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York's Taste Test is growing, gaining new home

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York's “Taste Test Pop-Up Restaurant Series” has taken off beyond what Allison Witherow could have imagined when she helped start the contest about a year ago, she said.

Now, the restaurant series is growing, adding new partners and moving to a new, larger space.

It also is planning to field more than the four finalists it originally planned in a competition designed to select a new, permanent downtown York eatery.

Taste Test’s new York location is at 101-105 S. Duke St., in the Royal Square district, site of the former Glazin' Donuts.

“Taste Test has grown into a larger beast than we could have imagined,” said Witherow, who began the restaurant series with business partner Toni Calderone.

“The project has grown larger than the original competition between four concepts,” she said Monday. The concepts are vying for the chance to open a new permanent 33 N. Beaver St. restaurant.

Taste Test officials had been holding casting calls out of the North Beaver St. location, in which aspiring restaurant owners would pitch their ideas.

Winning pitches then moved onto auditions. The would-be restaurateurs present their concepts to the public, for one or two weekends, out of YorKitchen, a shared-kitchen incubator in York. 

The new Royal Square location has enough space for organizers to run auditions and pop-ups simultaneously, Witherow said. 

“Concepts that ‘pop up’ and are well-received will then have an opportunity, with our assistance, to seek community funding to open a ‘permanent restaurant,’” she noted.

The 101-105 S. Duke St. location was renovated last year, and is now being “tweaked” to fit the needs of the restaurant series project - a neutral space with “retro” accents that will allow each restaurant concept to shine through, Witherow continued.

She envisions “an infinite number of finalists,” so it’s not clear yet when someone might move into the final North Beaver Street location, she said.

At the new Royal Square site, Taste Test plans to operate its own mini restaurant.

“We’re excited to be in a space that allows us to stretch our wings and continue to mentor aspiring restaurateurs on their concepts, all while engaging with the community and diversifying the dining scene in downtown York,” she also said.

With the expansion into the new space, Taste Test also has added two partners to guide the project’s mentorship aspect, Witherow said. They are:

  • Jordan Pfautz, co-owner of Baron Von Schwein and York City Pretzel Co. restaurants, both on York’s Market Street. He will be Taste Test’s director of entrepreneurship.
  • Robert Faucette, a 13-year veteran of the restaurant industry, will serve as Taste Test’s director of operations.

Witherow and Calderone had received a grant from YorIt, a division of the York County Community Foundation. The Taste Test initiative also includes a partnership with York College’s Department of Hospitality Management, allowing students hands-on experience in developing and running various restaurant concepts, Witherow said.

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David O'Connor

David O'Connor

Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at doconnor@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @DaveOC_CPBJ.

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