San Diego-Based Nonprofit Restaurant Concept Make Projects Opening New Location In North Park

October 30, 2023

Taking over the North Park space previously occupied by Crushed and Swami's before that is Make Projects, a San Diego-based nonprofit restaurant concept where low-income refugee and immigrant women & youth gain job readiness skills to prepare them for the workforce.

Founded by executive director Anchi Mei, who started MAKE Projects as a pilot employment social enterprise within International Rescue Committee back in 2017, MAKE Projects is a restaurant concept to bring the non-profit's vision to life. In addition to offering a menu of "globally-inspired, locally-sourced" cuisine, the cafe serves as an important job readiness platform for participants who work in the kitchen, café and farm. 

"Our vision is globally-diverse, socially-inclusive San Diego that elevates immigrant voices and brings people together across cultural lines around a common love of food," explained MAKE Projects founder Anchi Mei. "Our restaurant celebrates the culinary background of our refugee and immigrant job training participants, and combines their flavors and homecooking techniques with the best of local ingredients from our own farm and other San Diego farmers and fisherfolk. All the restaurant proceeds go back to sustaining the program. Our motto is Eat Well, Do Good." 

At MAKE Projects, the trainees enter into a 10- to 12-week paid work experience to build their resume, learn skills and then MAKE Project's employment team helps them find jobs after they graduate from the program. For many, this is their very first job so the company creates a warm, inclusive space for the mostly-refugee and immigrant women and youth participants to gain real skills and grow their confidence. 

In 2019, Chef Andrew Gerdes joined the MAKE Projects while it was still primarily a small catering company doing sandwiches and veggie platters. Andrew has 15+ years of culinary training and fine dining experience in New York City. When the pandemic hit, Andrew helped craft the restaurant vision and the adult training program put out a weekly takeaway family meal that featured a different country and did not repeat a menu for a whole year. Today, the MAKE Café is a whole team of staff ranging from farming, restaurant/hospitality, nonprofit social work as well as amazing industry advisors that has operated for the past year-plus at an entirely outdoor setting located within an urban farm in North Park. 

A new location of MAKE Projects will soon open in the unit last occupied by Crushed in San Diego's North Park. The restaurant will offer a menu that includes dishes like Seared Halloumi, House Made Milk Bread French Toast and Afghan Chicken Tacos. The Persian Smashburger and North African Shakshuka are also big hits that will remain on the menu. The restaurant will also serve wine, beer and mixed drinks. MAKE Projects Cafe will initially offer weekend brunch with plans to add Thursday and Friday dinners in the new year.

The new restaurant will also include a retail corner with a plant nursery and farm-based products like infused oils, vinegars, syrups and balms, all created by the youth trainees and using farm ingredients. MAKE Project’s small 30th Street farm will have its last day of business on November 4 and then will be relocating to a 1-acre farm at SDSU Mission Valley next to the trolley station which will increase its farm production by four. 

Make Projects will soft open on November 11 at 2920 University Avenue in San Diego's North Park. For more information, visit