Just a few blocks shy of Dudley T station is a cultural and culinary oasis: the Haley House Bakery and Café. It has become a staple in the community where neighborhood residents, college students and vigilant politicos all come to dine. The organization Haley House began serving the homeless through temporary housing and a soup kitchen in the 1960s. In 2006, they changed their mission to sustainability and community with the erection of Haley House Bakery and Café in an area where it was welcomed and needed. The staff includes individuals who were previously incarcerated and have successfully completed their Transitional Emplyoment Program.
The interior of the café has a neighborhood coffeehouse vibe with large square tables in the center of the room and long wooden benches that run along the windows. The walls have been turned into a mini-art gallery where curator Celia Grant brings in the works of neighborhood artists on a monthly basis. The space is more than cozy — it’s tight; you’re constantly excusing yourself and shifting to make room for passersby, but the cramped space is advantageous for a homey feel. The “Excuse me’s” turn into smiles, which later turn into “Hello, my name is…”
Drinks and Bites:
Founding chef Didi Emmons has deep roots in the area’s culinary scene, making her mark in establishments like Delux, Pho Republic and Veggie Planet. Her vision for the café was to give a healthier twist to Southern classic fare with menu items like the Jerk Chicken Grilled Cheese and Peppery Corn Bread. Graduates of The Transitional Employment Program also have an influence on the menu and are encouraged to be creative. Just last week, worker Audley Mills came up with an Orange Chicken Zucchini Soup to which another worker, who is from Cambodia asked, “Are you sure you’re not from Cambodia? — [because] this tastes like home.”
The creativity continues with the daily blue plate specials, which regulars call in for as they change daily. You can have a meal like Chicken Guisado with Rice and Pigeon Peas or Nate’s Chicken Firecracker Wrap with Collards, Asiago, Scrambled Eggs and Junior’s Hot Sauce.
My must-have on the menu is their vegan collard greens. For those who are skeptical and feel turkey neck bone or ham hock make the greens, give theirs a try — trust me, you won’t regret it.
You can’t talk about Haley House Bakery and Café without talking about their bakery items. Cranberry-walnut and banana-walnut are amongst the favorites in the muffin category, but the most popular item by far is their chocolate chip cookie.
They keep the food as health-conscious as possible, focusing more on flavor than fat and by using quality ingredients that are seasonally local. It may also surprise you to know that they have a selection of hard-to-find organic beer and wine available.
Entertainment nights at Haley House have grown organically. Frequent visitors make suggestions to Business and Marketing Director Bing Broderick, and he tries to bring them to reality. A longstanding Thursday night feature is Art is Life Itself, a weekly discussion with distinguished community speakers about art, film and historical events. They also frequently collaborate with community groups such as The Color of Film Collaborative for their Dinner and a Movie series (quarterly); Discovery Roxbury for ArtROX; and Common Thread Coalition for the summer’s Roxbury Night Lights.
Drown your sorrows about the Pats missing the Super Bowl ticket in a hot bowl of soup at their annual 5th Annual Souper Bowl, February 24th. The event will feature soups from local chefs, artistry (soup bowl) from Mass Art students and of course lots of soup to try! Visit their website for complete information.
In addition to serving in the café, Haley House expands its message of delicious and healthy food with catering both for businesses and individuals. With this additional service, the non-profit was able to break even for the first time since it was established seven years ago. Last year, 90 percent of their expenses were covered overall through sales.
Why You Should Go:
When you go to the Haley House, you can’t help but feel good. You’re supporting a mission that helps so many in so many vital ways. But maybe the best part is that even if you took all the feel-good away, you’d still have a great place to sit and have an excellent meal, which is sustainability at its finest.
| Haley House
12 Dade Street