More than 200 people crammed into Healthy World Café in downtown York Friday night for the non-profit, pay-how-you-can café's soft opening.
Between 5 and 9 p.m., customers listened to music by Vinyl Souls, sipped samples from The Beer Ace and munched on healthy sandwiches, soups and salads, while about 15 volunteers worked behind the counter.
By the end of the night, Healthy World Café ran out of chicken salad, quiche and greens.
"It was an explosion of energy," café manager Liza Naylor said. "Just to see this many people coming out on a rainy Friday to enjoy downtown and eat some good food, oh yeah."
Healthy World, an almost entirely volunteer-run establishment, has been serving lunch once a month at First Moravian Church in downtown York and at pop-up locations around York since 2012. But the cafe opened its doors at its new permanent South George Street home for the first time Friday.
Many of the same ideas behind Healthy World, including its locally-sourced, healthy ingredients and pay-how-you-can business model, will remain the same, board of directors chairwoman Sarah Chain said.
With the pay-how-you-can model, customers can pay the suggested price or more or volunteer one hour of time in exchange for a meal if they can't afford to pay. Volunteer hours could include washing dishes, preparing food or even greeting customers.
"We call it Healthy World Café, where friends meet and everybody eats," Chain said.
The locally-sourced menu is also important to Healthy World. A community recognition board on the wall lists the farms and farmer's markets where each day's food was sourced from. Friday's menu included ingredients from Eastern Market, Kenmar Farms and Sonnewald Natural Foods, among others.
The Healthy World menu will change every four to six weeks, depending on what ingredients are in season, Chain said. Friday's menu included items such as roasted carrot hummus, curried butternut squash soup, and a rustic Swiss chard, herb and cheese quiche, but Chain said the café will soon alter its menu to include spring vegetables.
"We open people's world to food they would never try or consider," Chain said. "I think that's what's fun about our menu and the fact that the menu changes."
One of the biggest changes customers can expect is Healthy World's expanded hours. Following a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony April 6, the café will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The permanent location will also allow Healthy World to feature local art and entertainment in addition to its local menu.
In addition to participating in First Fridays, the café plans to offer live music during lunch hour for Live Lunch Wednesdays each week and feature artwork and photographs by a different local artist every month. Currently, the walls are decorated with photography by Mike Thomas of Natural Images Photography in Southern York County, Chain said.
"I think that's been part of the vision from the beginning to have it be a cultural center," Naylor said.
The live music Friday night was a big draw for customers.
Joseph Lingg said he drove from Baltimore to support Vinyl Souls. When he walked in the door, he said he couldn't tell that it was Healthy World's first day open.
"I'd say they're hitting a homerun," he said when he found out.
Joe Anne and Ernie Cottrell, of Hopewell Township, also said the music added to their experience.
"The music fits well with the environment, and it makes me want to come back," Ernie Cottrell said.
If you go
What: Healthy World Cafe ribbon-cutting and grand opening
When: 11 a.m. Monday, April 6
Where: Healthy World Cafe, 24 S. George St., York
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday
Price: Suggested price is $5.50 for main dishes and $3.50 for soups and salads.
For more information: Visit healthyworldcafe.org or call 717-814-8204.
Sign up to volunteer at healthyworldcafe.org.