Serving Time Cafe Dishes Up Good Grub

Want to come face to face with a parole violator?  Perhaps be part of a felony?  Need to break out of the normal dining routine?

Then book a visit to Serving Time Cafe, a little bright spot at the Utah Department of Corrections in Draper, where female inmates serve up generous portions of good cuisine with a dash of humor.  Bite into a parole violator (a cheeseburger topped with onion rings and barbecue sauce) or sink your teeth into a felony aka homemade dessert. Whatever the order, it’s certainly an escape from the norm.

“Most people look surprised when I tell them I’m taking them to the prison for lunch,” says Greg Durkes, who works in Draper.  “They’re scared at first. They think prison food is what’s seen on TV, where stuff is slopped on a tray.” But he confirms that every time he visits, his lunch guests leave delighted.

The cafe dishes up breakfast and lunch mostly to correctional facility workers, road crews, police officers and nearby Draper office workers. Lines back up out the door during lunch hour and customers rave about the bacon cheeseburger and special sandwiches like the Cuban and French dip.

The cafe is more than convenient, delicious, and unusual, however. It is a training station for low-risk female inmates to gain culinary work experience. They are screened on good behavior and have a parole date. They cross train and learn everything from baking and cashiering to working the grill.

Flipping burgers is one of the jobs inmate Sherry Moreno often does. She’s been incarcerated for six years after robbing a fast-food restaurant. “Yes, the irony…” she remarks. The job has helped her interact with the public again and develop a work ethic. “It has helped me transition,” she says. “It’s a good nudge to get back into working in the community.”

Debbie Aranda, incarcerated for two years, loves the challenge of ensuring diners are happy and satisfied. “I have fun with people,” she says. Customers look at the menu board and ask what the “parole violator” is. Behind the counter, Aranda pipes up, “‘Here I am!’ Customers love the Serving Time Cafe for the food, reasonable prices and novelty, but some are a bit disappointed. They discover that we’re all so nice. They wonder what we could possibly have done to get in here.”

Serving Time Cafe 14072 Pony Express Road is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed holidays.