Are you planning to go to Turkey this summer? If you are, and going to Ankara, let me recommend you a new café in the Kizilay district. This one of a kind café is unique in several aspects. Its primary goal is not profit. You do not have to tip the servers with cash. The menu consists of only cofeee, tea, pretzels (simit), and cake. Menu prices are very reasonable. Service is usually slow.
It is a very small place, with few round tables and simple decorations. As you sit down, one of the young servers will greet you with a warm smile and ask you to mark your order with an X on the order sheet. You have to fill out your own order because most of the servers here are illiterate. As in any restaurant, things can get hectic here during rush hours. Sometimes your order will be late or you may get tea instead of coffee. But the mistake will be corrected with a warm smile.
Down Café has seventeen employees who split two six-hour shifts. All employees come to work with a special service bus, already dressed in their neat uniforms. At the end of the day they step to the bus tired but happy and ready to go home and relax. Their salary is a mere 123,000 TL or approximately $82 a month. Although, their salary is minimal, the experience, understanding and love they get in return is priceless.
On the building the sign reads: DOWN CAFÉ -Engellerin Duramadigi Sicak Bir Mekan (A Warm Place where Obstacles dont Exist). At first glance, you may think it is another fast food place with an American name since this is the in-thing nowadays. Yet the name is only pointing out that all the cafés employees are challenged with the Down Syndrome.
If you go to Ankara and you visit the Down Café, please tip the servers and kitchen workers not with liras but with a smile, a pat on the shoulder, a good job comment.
May 24, 2004