Ian McNulty: Getting to the point at nonprofit Green Dot Cafe

Giving until it hurts is noble, but giving because you happen to be in the market for a good lunch is a much easier proposition. The city’s nonprofit cafes understand this and lure patrons both with meals and the promise that dining dollars will support their program missions.

The latest example is Café Hope’s Green Dot Café (4300 S. Broad St., 504-827-0077), an easy-to-miss eatery that’s a real find for distinctive food and a new outpost for an important cause.

Café Hope (1101 Barataria Blvd., Marrero, 504-756-4673; cafehope.org) runs a West Bank restaurant as a job-training and life skills program for young people who want to chart a new course for their lives, following a model inspired by the better-known Café Reconcile. In late January, Café Hope opened its new Green Dot Café on the opposite side of the river, inside Broadmoor’s Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center. Staffed in part by recent Café Hope program graduates, the new Green Dot Café is a tiny four-table operation that does a lot more than its simple counter service setup might let on.

For instance, the drinks cooler doubles as a mini, self-serve farmers market, with bundles of kale and broccoli and other produce from Cafe Hope’s kitchen garden in Marrero. The Mauthe family’s Progress Milk Barn in nearby McComb, Miss., supplies the cafe’s dairy products, and thick glass jugs of its milk are sold from the counter too. In addition to its baked goods made in house, Green Dot Café doubles as a retail outlet for Bellegarde Bakery, an artisan bakery located nearby that doesn’t have its own storefront.

Bellegarde’s breads are the building blocks for outstanding sandwiches, like pickled shrimp and red onion gushing with vinaigrette on baguette, or ciabatta layered with thick-cut ham, cured at the local specialty butcher shop Cleaver & Co. There are omelets, sweet potato biscuits and muffins for breakfast and, anytime, strong coffee drinks made with beans from local micro-roaster French Truck Coffee and cookies made with leaf lard.

Any of this would recommend the Green Dot Café even if you knew nothing of its back story. But of course, behind the counter, the menu and the mission are inseparable. Green Dot Cafe is open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.