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A Taste of Downtown: An Update on the New Taste Project Restaurant Opening Later this Year

The Taste Community Restaurant’s second location opens later this year in Downtown Arlington on Cooper Street, one block south of UTA’s campus and within walking distance from Texas Health Resources Arlington Memorial Hospital. The “pay what you can” restaurant offers chef-prepared meals to communities facing food scarcity and has recently received thousands of donations and volunteer applications thanks to a viral TikTok video.

Picture Courtesy of The Taste Project

When mixed martial artist and renowned TikTok sensation Keith Lee announced to his 16 million followers that he was visiting the DFW metroplex, the city went into a frenzy trying to encourage the influential food critic to visit all their favorite restaurants. While most restaurants received ratings ranging from mediocre to amazing, one restaurant soared above the rest in quality and mission: The Taste Project’s Taste Community Restaurant.

Described as “one of the dopest restaurants [Lee has] ever seen” (which is no small feat for a critic who has travelled across the entire country), Taste Community Restaurant operates on a “give and take” concept. Their menu includes healthy nutritional meals prepared by a local chef, however, there is one caveat: there are no prices. Instead, guests decide how much they pay for each meal based on one of three options:

  1. Pay what you can afford.
  2. Pay what you typically pay.
  3. Pay what you typically pay, plus a little extra.
Picture Courtesy of The Taste Project

The Taste Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded by Julie and Jeff Williams as a solution to the increasing food disparities faced in communities across the nation. One in every six Americans suffer from stress over the very real possibility that they won’t be able to provide for their next meal. Many of these people are forced to decide whether they should spend their paychecks on groceries or bills, as parents are pushed to skip meals to ensure their kids are able to eat.

Having experienced this level of anxiety first-hand himself, Jeff sought to create a destination where food availability is no longer reliant on financial prosperity, replaced, instead, by a restaurant with fresh food available to everyone, regardless of income. Additionally, Taste Community Restaurant is not restricted to only those living in poverty. People from all backgrounds will feel comfortable eating alongside each other as one united community.

@keith_lee125 Taste Project taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic ♬ original sound - Keith Lee
Viral Keith Lee TikTok Video about the Taste Project

After Lee’s visit and subsequent praiseful review, The Taste Project has reported a significant increase in visitors, both those who need a meal and those who can help pay it forward for a neighbor in need. The organization, staffed largely by volunteers, also saw a uptick in volunteer signups with the number of Culinary Job Training Program applications nearly doubling.

The Culinary Job Training Program is a tuition-free, American Culinary Foundation-certified program designed to provide hands-on work experience and critical training for aspiring chefs. This program has seen chefs grow into highly skilled professionals, landing jobs with renowned employers such as Dickies Arena, Marriott Downtown, Stonehouse Fine Dining, Texas Health Resources, Toro Toro Latin Steakhouse, and more. Click here to learn more and take the first steps toward culinary expertise.

The Taste Project is currently accepting donations in support of their new Downtown Arlington location. The restaurant will be located at 200 N. Cooper Street on the border of zip codes 76010 and 76011, identified by the Texas Health Community Health Needs Assessment as areas of the greatest need. The Taste Project has currently completed 80% of their $2.9 million goal, including a $750,000 donation from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation in October 2022.

Consider supporting The Taste Project by donating directly to their Arlington location, or by voting for Downtown Arlington entrepreneur and business owner Valerie Landry in the Rotary Club of Arlington’s “Dancing with the Arlington Stars” dance competition! Landry has been a friend to the community for years and is a massive supporter of philanthropic opportunities in Arlington.

Dancing with the Arlington Stars is a charitable outreach event hosted by the 501(c)3 nonprofit Rotary Club of Arlington, where celebrity dancers from around the city compete in an evening of dancing with 100% of proceeds raised going to the dancers’ chosen charities. This year, Landry is dancing for the Taste Project, a project she has been passionate about since its conception. The inaugural event is set for May 6, 2024 at Texas Live! in Arlington, Texas. Tickets and donations will be available soon. Visit for more information.

To donate, become a volunteer, or find other ways to support the project, please visit Be sure to follow The Taste Project and Downtown Arlington on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and subscribe to the Downtown Arlington Newsletter for more updates.