Updated: Apr 4, 2019
By Vickie Lewis
Are you tired of spending upwards of $20 for lunch at a restaurant, or grabbing fast food because it costs less (even though you know it isn’t really healthy for you?) Or do you sometimes skip lunch because you’re tired of eating the same old thing every day? What if I told you that you can get a four-course, freshly-cooked hot lunch every weekday in Old Town Pinole for just $5.50 (and you don’t even have to pay tax!) If this sounds too good to be true, read on to learn more about this hidden gem right here in our community.
Charles Avenue Café operates out of the Pinole Senior Center, serving hot, healthy, and balanced meals for the nominal price of $5.50 to anyone who comes through the doors hungry. Although many of the regular patrons are seniors, the café welcomes all members of the community, including families, students, and local employees who may have limited time for lunch breaks. The four-course meal is served cafeteria style and includes soup (made fresh daily); green salad with choice of dressing; entrees complete with vegetables and rice or potatoes; and your choice from several desserts. Meals are often also served with bread or rolls, and also include coffee, tea, milk, or fruit juice. Where else can you purchase such a hearty meal for under $6.00?
Early in the mornings, teams of community-minded volunteers arrive to begin preparation of the day’s lunch offerings. Under the expert supervision of professionally trained chef, Tara Shaia, the teams prepare the daily meals with love and care. The Pinole Senior Center/Charles Avenue Café is generously provided with food donations from local grocery stores and businesses, as well as the Farmers Market, which help the center to continue to offer nutritious meals at an affordable price. I heard amazing stories about how Chef Tara and her volunteers are able to make efficient use of the donated food, even though it is not known from day to day what items will be donated, and in what quantity they will be available. For example, one day the crew received a case of artichokes, which Chef Tara turned into a savory Creamy Artichoke soup. On another day, a large quantity of bananas became a scrumptious banana pudding dessert! Chef Tara and her teams of volunteers prove their resourcefulness on a daily basis.