Coast Cuisine - September 2019
-Story by Lisa Monti, photos by Lisa Monti and The Savage Skillet
Chef Tara Davis’s Savage Skillet started out in 2017 as a full-service catering business that found success with its customized menus for large and small events such as weddings and business meetings. Her goal was – and still is – to make every gathering and get together enjoyable and memorable, accented with delicious food, from small plates to dessert.
Earlier this year, Chef Tara branched out and opened a restaurant storefront at her catering location. Wednesday through Saturday, she now serves breakfast and lunch along with grab-and-go items, all created with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Everything happens in the location just off Highway 90 and next door to the Post Office.
The new venture was a big step, creating the space and the menus that rotate for variety and to take advantage of locally available ingredients. The ingredients are sourced from local farms, markets and a nearby meat market.
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“Time has flown,” said Tara, looking back at the storefront opening four months ago. “We’ve been very well received and supported well by the community.”
Many customers have become regulars, and orders from offices for carry-out meals are routine. And word of mouth keeps bringing in new customers.
Tara’s culinary education, training and experience shows in both her menus and her dishes. She honed her skills with award-winning chefs and on several Texas venues. The Savage Skillet logo with a cast iron skillet and a sharp knife shows her reliance on the basics for preparing good food.
“First and foremost, we use locally-sourced foods as much as possible,” she said.
The day starts early, around 5 am, for the all-female crew to get everything ready for the doors to open. That way, Tara says, customers know that when they come in, they’re going to get something “made fresh and not frozen, from local sources and as seasonal as possible.”
The selections are almost all comfort food, reminiscent of meals that make for happy memories. “Meat loaf like your grandmother made,” she said.
Tara doesn’t believe in disguising or masking any one ingredient in a dish. “I personally love for ingredients to stand out and for you to get every flavor all the way through. I want it to all be a star.”
Savage Skillet customers have plenty of options at the storefront, which is open Wednesday through Saturday from 6:30 am to 6 pm. There’s a variety of breakfast items available at 6:30 am, with daily specials ready at 7:30 am.
The full daily menu is available from 9 am to 3 pm. If you’re not grabbing something before work or during your lunch hour, you can settle into the restaurant’s roomy dining area to enjoy your meal.
The restaurant is an open, welcoming setting, nothing fancy by design, she says. “It’s really an easy place to come in and have an elevated eating experience without it being overwhelming or intimidating.”
Breakfast choices vary including stuffed croissants, a French toast sandwich, fruit and yogurt parfaits and various freshly baked muffins. Assorted breakfast tacos with house-made salsas are always available. Breakfast costs $3 to $5.95.
The lunch menu changes daily but always features two lunch items, starting at $5.95 and topping out at $11.95. (You can subscribe to receive the weekly menu at https://www.savageskillet.com/.)
Recent lunch offerings included a pork chop with mashed sweet potatoes and wilted spinach, three hand pies and salad, and steak or mushroom and pasta in a cream sauce.
The convenience of prepared meals seems to appeal most to Savage Skillet customers. “The grab-and-go case is the most popular, hands down,” Tara said. The offerings are perfect for a picnic for two, a brown bag lunch or a weekend’s worth of meals for families staying in a vacation rental or a second home.
“We keep everything on hand, from specialty items to staples like chicken salad, black bean salad, sandwiches, wraps and soups,” Tara said.
Soups are a runaway favorite with Savage Skillet customers. Recently Tara prepared Mexican pozole, lemon chicken, bisque, gazpacho, plus perennial favorites chicken noodle and steak and potato.
“We also do meal prep for families and individuals,” she said. The meal prep is made to order for individuals who want to order a couple or more items. Back to school is a great time to get some help with meal planning.
“Also, if they have certain dietary needs or desires, we can come up with a menu for them.” No matter what you get, “it’s seasonal and local, always fresh from scratch every day.”
Patrons will also be tempted by regional products on display, like salsas, rices, hot sauce, spices and coffee. And dog owners can pick up all-natural, no-preservative treats from Friends of the Animal Shelter, which receives 100 percent of the Savage Skillet sales. Tara even donates $1 for every box of treats sold.
Savage Skillet offers full service catering year-round, and every six or eight weeks Tara puts together a special culinary after-hours evening event to showcase local products and pairing. The next one will be in late September. The same space is available for meetings or other group events.
In a short time, Savage Skillet has become a go-to known for tasty comfort food and fresh, creative dishes. “It’s really nice to be supported by our neighbors,” Tara says. “We always wanted to be the neighborhood stop and hope to continue to build on it.”