How Your Next Central Florida Burger or Latte Can Change the World
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If you’re heading to the Orlando area, I’m sure you’ve given a lot of thought to your itinerary. You’ve probably booked a hotel, made theme park reservations, and maybe even though about which restaurants to visits. But did you know there are coffee shops and bistros in Central Florida where your visit could literally save lives? By stopping for a burger or picking up a treat at one of these places, your vacation will leave a lasting impact.
MUSE Bar & Bistro – Community Day Mondays
On my visit to MUSE Bar & Bistro, I dined on salad, rosemary roasted chicken thighs with Yukon Gold Potatoes and a decadent house made chocolate chip cookie bar with whipped cream. The server refilled my water, smiled as she cleared the dishes, and made sure I was satisfied with my meal. The bill? There wasn’t one.
MUSE Bar & Bistro Founder Aaron Straub believes there is honor and dignity in providing a delicious meal and gracious service to everyone at his Clermont restaurant regardless of their ability to pay. After a successful 30-year career in the hospitality industry, Straub put his expertise to work fighting food insecurity in this hilly, lakeside town west of Orlando.
Community Day Mondays is opportunity for guests to enjoy a three-course meal complete with a glass of sweet tea or fountain drink. Diners pay what they can afford, and local food suppliers help by donating goods. Volunteers sign up to work on Mondays to make it all come together. Once lunch service has ended and the last customer leaves, volunteers head out into the community to deliver fresh, hot meals to the elderly and others in need.
The rest of the week MUSE serves paying guests bistro fare, including the MUSE Burger, which the restaurant coins a “burger on a mission,” since 100% of the profit goes toward feeding guests on Mondays.
“Mondays are our focus,” said Straub in a recent news interview. “Every day the restaurant is open, every contribution people make, every burger they eat, every glass of wine they have helps our mission on Mondays to be a success.”
Learn more about MUSE Bar & Bistro here.
Axum Coffee – Brewing Goodness TogetherTM
During a 2009 trip to Axum, Ethiopia, Orlando-area pastor Renault van der Riet and his wife Brooke came back with two things: four siblings they adopted and a dream to change the world. What would it look like, they wondered, if they could bring hope to hard places by opening a coffee shop?
A year later Axum Coffee in Winter Garden, Florida was born with the intention of providing a space for people to experience community. More than a decade later, this cozy café buzzes with friends catching up, business meetings and moms enjoying coffee with babes in arms. Axum strives to make everyone feel welcome and pour kindness into every cup.
In addition to creating community around good coffee, the founders plow 100 % of the profits into charities that impact Central Florida and beyond. That Chai tea you’re drinking is helping a nearby homeless shelter. Proceeds from a Heavenly Toffee latte are funneled back into orphan care in Ethiopia. Who ever thought providing clean drinking water in Africa and supporting at-risk youth in Orlando would be as simple as enjoying an iced mocha?
It’s not just the drinks that give back; Axum chooses coffee suppliers that value fair treatment of farmers and traceability of the beans. Some blends are a result of direct trading, where a relationship with the coffee farmer has been established to promote fair trade practices.
People come to this little neighborhood café for great coffee and the welcoming vibe. Many don’t even know they are changing the world in the process, and that’s just how the founders want it. But now that the secret is out, you can add Axum to your travel itinerary.
Visit Axum Coffee to learn more.
Simply Homemade 1913 – A “Cake it Forward” Bakery
This petite scratch bakery lies in Sanford, Florida, about 25 miles north of Orlando. Owner Victoria Robinson-Wilson bakes homemade banana pudding, peach cobblers and specialty cakes. But she also serves up Southern hospitality with her heart for the community.
As soon as you walk into the bakery, you’ll see a peg board with a sign offering a free pastry or pack of cookies to enjoy, and an invitation to “cake it forward” for someone else next time. Customers select a “cookies” or “mini-Bundt” tag from the peg board and hand it to the cashier to make a corresponding donation.
Growing up in a family with seven kids, Robinson-Wilson knows what it feels like to go without. “I’m number six. Sometimes all that was left for me was the frosting or some crumbs. I want to make sure no child will ever go without,” she said. “I can’t beat God’s giving. He’s given me so much; I want to be a blessing.”
Tips from customers and donations help defray the cost of a freshly baked goodie or a cool bottle of water for anyone who needs it. On a recent visit I bought a small Key lime Bundt cake and left a tip before I knew that my tip would “cake it forward.” Who knew satisfying my sugar craving would have such an impact?
Find out more at Simply Homemade 1913.
Do-good eateries aren’t just in Central Florida. In Raleigh, you can lunch on a barbecue chicken sandwich at A Place at the Table, where you pay the suggested donation, a lesser amount, or volunteer for your meal. Over 108,000 meals have been served to those in need since 2018. Find yourself in Denver? Same Café, with no set prices, strives to create community around food and invites people to volunteer their time, give produce or donate money.
What would happen if we intentionally looked for places like these when we traveled?
Instead of having a generic meal in a chain restaurant, we’d become part of a local community, even just for a moment, and make a difference in the world. And I’m sure the meal would taste so satisfying.
COVER: Exterior of Axum Coffee. Axum Coffee in Winter Garden donates profits for local and global outreach. Photo: Kirsten Harrington
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Kirsten Harrington has been a freelance food and travel writer for over 12 years, chronicling adventures in the US and China. Her work has appeared in WhereTraveler, The Seattle Times, Edible Orlando, The Beijinger and numerous other publications. When she’s not writing, you can find her scoping out new adventures, hiking or enjoying a meal with her family. Follow Kirsten on her blog.