The Center for Head Injury Services recently debuted a new restaurant that serves as a nonprofit social enterprise to further its cause. Destination Cafe opened on Oct. 15 in Tower Grove South, featuring contemporary American cuisine with global influences, with all proceeds benefiting the center.

According to Center For Head Injury Services executive director Donna Gunning, the purpose-driven restaurant is committed to improving the lives of people with brain injuries, autism and other disabilities by developing opportunities for employment and vocational training. The organization initially launched Destination Desserts, a food truck and commercial bakery, in 2012 and later also rolled out a dog treat bakery.

“The purpose is to train people in different careers in the industry and help them get jobs somewhere else or employ them ourselves,” Gunning says. “Primarily, it’s about helping them gain confidence so they can work. It’s been amazing.”

Destination Cafe fills the space previously occupied by Plaza Cafe Grill & Bakery, with around 60 seats throughout its dining areas. The cozy interior highlights historical features of the building, including exposed brick and a set of original ceiling tiles on display. 

Executive chef Thomas Hayes – who previously served as the sous chef of Dierdorf & Hart's – created the food menu, which is supplemented with a rotating selection of sweets from Destination Desserts such as chocolate cake and gooey butter cake.

“We offer contemporary American cuisine with inspiration from around the world,” Hayes says. “We have things like poutine, grilled shrimp and grits served with Thai chile sauce, and a gyro burger that’s a combination of seasoned ground beef and lamb.”

Additional highlights include comfort food offerings such as chicken and dumplings with roasted chicken tossed in a savory gravy with peas, carrots, zucchini and rosemary-potato dumplings. A mushroom panini is another popular pick with roasted wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, Gouda and mozzarella on multi-grain bread. To drink, choose from a small selection of beer and wine.

“We’re excited to share the eclectic entrees that have a nice spin on them from around the world and the country because it will be helping people learn skills and make them marketable employees so they can start building their own vocational career,” Gunning says.

Brunch is available on Sundays and includes options such as a Monte Cristo, salmon cake eggs Benedict and a breakfast flatbread with sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, Cheddar cheese, bacon bits and green onions. 

Lunch hours will tentatively roll out in the spring. Around the corner from the restaurant, the center has also recently opened a storefront for its housemade dog treats called Wags In A Bag, which debuted on Jan. 21.

Destination Cafe is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 9pm as well as Sunday from 10am to 2pm.

Destination Cafe, 3182 Morganford Road, Tower Grove South, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.899.0413, destinationcafe.org