HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A new cafe in Hartford is open for business, offering breakfast and lunch. Gather55 feels like a regular restaurant — right up until you go to pay the bill.

The “pay what you can” restaurant is run by the community group Hands on Hartford. Mike Kennedy, a regular at the establishment, said “it’s not just the food, people come here because it’s a safe haven.”

“A lot of places on the street’s very hard,” Kennedy said. “People don’t understand because they don’t live on the streets.”

He noted that Gather55 is an outlet and allows people a place to go and sit. However, the cafe feels nothing like a soup kitchen.

“The Hands on Hartford is so beautiful,” one guest named Milton Shannon said. “It’s like you’re going into a buffet.”

Jason Jakubowski, president and CEO of Connecticut Foodshare, said “people deserve nutritious food.”

“People deserve to be treated with dignity,” Jakubowski said. “That’s what this model does.”

While the breakfast and lunch service is now officially underway, there’s another step coming in the fall with dinner service. Additionally, instead of the regular kitchen staff, there will be a rotating group of world-class chefs, headed by Connecticut’s own Tyler Anderson.

Anderson said that he plans on taking his friends from the area, as well as around the country, to come in and throw in a menu for about a month for a three-course gourmet meal.

The hope is people who can pay quite a bit will come in and help feed those who can’t.

“As somebody who experienced food insecurity as a child, and as a young adult, it’s nice to be able to give back in this way,” Anderson said.

The important thing is, whether people can pay or not, everyone will come together over good food.