April 30

Pav is Love

SLU café Lassi & Spice gives back with meals for those in need.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the temporary, and in many cases permanent, closure of restaurants across the country. The ones that were able to reopen their doors for either takeout or delivery were tasked with juggling new safety precautions, rehiring employees, and figuring out new business practices in the changed world. Susannah Dhamdhere, owner of Lassi & Spice (423 Fairview Avenue N.) in SLU, shared plenty of concerns with other restaurant owners, but she also immediately noticed how COVID-19 increased challenges for people in need.

“During the early days of the pandemic when Washington was in the stay-home order, I saw many homeless people wandering the neighborhood. I decided when my cafe was able to reopen, we would offer meals to these people at no cost. The way Pav is Love works is anyone can order off the menu at no cost just by pointing to the sign in our window. This allows us to serve hungry people with dignity and kindness just like they are any customer. Pav is Love combines Hindi and English: Pav means “bread roll” in Hindi. So, we’re saying that Bread is Love, and that feeding people is our way of giving love back to our community,” she said.

Three Vada Pav sliders on a metal dish; one topped with a roasted green chili pepper.

Dhamdhere estimates the Pav is Love program has provided around 3,500 meals for people in need, and this program could not happen without the generosity of Lassi and Spice patrons.

“Our customers generously underwrite this program when they choose ‘Buy a Meal for a Homeless Person’ off our menu and add it to their order. These donations currently offset our cost of goods to prepare the meals.”

Dhamdhere expects the program to continue through the end of the pandemic if the resources are available to help.

Lassi & Spice serves a 100% vegetarian menu with small plates featuring Indian street snacks like samosa chaat and lassis, which are high-protein blended smoothies made from local yogurt. The café also just won “Restaurant of the Year” in the SLU Chamber’s annual Celebrate SLU event that recognizes the best of the neighborhood.

Story by Ethan Chung & photographs by Suzi Pratt & Ethan Vovan.

At The Center

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