Restaurant Review: Ransom Café

The Ransom Café nourishes both body and spirit. The donation-only eatery opened a little more than three years ago at The Hangar in West Mobile and now operates on certain days in several locations in both Mobile and Baldwin counties. It works like a restaurant, yet there is no set menu or prices. People are asked to pay what they can, if they can, and to donate more if they are able and so inclined. Owner Matt Armbruster, formerly of Matt’s Rib Shack, has become well known for his creative pizzas and specialty sandwiches. More often than not that is what is featured on the daily menu at Ransom Café: a pizza, a sandwich, a soup, a salad or two and a dessert.

“However we try to use what we have, so if we have other things donated, you could see more of a blue plate type of menu, ” says Matt, who runs the café with his wife Tara. Here’s a recent example. After receiving 40 cases of chicken, offerings included baked chicken, chicken alfredo pizza, fried chicken wraps, chicken noodle soup and more.

The concept and name for the café come from the Bible verses Isaiah 58:10 and Matthew 20:28, and the motto is, “It’s not about a hand out; it’s about a hand up.” Tara is quick to point out that Ransom Café is open to everyone and that it is not a soup kitchen. “Its mission is to help someone else have a nice meal who couldn’t necessarily afford it. We host people from all walks of life. Any given day we can have homeless people at one table, and the table next to them may be a couple of lawyers, ” she says. They all come for different reasons, but they all stay for the good food.

Volunteers help the Armbrusters run the nonprofit café and assist with their other endeavors, which include two community gardens, one in Prichard and one in the Hillsdale neighborhood in West Mobile, and The Clean Machine, a portable laundry and shower facility that travels to various locations to serve the homeless. The folks at Ransom Café are holding their fourth annual Candy Cane Christmas Event at The Hangar on Dec. 14 from 9 a.m. until noon. It’s a donation-only continental breakfast and holiday shopping event for those in need. To volunteer, donate or check the eatery’s daily location and menu, visit

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On the Menu (Changes Daily)

Chicken Alfredo Pizza
A lovely crust, not too thin and not too thick, is topped with alfredo sauce, tender chunks of chicken and melted mozzarella cheese.

BBQ Chicken Wrap
Melted cheddar, lightly tangy barbecue sauce and chicken served tucked into a tortilla

Caesar Salad
This is a pleasing, creamy classic, with crisp Romaine lettuce and a generous scattering of Parmesan.

Streusel Cake 
The moist and delicious cake, with a thick ribbon of cinnamon streusel swirled in the center, is all drizzled with creamy icing. (Dessert is often a splendid sheet cake, cookies donated by Flour Girls, or other treats prepared by volunteers.)

Ransom Café at The Hangar • 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. every other Tu / W, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. second F.
7485 Airport Blvd. 751-0044.

text by Sallye Irvine • photo by Elise Poché

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