On June 6, 2016, Bistro 163 opened its doors to the Ottawa County community as a unique “pay it forward” restaurant. Located inside the Sutton Center, at 1848 E Perry Street, Bistro 163’s stated mission is to increase food security and offer all neighbors a place to eat and come together as one community. The purpose of Bistro 163 is to alleviate hunger, build relationships, and celebrate community with all neighbors, both those in need of help, and those with help to give.
At Bistro 163, everyone is welcome to eat a meal. Patrons are encouraged to pay more than the suggested menu price, so that others may eat a meal. Those who are unable to pay are encouraged to give their time in return for service. Paid employees include the chef, part time cashiers, dishwashers and chef’s assistants. All other services are performed by a corps of volunteers .
For the “food insecure” in our community, Bistro 163 offers a “hand up”, rather than a “hand out”, making nutritious food available to people who cannot afford to eat at a regular restaurant. Bistro 163 reaches hungry people in our county in several ways:
Bistro 163 has certainly inspired a groundswell of generosity within our community, from donors, volunteers, and staff, all of whom contribute to a mission to feed hungry people in a dignified and respectful manner. Bistro 163 has benefited from generous support from Sutton Property Leasing, the Portage Resale Center, the Ottawa County Community Foundation, The Harry Stensen Memorial Trust, and hundreds of individual financial contributors, churches and organizations.
Volunteers from across Ottawa County, from age 8 to age 85, give freely of their time “to serve our community, one plate at a time”. Pay-it-forward patrons have also been generous, paying something extra so that another person may eat a meal. Many local growers and gardeners have donated fresh produce and herbs to Bistro 163, including the Lake Erie Herb Society, Schwan’s Orchards, Bergman’s, Quinstock, Cedar Point Amusement Park, and more. A team of talented “Mr. Fix-its” give their time to repair and replace equipment, add a new service counter, and paint and floor the office.
Chef Stacy Maple and her staff are the lifeblood of this vibrant lunch spot, making Bistro 163 a place of warmth and welcome every single day. All of the agency partners in the Sutton Center and all four community food pantries have worked seamlessly with Bistro 163 to help individuals and families in need of a nourishing meal and a sense of community. Media in the area have been gracious in helping to promote Bistro 163 to a large audience, including The Beacon and Best of the Best, The Port Clinton News Herald, The Port Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce, The Sandusky Register, WPCR Port Clinton Radio, The Toledo Blade, and 13ABC TV in Toledo.
In the almost twelve months open so far, Bistro 163 has served more than 17,000 meals, 4,200 of which were provided "free of charge". The number of food insecure people and families coming in for a meal continues to grow. The monthly Free Community Dinners and the After School Snack and Study program are also made possible through the generosity of many donors and volunteers. The board of directors who operate Bistro 163 are indeed grateful to everyone in Ottawa County for supporting this new business in its first year of operation.
Photograph: The final day of After School Snack and Study on May 17th, including our Bistro Kids and loyal volunteers.