The Beltway of Giving: Cooking for a Cause



Benevolent Washingtonian’s are beam- ing over the grand opening of Cause Philanthropub ( in the U Street corridor. The restaurant has committed to donate 100 percent of its profits back to chari- ties, a first for an East Coast eatery and bar.

Founders Nick Villele and Raj Ratwani met in their respective PhD programs at George Mason. While they are new to the restaurant world, they have hired a cadre of industry experts to manage and run the bar. After a stint in the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa, Nicholas returned stateside, where the philanthropub con- cept blossomed.

“Living in a country where the average annual income is around $300, I had seen the huge impact that a small amount of money could have when in the hands of the right people and organizations,” said Villele. “Right after I had returned, Raj told me about his idea of raising funds for charity through bar and restaurant operations, and our partnership was born.”

Noted restaurants, chefs and restaurateurs across the District have committed to support- ing charities through their kitchen, yet few have sacrificed their entire profit to benefit others. DC-based chef Jose Andres’ of Think Food Group ( launched World Central Kitchen to build kitchens for disadvantaged populations in Haiti. One of their current projects in Palmiste Tempe, Haiti, provides a school kitchen that will feed over 200 children. Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers ( in Adams Morgan has partnered with several local charities including For Love of Children, Critical Exposure, D.C. Lawyers for Youth, Mentoring Today and Kids Against Hunger D.C.

“By sharing our success with D.C. non- profits, I’m able to connect my past work in the non-profit community to my current endeavors,” says Mellow co-owner Pooja Mehta. “Our focus is to spend an entire month with each organiza- tion to get a little more money their way and a little more exposure to their work.”

Philanthropic duo, Todd and Ellen Gray of Equinox restaurant ( also lead by example. Their annual Sugar and Champagne charity event unites D.C.’s pas- try chefs and wine purveyors to benefit the Washington Humane Society. To date, the event has raised more than $300,000 for the organiza- tion. The Blue Banana Sports and Rock Bar ( located in Petworth, also supports the Washington Humane Society with a monthly “Yappy Hour” doggy friendly affair.

“Our patio is and always has been dog friendly. Many local dog owners were looking for a great excuse to drink for a cause and bring their pets with them,” says co-owner Jamie Hess. “We started the monthly charity Yappy Hour in April of this year and have raised thousands for the Humane Society. We donate 20 percent off the evening sales to the organization so our guests are not out of pocket anything other than what they drink and eat.”

While these restaurants are all making strides for local and international charities, Cause Philanthropub is the first in the District to donate 100 percent of its profits. Several other restaurants and food-centric businesses across the U.S. have tried, and many succeeded, including Newman’s Own (www.newmansown. com) food products and the Oregon Public House ( This quarter Cause is currently supporting Agora Partnerships, Common Good City Farm, Higher Achievement and Martha’s Table as their first group of featured organizations. Three are locale and focused on supporting the D.C. community, while Agora is based in the District and focused on impact entrepreneurship in Latin America. All four organizations were vetted and selected by Causes Advisory Board.

A key part of their model is that each custom- er has the chance to choose which organization they would like their profits to go to by checking the non-profit on their bill.

Cause accepts applications on a rolling basis at causes and welcomes sug- gestions on deserving non-profits they should consider supporting.

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