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LV Recommends: The Agape Café, 25 years of free, feel-good fare


25th Anniversary Celebration w/ the Awful Purdies

Old Brick Church — Saturday, April 14 at 8 a.m.

Agape Cafe, 26 E Market St, Iowa City, (319) 351-2626 — photo by Helaina Thompson

It is said that the ancient Greek language had seven words for love. There’s eros for sexual passion, philia for friendship, ludus for playful love, pragma for love that endures, philautia for self-love, storge for kinship and — perhaps the most radical of them all — agape: love that expects nothing in return.

Iowa City’s Agape Café proves true to name. Since 1993, the café, located in Old Brick Church on Market Street, has been serving free, restaurant-style, made-to-order breakfast to the Iowa City community on Wednesday mornings, 7 to 8:30 a.m.

Anyone can come to Agape Café, says Maja Black, the café’s kitchen manager.

“Many of our patrons are our in-need neighbors, and it’s important to us to that everyone is treated with the same respect and dignity,” she said. “We serve restaurant-style breakfast for that reason, so everyone can order exactly what they want in a peaceful environment.”

Café-goers order from a menu of classic breakfast items — eggs any style, toast, fresh fruit, bacon, potatoes and orange juice — to accompany their main dish. Depending on the week, this might be something sweet, like pancakes or French toast, or something savory, like the biscuits and gravy I ordered.

“We’ve served over 100 [people] in a single morning,” said Black of her handful of volunteer servers and kitchen staff. “And it’s amazing that such a beautiful, free breakfast has been running on almost entirely volunteer work.”

Much of the food prepared at Agape Café comes from Table to Table, Iowa City’s food rescue organization. Table to Table supplies the café with delicious pastries from Hy-Vee, dairy products from Kalona SuperNatural dairy, dozens of soon-to-be scrambled eggs and five-pound bags of potatoes, which Agape Café’s deft volunteer chefs turn into magically crispy home fries.

Along with a strong cup of kindly donated Café del Sol coffee, a more complete breakfast could not be served.

“It’s a good way to get the day started,” said Mark, an Army veteran and Agape Café regular.

Fred, another regular who sat at our table, gives the café a five-star review. “You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t happy with their meal here,” he said.

This year, the Agape Café celebrates its 25th year in operation. For this special anniversary, the café is hosting a breakfast fundraiser with the Awful Purdies on Saturday, April 14 from 8 a.m. to noon at Old Brick Church, 26 East Market Street. A free-will donation is welcomed.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 240.

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