By: Brian Kendall
What Taste Tastes Like: A Visit to the Pay-What-You-Can Eatery
Taste Community Restaurant owner, Jeff Williams, understands hunger all too well. He grew up in a family of four, and he remembers that his parents would oftentimes skip meals to make sure he and his sister could eat. It was because of these experiences that Williams founded the Taste Project in 2012. Taste Community Restaurant is among the first endeavors to fall under the Taste Project umbrella.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Taste Project was established simply to feed people one community at a time. While there are government programs in place to help, in Tarrant County 36 percent of the food insecure population lives above the poverty level and are not eligible for assistance.
With Jeff working as chef and Julie handling the front of the house, a once-abandoned building in terrible condition at 1200 S. Main St. has slowly blossomed into a philanthropic café amidst the buzzing urban development along West Magnolia Avenue, made up of creatives, millennials and medical professionals.
Taste’s menu includes healthy, high-quality meals with seasonal, local ingredients. No prices are displayed, and diners are asked to choose from one of the following options: 1) Pay what you can afford. 2) Pay what you would typically pay. 3) Pay what you would typically pay, plus a little extra.
Nearly all of the staff are volunteers given the moniker “Taste Buds.” Taste Buds can use their volunteer training and experience to gain employment elsewhere in the community. The Taste Project is also partnering with local workforce training programs already existing in the community to extend their culinary training and provide real-world restaurant experience.
Taste’s dining room is cheery, bright and handsomely decorated with large windows, allowing in ample sunlight. Trendy touches such as exposed brick walls, an open kitchen and attractive potted herbs fit right in with the other eateries on the Near Southside. Butcher block tables and simple white chairs look clean and modern.
One might think that a restaurant providing a majority of its meals at no cost would serve cheap, primitive dishes, but they’d be wrong. On a recent visit, I tried the Croquettes, made with fried potatoes with leek, sundried tomato and bacon served with a lemon garlic aioli. The dish was sophisticated and well executed.
My friend and I also sampled the Spring Salad, which was crisp and fresh with Texas-grown spring greens, avocado, bacon and Greek yogurt dressing; and the Bacon and Green Tomato Sandwich was crunchy and tart. The menu selection at this pay-what-you-can restaurant is surprisingly eclectic. Even the cherry almond blondie we had for dessert was over the top with a dreamy bourbon caramel sauce.
Although Taste has started simply with a small, seasonally changing menu served during lunchtime only, Williams says that his goal for this hopeful hub in the Fort Worth community is that it’s self-sustaining in five years with the possibility to add more locations. There are also plans for a Taste Truck that will be able to reach individuals living in food deserts who may not have the means to get to the restaurant.
Taste Community Restaurant
Location: 1200 S. Main St.
For Info: 817.759.9045, tasteproject.org
Hours: Tue.-Sun. 11am-2pm