We found Benders one night after missing our bus home. While a lot of casual eateries around Johnson & Wales close after five, we found Benders to be open and a welcome respite from the rain. I wanted FOOD for dinner, not junk, because my daughter and I would be getting home well after nine. So initially I was skeptical because it seemed that this was a sandwich / coffee place - order at the counter and get your wrap kind of thing. Which is fine, but not for dinner. Anyhow, we were pleasantly surprised. While yes, it is sandwiches and coffee, these have got to be the best, most filling and tasty sandwiches anywhere, and perfectly suitable for dinner. I had the turkey with guacamole and pepper jack cheese panini, and my teenaged daughter had the roasted vegetable panini. Both sandwiches came out on REAL GLASS PLATES (they are a green cafe, so they discourage take-out - although they do do take-out). With a side of tabouli and pita crisps, the mini-meal was enough to call dinner and very healthy, and reasonably priced.
Maybe because they are new and motivated, the folks at Benders seem always to be upbeat and smiling. They bend over backwards to serve their customers. I introduced myself to the owner and we talked about green issues (I was at that time working on a project to get my workplace to stop using bottled water, and Benders had just participated in a tap water challenge.) Chris talked to me about her reasons for starting a green cafe, and what is involved in being certified green. All of their food waste (you bus your table to a waste station where paper and food waste is separated) goes to a local pig farm. The restaurant itself, everything from the lighting to the cooler entryways, has been looked at to determine ways of reducing waste.
They also have great coffee, tea, chai, hot chocolate, whole wheat yummy cookies, and a selection of italian sodas. Water is tap. And free wifi.
And, they offer catering (nice for a "green" inspired event.) We had them down to our farm for an open farm event, and they braved the cold temperatures and were a big hit with the crowd. They also do bicyle delivery around the downtown area.
Lunchtimes seem busy with student traffic, but both evenings I went were pretty quiet. It's a nice place to have a cup of coffee or a sandwich, and to talk green with people who are actually doing it! Inspiring!