COLORADO SPRINGS — For more than a dozen years, Taste of Jerusalem Cafe has been serving family recipes to the Colorado Springs community. All that time, the restaurant has also been feeding those who are hungry and in need.
Abdul Nasser, the owner of the cafe, said the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on the restaurant. His biggest challenge is hiring staff members. Right now, his son and two nephews work at the restaurant, but will be leaving next week. Typically, Nasser and his wife run the cafe, but she is staying home with their eight-month-old daughter.
Nasser said the reason the restaurant has survived the pandemic are the regulars who keep them in business. "The community always has been there for us, so we're trying to do our part," said Nasser.
When the pandemic first hit, Nasser pinned a new sign to their front door. It reads: "Hungry? No money? No problem. Come on in."
That message is nothing new for the establishment, which has been feeding people who are homeless or in need since they opened. Nasser estimated that in a day, they feed anywhere from ten to fifteen people. "If they're regular, they come almost daily. We welcome them and we feed them. It's no issue... Last month we served about 300 people or more... Maybe we're paying a little more out of pocket, but we have no problem doing that," said Nasser.
Nasser said he does reserve the tables for customers since there is limited seating.
On the tables are signs that show customers can ask about how to feed the next hungry person. Nasser said he cannot do it alone, and if anyone is willing to help feed people who are homeless or in need, they can purchase an additional meal. The money will be put toward one of the meals Nasser gives away for free. "We don't come rich, you know, so we know how the hunger is. We try to bring a smile to everybody's face if we can," said Nasser.
While in Taste of Jerusalem Cafe, News5 met Stephanos Rahimzadeh, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rahimzadeh lived in Colorado Springs for four years prior to New Mexico, and when he came back, knew he had to go to Taste of Jerusalem Cafe. "The people in their heart are genuine, good-hearted people, that have hospitality when they see somebody in need. They're going to go out and they're going to help them, whether it hurts them financially, or whether they have to go out of their way to do it. There's no question," said Rahimzadeh.
News5 reached out to Springs Rescue Mission, which said they are always a local resource available for people who are homeless. Those with the shelter also said what this restaurant is doing is truly remarkable, because not only is the food a gift, but the restaurant is reaching out to a marginalized population and making them feel welcomed.