Restaurant with a Purpose Pops Up in Dallas

Maggiano's Little Italy transformed into C21 for a one-night only restaurant experience entirely staffed by those with Down Syndrome and other disabilities.

The goal of C21, a pop up dining experience which is staffed entirely by self-advocates with Down syndrome and other disabilities, is to demonstrate to the world that these individuals are ready, willing and able to work.(Photo: Sarah Pebworth)

C21 is not your average pop-up restaurant: The name comes from the extra twenty-first chromosome that people with Down Syndrome are born with.

The unique dining experience, traveling to cities across the country, popped up in Dallas in December. The private event, staffed entirely by people with Down syndrome, was hosted at Maggiano’s Little Italy at NorthPark Center in Dallas. C21 means to showcase the abilities that individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities have.

“We often hear the phrase ‘everything is bigger in Texas,'” Sara Hart Weir, National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) President and CEO, said in a release. She noted that couldn’t have been more true than when C21 landed in Dallas: “C21 helps showcase to the world in a ‘big way’ the real abilities that individuals with Down syndrome bring to the workplace.”

NDSS is dedicated to demonstrating that our future workforce should be integrated, diverse and inclusive, she said.

The organization advocates for equal rights for all individuals with Down syndrome through C21. A major part of C21 is the #LawSyndrome campaign, which aims to fix a series of laws that impede an individual with Down Syndrome’s pursuit of a career or living independently due to the risk of losing Medicaid benefits.  National Down Syndrome Society is a human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome. 

“Down syndrome doesn’t stop or define individuals with Down syndrome—it’s really archaic, outdated laws that do.”
Sara Hart Weir

“Down syndrome doesn’t stop or define individuals with Down syndrome—it’s really archaic, outdated laws that do,” Weir told Guide Live.

Blake Pyron, the first self-advocate living with Down Syndrome to open a Texas business, also attended and helped open the night.

Guests received goody bags filled with products sold by U.S. self-advocates, including a pair of socks from John’s Crazy Socks. The recipients of this company’s socks are in good company as the late President George H. W. Bush also owned the same pair. What makes this tribute even more touching is that the C21 event happened on the same day that the late 41st president was honored by the country for the final time. 

Dallas isn’t the only city that has hosted this pop-up restaurant. Other cities include Washington D.C. and New York City with Dallas being C21’s latest stop.

Want to know more? Here’s a story from Zoe Epstein about her experience working at C21 Dallas.

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