Every Friday morning, Gottlieb serves a lavish breakfast at her home just a few doors down from Eberwhite school. Made from locally grown food, often cooked by a well-known local chef, the meal is free, which allows Selma Cafe to sidestep stacks of regulations about food and commerce. But diners are asked to make a contribution to the cause of local food production, and they give generously (mostly by stuffing wads of cash into glass jars on the tables). Gottlieb says most weeks Selma feeds around 150 people who donate an average of $12-$15 each; the profits fund local projects in sustainable agriculture.
It sounds impossible that a regular-sized Old West Side house could possibly feed that many people, but it does. To begin with, she has a very, very large kitchen that she and husband Jeff McCabe installed when they moved in back in the late 1990s: "We liked to cook with friends," she says. Seating works like a restaurant, though it's a little more communal, spread out over a number of large and small tables and the long kitchen bar. Selma opens at 6:30 a.m., and diners sign in as a party. As soon as a contiguous block of seats is available, they're ushered in. Selma has made early risers out of a number of Ann Arborites--it's open until 10, but most weeks the sign-in sheet closes by 8:30.
Selma is staffed by an energetic and dedicated bunch of mostly young volunteers. "I volunteer most weeks because it's gotten to a point where that's where all my friends are," says Madeline Smith, a twenty-something who works at a conservation nonprofit.