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Photograph: Martha WilliamsInspiration Kitchen

Four cafés with charitable causes

These spots serve sandwiches with a side of social action.


Blue Sky Bakery & Café By employing homeless and otherwise at-risk youth and training them to enter the hospitality work force, this nonprofit café doubles as a social venture. But to be honest, the only thing you’ll think about once you’ve had one of its chocolate-chunk cookies, cheddar-chive scones or mocha-banana-chocolate-chip muffins is how well this cute café is serving you. 3720 N Lincoln Ave (773-880-9910). Tue 7am–7pm; Wed–Fri 7am–5pm; Sat 8am–5pm; Sun 8:30am–1:30pm (closed Mon). Average baked good: $2.

First Slice Pie Cafe Maybe it’s the giant pie sculpture in the window here that seduces you and draws you in. Or maybe it’s the fact that eating at this charitable café is an easy way to support an org that provides hunger relief. Either way, it’s not the pedestrian pie that will keep you coming back—it’s the satisfying cucumber-chicken salad. 5357 N Ashland Ave (773-275-4297). Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Average main course: $8.

Inspiration Kitchen The premise behind this stylish nonprofit restaurant is to serve as home base for a 12-week training program that gives fledgling cooks a way out of homelessness and poverty. It’s got a modern loft aesthetic, a BYOB policy, prices that can stuff two people for less than $50 and food that keeps up with some of the best bistros around town. Doesn’t get much more inspired than that. 3504 W Lake St (773-801-1110). Brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch (Wed–Fri), dinner (closed Mon, Tue). Average main course: $12.

Panera Cares Panera Bread’s philanthropic offshoot is just like all of its other stores: It serves bagels, sweets, coffee drinks, sandwiches and salads. The only difference? This store uses a pay-what-you-can model. Customers who can pay are encouraged to make a donation; customers who cannot are fed at a discount or for free. 616 W Diversey Pkwy (773-528-4556). Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Pay what you can.

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