Updated November 2022. We will always be grateful for the sustainable and ethical eateries that didn’t make it through the economic hardships of the pandemic. Thank you for everything you did for the community.
The ethical eateries series is back and this time I’m in Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu.
From cafes that support local and rural community projects to momo-making lessons supporting survivors of human trafficking, Kathmandu has revealed a community-minded network of individuals and businesses looking to improve the livelihoods of people across the nation. There also seems to be a growing trend towards environmental sustainability, with forward-thinking initiatives such as no-plastic straw policies and recyclable coffee cups prevalent amongst the city’s ethical eateries.
Below is a list of where you can dine for a cause, or in an ethical manner, here in the lively city of Kathmandu.
Sarangi is a vegetarian and vegan restaurant located in Thamel. The restaurant serves as a social enterprise assisting and empowering the Gandharba people of Nepal, who rank one of the lowest among the castes.
The Ganharba people are an ancient caste of musicians that have historically earned their living from music, playing the Sarangi and other traditional Nepalese instruments. In recent decades the Ganharba people have been struggling to adapt to modern social changes with globalisation and modern technology seeing them lose their traditional place in society. In order to survive they spend months away from their villages to work in the streets of Kathmandu, playing music and selling their instruments, often earning only a few dollars a day. The Ganharba Restaurant project, aided by Sarangi profits, will provide training and employment opportunities for the Gandharba people in the hospitality industry, giving them more opportunities for employment and a better livelihood.
Aside from assisting the Gandharba people, the Sarangi restaurant is also committed to sustainability, being 100% vegetarian & vegan. They also have a no-straw policy (helping to rid our planet of plastic), and an aquaponics set-up on their garden rooftop. Future projects include promoting Stevia instead of sugar and setting up fair trade chef clothing production in Kathmandu.
Mahabir Dai’s Restaurant – also known as Nepal Connection – is located in the heart of Thamel and is a restaurant and co-working space where people can come and enjoy a meal while also using the free WI-FI and computers on offer. Founder, Mahabir Pun, is well known in Nepal for his extensive work in rural villages in the fields of health, education and awareness programmes. What makes this social enterprise so special is that all the profits from the restaurant support these education and health programs in rural Nepal.
The restaurant also serves as a platform to meet like-minded individuals and currently serves as the promotion centre and contact point for the organisation’s community-managed eco-trekking programs. Find out about community-based tourism and community development initiatives around Nepal by speaking with one of the staff members.
The Bakery Cafe is one of Nepal’s most successful food franchises with outlets in Boudha, Bhatbhateni, Dharahara, Gwarko, Jawalakhel, Maharajgunj, New Baneswor, Pulchowk, Teendhara and Teku. They offer a variety of food from local cuisines to vegetarian and vegan options, as well as a clean and modern interior to sit and dine.
The Bakery Cafe is known not only for its quality food, accessibility and efficient service but also for accepting and employing deaf staff. The enterprise hires waiters with hearing disabilities and the menu is strategically created with photos, so all you have to do is point at what you would like to order.
Forest & Plate brings you the best locally sourced fresh herbs and organic food right into Thamel, the heart of Kathmandu. They have arguably the best salad menu in town, with ingredients like roasted beets, goat’s cheese, kale and quinoa topped on their generous servings of healthy, organic goodness. Situated on a sunny rooftop in Mandala street, the venue is leafy and cozy, with good Wi-Fi and a large choice of teas, coffees, cocktails, and freshly squeezed juices.
Higher Ground is a social enterprise with a vision to provide income generation skills, job opportunities, rehabilitation & counselling for disadvantaged and marginalised women and youth in Nepal.
Higher Ground has a bakery, cafe and a crafts centre on its premises where they provide on-the-job bakery training and employment opportunity to their students. The cafe serves a variety of baked goods and specialty coffee drinks, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner. The women at the enterprise make quality hand-crafted jewellery, clothing, bags, and accessories that you can purchase to help their cause.
Raithaane is known for its focus on promoting local ethnic cuisines and ingredients from across Nepal. They have a seasonally changing menu to align with their values of sustainability and the availability of fresh local ingredients.
Each dish originates from a specific region and ethnic group, highlighting the incredible diversity of Nepal. Try their naturally fermented ginger beer made in-house.
The Village Café is a social enterprise funded by the SAARC development fund, operating in conjunction with Sabah Nepal. The cafe provides employment opportunities for women who have been socially and economically disadvantaged in the past, and have developed skills through participation in Sabah’s skills training courses.
There are three cafes in total, one in Pulchowk, one in Nexus and one in Kokhana, all serving various traditional cuisines cooked by the women themselves, using the ingredients that they have grown in their own fields.
Support this cause by dining in any of the three restaurants or shopping at Sabah’s range of fair trade handicrafts made by the women in their programs.
Kar.Ma Coffee is a cute little cafe in Lalitpur that supports local trade by sourcing their coffee from selected farmers and small cooperatives in Nepal. They tell the stories of their farmers and producers, making sure the processes are transparent and there is a fair connection between the buyers and producers. They are currently working with, and supporting, about 30 small producers in Nepal (mainly women).
The cafe has sustainability at its forefront and recycles its coffee/coffee byproducts, making new products out of it. Their interior is made of recycled or up-cycled wood and materials, and they use as much local produce as possible for their food items, serving them in locally made cups/ mugs/ plates etc.
The HUB is an interactive space – now in Boudha (previously, Thamel) – that houses the concept of conscious living. It does that by bringing together the two privately owned social businesses – kar.ma COFFEE and Socialtours in one open space.
Offering some of the best organic coffee in town, as well as a range of healthy food and drink options, the HUB is a great place to network with like-minded individuals while sipping on some feel-good coffee that supports small coffee growers and local artisan groups in the Kathmandu valley.
ROKPA Restaurant & Bakery is located in Boudha, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Boudhanath Stupa, a famous landmark in Nepal. The restaurant is a social business that supports the nearby ROKPA Children’s Home, which provides food, shelter and education for about 60 underprivileged children and has been doing so for the past 20 years.
The restaurant has a lovely garden setting and serves Nepali, Indian and European cuisines, plus a wide range of cakes to be enjoyed with local organic coffee and tea.
You can recommend other ethical eateries in Kathmandu in the comments section below. You can also check out my Ethical Eateries series for lists in other cities around the world.