Lunch Money: Serenity Cafe

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

There aren't many scenarios in which you can eat a burger called Kelley's Belly Buster and feel good about yourself afterward.

That's the appeal of Serenity Cafe, a neat Downtown eatery where you can get great bad-for-you fare and all profits go to a good cause.

The cafe is a source of revenue for the Serenity Street Foundation, a program providing housing and employment for men recovering from alcohol and drug addiction. The restaurant also employs men going through the program, helping them to build up work history on a resume.

It's a cheerful place, with bright lights and walls painted in creamy yellows and light blues. Tranquil mountain scenes depicted in stained glass hang in the front windows, and oldies play in the background.

And at breakfast or lunch, you can count on a full menu of comfort fare, from omelets with home fries to tuna melts, triple-decker grilled cheeses, and fried bologna sandwiches. Daily sandwich specials come with a variety of sides, like coleslaw, pasta salad, potato salad, and macaroni and cheese.

Kelley's Belly Buster, $7.69

Back to that burger.

Sandwiched between a Kaiser roll were two well-done but still juicy hamburger patties, one topped with a slice of melted cheddar and the next with some melted pepper jack cheese, a fried egg and four slices of bacon. Lettuce, tomato and onion slices added some semblance of nutrition.

A pile of good kettle-cooked potato chips and a pickle spear filled the rest of the paper-lined plastic basket. Trust me, that's all the side dish you need. I shook some salt onto my fried egg, added some ketchup, reassembled the burger and then ate myself into a food coma.

At first, I wasn't sure about the necessity of both cheeses, but after getting a taste it made sense - a cheeseburger just isn't a cheeseburger without cheddar, but the pepper jack added a welcome hit of spice. And really, it's best not to apply logic to a sandwich like this.

A confession: I was not able to finish this behemoth, but didn't ask for a to-go box because I knew the magic of perfectly fried egg, just-melted cheese and crisp bacon couldn't possibly be recreated through a microwave reheating. So if you don't have a huge appetite, this one's a good candidate for sharing.

If you're not the breakfast-on-a-burger type, but still want to contribute to Serenity Street, there are healthier options. You can choose your own ingredients for the Chef's Salad Bowl, or go with a simple Smoked Turkey Breast sandwich with spicy mustard, lettuce, tomato and red onion.

Kelley's Belly Buster, $7.69

Tax & Tip: $1.65

Total: $9.34

Serenity Cafe

79 S. Fourth St., Downtown