Konojel Restaurant: How buying lunch is feeding the hungry


Among the first things you notice when you start up the path from the embarcadero in San Marcos are the restaurants.

Passing through the hallway of murals and beneath the flowered canopy that shades the path the options begin to present themselves, from tiny juice bars and snack vendors to the old standbys. There are restaurants that have long been staples of the village, Happy Pizza, Fe, Shambala, Giordinos, Paco Real, and Circles are all places with a host of happy memories for residents and visitors alike, but there is only one restaurant that is feeding more than paying patrons, and only one that is changing the village of San Marcos from the inside out.

Comedor Konojel is at the top of the path, right before the first turn to the right, across from Circles cafe and hostel. You can’t miss the big green letters or the cheerful handprints of children that greet you. The walk up window, almost food truck style, is often filled with faces waiting to grab lunch or a slice of pizza to go. And the handmade wooden tables inside are almost never empty.

Comedor Konojel has become one of the most popular restaurants in town.

Of course there are the obvious reasons why:

  • The food is fantastic and vegetarian
  • The prices are phenomenal
  • The atmosphere is local and fun

But there are bigger things going on in this two story wooden structure than just feeding the folks passing through.

Last fall, the restaurant transformed from a tiny walk up window snack shop to a full blown restaurant with donations from the Rotary Club of South Ulster, New York, which provided a generous grant toward the construction of the facilities. Funding as much of  the construction of the restaurant as possible through private donors was important to the director, Andrew Raphael.

The land was generously donated by Guillermo Hernandez, the manager of Posada Schumann, and long term supporter of Konojel Community Center. The result of this international, yet community, effort is the opportunity to eat your lunch and provide one too!

Comedor Konojel is the restaurant outreach of Konojel Community Center, including the nutrition center in barrio 1 that feeds 60 of the most malnourished residents of San Marcos, every day, the computer center that is open to all of the residents of San Marcos, and the women’s cooperative, which creates handmade goods from recycled fabrics, solar baked cookies, and dehydrated snack products.

And the restaurant is staffed with local women who have graduated from the job training program at Konojel, under the watchful eye of Maria Mejia, the Operations Director of Konojel.

The women who work at Comedor Konojel are proud of the work they do, in serving great food in a homey atmosphere, providing for their own families, and feeding the most at risk members of the local community. This year, during high season, the profits from Comedor Konojel have significantly contributed to the budget of the food program at Konojel.

Konojel Community Center is proud of our restaurant.

To us, it proves that business and humanitarian work need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, the most effective and efficient option for creating change and defeating malnutrition is often to provide sustainable, dignified work for women and use the profits to lift the community members who need it most.

Konojel isn’t just about feeding kids. It’s about creating grassroots level change, driven by locals, created by locals, for the benefit of the whole community. The restaurant is one example of how we do that.

Eat at Konojel while you’re in San Marcos.

Read the cards on the table about our mission. Talk to the women cooking and serving your food. Buy a bag or a cookie from the women’s coop store within the restaurant, and feel good about investing in more than your lunch as you invest in the community.


Photo Credits: Stacy Kirkus