’s, why not do a good deed while you get a good feed? This city is packed with great restaurants, but a meal at these two cafés combines eating delicious food with helping a worthy cause.

The Pantry Café & Catering

70 Clinch Crescent
Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Located alongside the Health Sciences Centre, The Pantry Café & Catering serves up an ever-changing menu of hearty lunch fare, says chef Brenda Lee.

Lee said the café, which mainly serves clientele from the nearby hospital, offers fresh soups and sandwiches, but also lobster cakes and fish cakes – Pantry staples.

“Every day our menu changes here at the Pantry; we work with what fresh produce we can get.”

Lee said new types of quiches, stews, and soups are served every day and salads change every season. All the café’s soups are vegetarian, and everything is usually gluten free.

All profits from the restaurant, which also offers catering, go toward programs and services at the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism.

But Lee, who began working at The Pantry in November after a stint at Portobello’s, said the café also offers employment opportunities for people who have autism.

“We have a few staff members that all contribute to the restaurant, whether gardening, cooking, or serving,” she said. “It’s a teaching program as well as a job opportunity. My assistant Colin, he’s been here for about two years now, and he does everything from baking, to serving the tables, to doing the dishwashing. He is my right hand man.”

Hungry Heart Café

142 Military Road
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For executive chef Carolyn Power, Hungry Heart Café is all about serving simple food.

“It’s simple, clean flavours. We try to do as much local as we can,” she said.

“We’re smoking our own bacon, we’re making our own Caesar dressing, our own mayonnaise, all our own vinaigrettes, baking our own breads . . . Pretty much everything is created on-site using the best possible ingredients.”

Hungry Heart Café offers a variety of lunch and brunch foods: a different fish bowl every week, and new pasta and chef’s feature dishes every day. Free trade coffees and teas are available, as well as homemade baked goods.

Opened in 2008 an as initiative of Stella’s Circle, the restaurant dubs itself a “socially responsible neighbourhood café.” All profits support on-site culinary training programs for people in St. John’s with employment barriers.

“We train people who have barriers to employment for whatever reasons – that could be anything from you have severe anxiety, you just got out of prison, you were a stay-at-home mom and you haven’t worked in possibly your whole life, maybe fifteen years,” Power said.

But Power, who was formerly involved with Epicurean Kitchen before joining the café in 2013, said training at the café is about more than learning technical cooking skills.

“We’re offering culinary training,” she said, “but mostly what we’re doing is giving people an opportunity to come to work and learn employable skills.”