We reported here last July that Bon Jovi’s pay-what-you-can restaurant is soon to open. So now, three months after our initial news, we’re on to the follow-up story: JBJ Soul Kitchen located at 207 Monmouth St. Red Bank, New Jersey, is now open to serve everyone—whether the diner is with money or not.
The restaurant looks similar to any other cozy Red Bank restaurant, a place anyone can visit before going to the movies or to meet up with friends. High ceilings, velvety yellow walls, an airy feel, wood tables in between walls of windows, and a busy, bustling open kitchen. The enticing menu in elegant restaurant menu covers includes rainbow beet salad, com meal-crusted catfish together with rice and red beans, Garden State gumbo, grilled breast of chicken served with homemade basil mayo, mashed sweet potato and sautéed greens, and grilled salmon with soul seasonings, among many.
What makes it different from any other eateries in town? First, of course, is that it’s owned by famous rock star Jon Bon Jovi. Second, the menu ingredients are mostly grown in the vegetable and herb garden right on the restaurant’s grounds. Next, the restaurant was created to offer gourmet style food to two distinct customer bases – the paying customer, and the non-paying ones. The place functions as a “community restaurant,” intended to cater to hungry citizens who do not have enough money to pay for restaurant meals, and at the same time as a regular brasserie which offers good food and drinks to regular diners.
Another difference is that there are no prices on the menu in its quality restaurant menu covers. Considering that the restaurant can rival many of its competitors in the hip and stylish area of Red Bank, many paying-customers would want to dine there. Should they want to do so, and if they are willing to assist the cause in any way, they can leave $20 in the envelope on the table, or more. The idea is to make a difference and help others.
And it’s not like any other community restaurants, either. The dining place aims to foster a sense of dignity among its volunteer patrons, making sure that they are not stripped of their self-esteem if they avail of the free food; they can earn their vouchers by helping out in the restaurant—wait tables, weed in the eatery’s organic garden, wash pots and dishes or clean the place.
“If someone comes in and say, ‘I’m hungry,’ we’ll be here to serve him food,” said Bon Jovi. “But we would ask him to do something…that’s very important to what we want to achieve here. Part of our objective is to make people feel that they are part of bigger community that cares for them, while at the same time counting on them to contribute to the community at large. We are actually empowering them to earn the meal vouchers.”
“I thought of this when the economic downturn led many to lose their disposable income,” explained Bon Jovi. “A lot of families build their memories around restaurant tables, and we would like to bring that back.”
The restaurant chefs say the menu is nothing “fancy-shmancy,” just good, healthful, freshly-cooked meals. But you can imagine the coolest brasserie there is in your hometown and think of JBJ Soul Kitchen—it can give its neighboring restaurants a run for their money. As Bon Jovi said, “We made sure to make it look like the hottest-looking restaurant in this town. We want to do away with the few stigmas that we have always attached to community restaurants and the word ‘volunteering,’ and want to make a few changes to help our society.”