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Dream Cafe Aims to Create a Blueprint for a More Equitable Food Industry

The rotating pop-up restaurant debuts at Cass Cafe on Thursday

Relish Catering‘s Le’Genevieve Squires and her business partner Brittiany Peeler (far back) will collaborate with Simple Goodness Detroit on Friday at the Dream Cafe.
Valaurian Waller of V.W. Photography/Dream Cafe [Official image]
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

A very different kind of pop-up restaurant is coming to Detroit this Thursday — one that envisions a more equitable landscape for restaurants and food producers. Dream Cafe, a collaboration between the Allied Media Conference and FoodLab Detroit, will showcase dozens of restaurants and food businesses run by women, members of the LGBTQ community, and people of color.

Headquartered at Cass Cafe, the Dream Cafe will include daily pop-ups during breakfast and lunch featuring members FoodLab Detroit, an organization that supports community food business. Each menu was developed by teams of two FoodLab businesses that were challenged to blend their styles of cooking using seasonal produce grown at Detroit farms. Dream Cafe is also partnering with out-of-town chefs such as the indigenous food organization I-Collective to host dinners and events at the Dream Cafe and other restaurants throughout southeast Michigan.

When people come from communities that are marginalized and under-resourced “you’re just thinking about how to get through the day or the week,” says Devita Davison, director of FoodLab Detroit. “You don’t have time, the space, the capacity, or the ability to dream of what your world could look like.” With the Dream Cafe, the goal is to make a true “third space” where everyone can truly feel safe and welcome, whether they’re buying something or not. “This is your time to just be at peace and dream,” Davison says.

Ora Wise has been the culinary director for the Allied Media Conference for the last three years and pitched the Dream Cafe after considering what her dream restaurant would look like. She says that it started out as a “working title,” but the name stuck. “In the food industry, so often people are just so depleted, so stressed out, so overworked and underpaid that people too often except the status quo and say it’s just too hard to do it differently,” she says. At the Dream Cafe, she’s aiming to create a blueprint for a different kind of restaurant industry. “This is all saying we can dare to imagine or dream beyond the confines of our currently incredibly destructive, exploitative system.”

While the Dream Cafe is only temporary, Davison and Wise have plans to take the project even further. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Davison says. After the events are over, Wise and Davison also plan to design a toolkit that outlines best practices for creating a similar food justice-oriented restaurant space.

“There’s no better time to make a political statement even with this Dream Cafe, using food as our weapons, food as the ability to have this deeper, larger, broader conversation about dreaming,” Davison says. “Women of color are organizing in all different places and spaces all over the country and this is just affirmation of that — that when we come together, we can create the world that we want to see.”

Below is a rundown of all the Dream Cafe events that are open to the public. Anyone is invited to walk in and check out the events at Cass Cafe, but tickets are also available online. Tickets are required for some participating dinners:

Thursday, June 14

Breakfast/Lunch at Cass Cafe
8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.: Salt + Ko and Irie Occasions Catering

Dinner at Cass Cafe
5:30 to 10 p.m.: New York-based food collaborators 3Leches and Liberation Cuisine will serve recipes from the Latinx diaspora. The menu is set and walk-ins are welcome. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $19.

Friday, June 15

Breakfast/Lunch at Cass Cafe
8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.: Simple Goodness and Relish Catering

Dinner at Cass Cafe
7:30 to 9:30 p.m.: I-Collective, an autonomous group of Indigenous chefs, activists, herbalists, seed and knowledge keepers, will serve a set menu. Tickets are $19. Walk-ins are welcome.

Saturday, June 16

Breakfast at Cass Cafe
8 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Breakfast and Beats will feature breakfast by Detroit Soul and Nu Sol Bowls, a “sober-friendly drink special,” and music by DJ and artist Sacramento Knoxx.

Lunch at Cass Cafe
11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Detroit Soul and Nu Sol Bowls

Dinner at Cass Cafe
5:30 pm to 7:30 p.m. (first seating); 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. (second seating): Kit an’ Kin will serve up a Caribbean feast accompanied by live drumming, reggae, and calypso. Tickets are available for $19 and walk-ins are welcome.

Sunday, June 17

Brunch at Cass Cafe
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Chef and artist Amanni Ahmad of the Asymmetrical Table will prepare Palestinian food. Tickets are available for $19 and walk-ins are welcome.

Dinner at Folk
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (first seating); 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. (second seating): Chef Anya Peters of Kit an’ Kin and Kia Damon of the Supper Club From Nowhere present Matriarchy in the Kitchen. The menu will explore the ties between Caribbean and Southern cuisine. Tickets are $45 and walk-ins are welcome.

Tuesday, June 19

Dinner at Miss Kim
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.: Cambodian chef Chakriya Un is taking over the kitchens at Miss Kim in Ann Arbor. Tickets are required and the cost is $80 per person.

Dream Cafe [Allied Media Conference]
All EventWire Coverage [ED]
All Pop-Ups Coverage [ED]

Cass Cafe

4620 Cass Avenue, , MI 48201 (313) 831-1400 Visit Website

Folk Detroit

1701 Trumbull, , MI 48216 (313) 742-2672 Visit Website

Miss Kim

415 North 5th Avenue, , MI 48104 (734) 275-0099 Visit Website