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Cafe Racer serves free meal, once a month, for anyone who needs it

"This is my favorite day of every single month because it reminds me why it is that I started to cook in the first place, to feed people," Patino said.

MINNEAPOLIS - It’s your typical restaurant preparing for another day of service.

Tables are set with fresh napkins and clean silverware. Food created from decades-old recipes are hot off the stove, ready to be served.

Customers walk in and take a seat. Some know exactly why they’re there, others come curious and hungry.

Soon though, they’ll find out what Café Racer owner Luis Patino has in store.

Credit: Sara Pelissero, KARE
Luis Patino hosts a Breaking Bread meal at his restaurant, Cafe Racer, on the last Monday of every month.

"So I don’t actually tell people what’s happening," Patino said. "Often times people just walk in off the street and they think we’re just open for a normal service."

But one day each month, Patino opens his restaurant on a normally closed Monday and eliminates the bill. A full meal, for free. No questions asked.

"This is my favorite day of every single month because it reminds me why it is that I started to cook in the first place, to feed people," Patino said.

The meal is called Breaking Bread. And it’s meant to be just that.

"It’s to come in, be served as a person, feel like you have a place to share a space with others and to be taken care of, to be served as a human being," he said. "To truly feel that, at least for a moment, that someone cares about you."

Credit: Sara Pelissero, KARE
On the last Monday in June, Cafe Racer serves a free meal to anyone who needs it.

Donations are accepted, but not required. Servers are made up of volunteers and chefs, from other restaurants, donate their time and abilities.

"People are shocked sometimes that they’re having a free meal and they don’t know it, that’s kind of fun," volunteer server Julie Cahoy said. "And the people who do know it, are really appreciative."

As she's seen firsthand, one meal can make a huge impact.

"They’re just like, this is the only hot meal I get," she said.

Lauren Hambrick brought her young son on a recent June afternoon. For her, it’s a meal that’s incredibly meaningful.

Credit: KARE
Lauren Hambrick and her son enjoy a free meal at Cafe Racer's Breaking Bread event, which takes place on the last Monday of every month.

"I’m a single mom and we don’t have a ton of money so this is a nice treat because we don’t go out to eat as often as I would like," she said.

Still, she, like others, find the heartfelt gesture from a complete stranger, a little hard to grasp.

"I don’t understand," she said. "I think about it a lot. How can they even afford to do it?"

Patino said it’s not always easy to pull off but it’s something he feels he has to do.

"It’s much more than the idea of being able to afford it," he said. "I can do this for others so I must. It’s really a need to say thank you for what I’ve been given."

Patino came here when he was about 4 years old, and wholeheartedly embraced being a Minnesotan. He started a food truck about six years ago after leaving the paralegal world, then opened up his restaurant three years later.

"Minnesota has taken my family in and has allowed me to express myself and my culture and my family through my food," he said, "and I’m so grateful for every single time I get to do that."

For more information about Cafe Racer, check out their website.

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