Lancaster City Restaurant Week Spotlight: Refugee Women Cooks at Grape Leaf Cafe

Grape Leaf Café is a tiny unprepossessing building at 30 West James Street that houses big dreams for the resilient refugee women who meet each week through the end of September to prepare the food from the lands of their birth that is served at the take-out window on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.


The Café is part of the Grape Leaf Empowerment Center, an organization founded by Patience Buckwalter that was “established to bridge the gap between Refugee and Immigrant families by providing  a HUB  of services that provide culturally sensitive case management  and resources for as long as they are needed.” It is fitting that Grape Leaf Café should make a debut in Lancaster City Restaurant Week during the month when the City of Lancaster is celebrating being awarded Certified Welcoming status by Welcoming America.



Grape Leaf Cafe Cook Najah Al Dakhil, a recent immigrant from Syria preparing for a busy weekend. Photo credit: Michelle Johnsen Photography


The Cafe offers an ever-changing menu of dishes from the hands of these immigrant women and has featured the cuisines of Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Congo, Pakistan & Ethiopia.



Photo Credit: Michelle Johnsen Photogrpahy


Patience and the ladies at Grape Leaf Café are preparing a Special Lancaster City Restaurant Week $10 Lunch Special that they will serve from the 30 West James Street take-out window on Thursday, thru Saturday, September 19 – 21,  from 12 until 3:00 p.m. They will serve a Special Dinner Menu for Two at $30 that will be available on Friday and Saturday until 8:00 p.m.



Patience Buckwalter’s strength is in recognizing the power that food has to bring people together and to serve as a bridge between cultures. It is also the empathy she feels for the refugee and immigrant families and the passion she has brought to helping them to find a way to resettle into new homes here in Lancaster. She combined both in her vision of Grape Leaf Café & Empowerment Center and created a unique culinary destination and pop-up in the process.


In July Grape Leaf Café drew the attention of a food writer for The New York Times that earned a mention for Najah Al Dakhil, a Syrian refugee who is the main cook at the café, in the article, ‘A Global Feast in an Unlikely Spot.’  Ms. Al Dakhil was used to cooking on a large scale, for her 14 siblings, and is known around town for her stuffed grape leaves and hummus. ‘I am happy cooking,’ she said. ‘It makes me think of my family.’”



Patience Buckwalter and Najah Al Dakhil. Photo Credit: Michelle Johnsen Photography



You will not want to miss Najah’s Syrian Fish or Kabab Platters during Lancaster City Restaurant Week that will be part of the $30 Dinner Special for Two and will be served with Curry Rice, Babaganoush Salad, house-made Hummus, and fresh Pita Bread. At lunch, there is a choice of Falafel or Chicken Shawarma Sandwich Platters for $10!



Photo Credit: Michelle Johnsen Photography



We hope that you will plan a visit to Grape Leaf Café this week to discover for yourself how food is the ideal bridge between all cultures and welcome can be a delicious cause for celebration.

This season’s Lancaster City Restaurant Week Spotlight images were provided by our sponsor Michelle Johnsen Photography.