Vallejo restaurant, rapper LaRussell offering 'pay-what-you-want' menu to build community

The cafe is allowing customers to eat-what-they-want and pay-whatever-they-want -- all for a good cause.

Dion Lim Image
Saturday, October 22, 2022
Vallejo cafe, rapper LaRussell offer 'pay-what-you-want' menu
Vallejo's Momo's Cafe is taking prices off it's menu until the end of the year - an idea dreamed up by a Vallejo rapper LaRussell for the community.

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) -- A restaurant in the East Bay is taking prices off it's menu until the end of the year. It's an idea, dreamed up by a Vallejo rapper and entrepreneur, wanting to give back to his hometown.

LaRussell Thomas, who goes by his stage name of LaRussell, squeals with joy in a video he recorded after the renovation at Momo's Cafe in Vallejo was near completion. "Yeaaaaahhhhh! We seee it!!!!" He beams.

The excitement in the rapper and entrepreneur voice is not just over the renovation which he funded in his hometown, but for what's about to happen Monday morning.

"We're allowing the public to come in and eat-what-they-want and pay-whatever-they-want and what it's worth to them. The people who can't afford it can eat for free," he said, smiling.

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Under his company's "Good Com-Penny" ethos of "pay-what-you-want" for music and merchandise, that same concept will go into play at Momo's cafe until the end of the year. It's way he says to build and grow community.

"Vallejo isn't a place people travel all over to be at. But it's becoming that place if we're building infrastructure. It's a necessary thing - so it's a place we want to love and want to live in."

LaRussell started with the idea during the pandemic hosting pop-up versions called "proud 2 pay" brunches at Momo's. It was a hard time for the restaurant industry according to co-owner Manny Melendrez. But there was no hesitation in saying yes.

"It was beautiful - the community came out people came from out of state, as far as San Jose, everywhere. It brought our community and cities together it was beautiful, says Manny, who is not only a partner with LaRussell but also a fan of his music. The two became friends after LaRussell started frequenting the restaurant for it's signature chicken and waffles and huevos rancheros.

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This is also a homecoming for Manny who moved the restaurant from South San Francisco to serve his hometown. Both he and LaRussell have no worries about profits at this point.

"Everything will work, out the community will be here for us so it's a beautiful thing," says Melendrez.

All the pair want is to give back to the place that raised them.

LaRussell sums it up: "We're just doing the right thing and they're nothing to take advantage of - we're giving from the heart that is our pure intention."

You can visit LaRussell's Good Compenny website here and learn more about Momo's Cafe on Instagram here.

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