Leave What You Will for This Meal

By Megan Kuhn

At a time when everybody’s looking for good dining deals, Karma Kitchen’s one-page menu is a big attraction. It changes almost every week, but the prices don’t: There aren’t any.

Instead of a bill, diners receive a note explaining that their meal is a gift from a previous patron. The only request: Leave what you will to cover the next person’s meal.

Karma Kitchen is open only for Sunday lunch, when Dupont Circle’s Polo India Club becomes a volunteer-run, pay-it-forward restaurant within a restaurant. Owner Arbinda Rajbhandari heard about the original Karma Kitchen in Berkeley, California, and decided to try it in Washington.

Open since February, Karma Kitchen has attracted a handful of regulars who often return as volunteer servers. The atmosphere is informal—more like eating in someone’s home. If you arrive solo, ask to sit at the community table and you’ll be introduced to other patrons. Servers find out what you don’t want and bring everything else. Extra helpings and drink refills are generous.

Polo India Club veteran Monowara Haque—the only paid participant—oversees the menu, where you’ll find naan fresh from the tandoor; a handful of curry dishes, including one made of chickpeas called chana peshawari; and a turmeric-heavy dal.

It’s fun. And a good value, too—whatever you decide to leave behind.

Karma Kitchen is held at Polo India Club, 1736 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-483-8705. Open for lunch Sundays noon to 3.

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