At the monthly Eat Up supper club, Freedom a la Cart has given Columbus a truly magical new way to eat out.

At the monthly Eat Up supper club, Freedom a la Cart has given Columbus a truly magical new way to eat out.

In-the-know guests commit to the multicourse meals weeks in advance, without any idea who the other guests will be. Over the course of an evening spent downing wine and marveling over chef Lara Yazvac's astounding rustic comfort food, the energy in the room changes. This is something much more special than just another dinner out.

"By the end of every night we've done it, it really feels like having a dinner party in your home," Yazvac says. "I feel like that's something that's missing in the Columbus restaurant scene. It's about forcing strangers to interact until at the end of it they find their common bonds. And it's like they're friends."

Modeled after similar events in bigger cities, Eat Up has quickly developed a devoted following. And it gives Yazvac a chance to stretch her cooking muscles far beyond the Latin-inspired, veggie-heavy sandwiches and empanadas that stock her Freedom a la Cart food cart.

A program of nonprofit organization Doma, Freedom a la Cart serves as social enterprise that teaches kitchen skills to survivors of human trafficking, who are the focus of Doma's work.

"The great thing about food service is even in a bad economy you can always get a job in a kitchen, and it's a way to support yourself," Yazvac explains. "We're working toward financial independence."

Along with the supper club and food cart, Freedom a la Cart offers box lunches for corporate settings, special event catering, and a new grab-and-go sandwich bar in the YMCA on Long Street.

"The pay isn't competitive," Yazvac says. "I could be making more money as a line cook at the Cheesecake Factory. It's a lot of work and a lot of heartache, but it's the most soul-satisfying thing I've done."

Freedom a la Cart has the ultimate goal of starting a bricks-and-mortar restaurant where survivors can work. And Yazvac and her fiance have their own dreams of opening a light and airy brunch place near their SoHud home.

"We're looking at places in our neighborhood," she says, "because we feel like if we were to establish that kind of place in our neighborhood, we could transform the parts of the neighborhood we don't like."