Munch goes to Community Kitchen’s CK 9th Street Cafe on the South Side

Published by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  |  Read the full article

Quick history lesson: Although it’s frequently misattributed to sources as varied as the Bible, the ancient Chinese and that oft-quoted “Anonymous” fellow, the proverb “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime” is actually a bit of a bastardization of a phrase from a fairly obscure late 19th-century British story called “Mrs. Dymond” by author Anne Isabella Ritchie.

Regardless of the genesis, the core wisdom is timeless although it could use a modern corollary like: Teach a man how to cook a fish, and you’ll give him a career — not to mention we’ll all eat well.

That seems to be the working ethos at the Community Kitchen Project in Uptown and its spinoff business, the CK on 9th Cafe on the South Side.

Founded in July 2013 by Jennifer Flanagan and Tod Shoenberger, Community Kitchen’s mission is broadly stated as using “food as the foundation to change lives and strengthen communities,” but that involves a multipronged approach that includes food and nutrition education for kids — including the Project Lunch Tray junior chefs competition; food access by providing meals to a number of other agencies such as Meals on Wheels, Just Harvest and local shelters; and workforce development.

As the Post-Gazette’s Rebecca Sodergren wrote in January 2014, “Individuals who typically would face barriers to employment — such as criminal records, addictions or homelessness — will be accepted for the training classes and will receive assistance with job placement afterward. Tuition is free for students; costs will be covered by a combination of grants and food service earnings.”

So it’s an ambitious and worthwhile undertaking, and the general public can get a taste of their labors at CK on 9th Street, a modest little cafe tucked amidst the Mercy Behavioral Health Center campus on the South Side, which sits in the shadow of the 10th Street Bridge and serves lunch weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Opened in November 2014 the cafe is a colorful little space with bright murals of the five “mother” sauces of French cooking, a diagram of beef cuts, and what the different parts of a chef’s knife are called.

The menu is salads and hot sandwiches, all made-to-order on site and all $7. There’s the standard corned beef Reuben and turkey Rachel and a pulled pork hoagie with apple and coleslaw as well as a grilled chicken with pesto, mozzarella and red pepper.

I’m interested to try the hot sausage, which comes with polenta and a house tomato sauce, but I particularly enjoyed the black bean sandwich, with a cilantro cumin sour cream, pico de gallo and red pepper on Brioche as a slightly spicy veggie option.

Some local Crazy Mocha locations also sell wraps premade by Community Kitchen, so look for them the next time you stop at one for a caffeine boost.

As it says on the cafe’s website: “Taste something new & Change someone’s life! What a lunch break!!”

A slightly better message than “I’m lovin’ it,” “Have it your way” or “Eat fresh,” wouldn’t you say?

Chea Davis