When time is limited, just the idea of preparing a home-cooked meal is enough to send some of us over the edge. Whether it's because of late nights at the office, a soccer game after school, or just avoiding the kitchen in general, modern life requires some kind of fast food option. But with our sophisticated palates and nutritional requirements, we'd like more than just a burger that's been kept warm under a heat lamp. To satisfy both busy families and single foodies, gourmet to-go shops are popping up all across Charleston, run and staffed by food professionals who know just what you want for dinner.
Quality and Community
Growing up in his family's New Jersey restaurant, Ted Dombrowski of Ted's Butcherblock decided to put his passion for food to work in a different way. After a lot of research, Dombrowski opened Ted's Butcherblock two years ago. "Our goal is to provide restaurant quality food at home," Dombrowski says. "We use the same quality ingredients in our gourmet to-go items as we sell on our shelves," he says. Aside from staple menu items, Ted's offers a monthly themed menu, which focuses on different international flavors, something Ted enjoys introducing to his customers. Tried and true items include a creamy and flavorful three-year Gouda mac and cheese ($6/lb.), twice-baked potatoes ($6/lb.), and house-smoked chicken ($7/half). All gourmet to-go entrees and sides are made fresh daily, and for those who wish to shop in advance, Ted's offers vacuum-packed items, as well as local pasta maker Rio Bertolini's products, which freeze well. According to Dombrowski, gourmet to-go makes up about a quarter of the business at Ted's and is on the increase. "Consumers are becoming more educated on ingredients and looking for more quality options," he says. What's next for the Butcherblock? Low calorie selections and delivery service.
334 East Bay St.
Southern Home Cooking
Operating Savory Market for the past 10 years, sisters Angie and Traci Colyer have found an avid fanbase on James Island. While the business initially focused on catering, Savory Market was re-launched this fall to focus more heavily on gourmet to-go, which presently makes up about 30 percent of the business and counting, according to Traci. "We spent a lot of time researching what would freeze well, so that people could stop in and pick up a week's worth of meals if they wanted," Traci says. Home-style southern cooking is the Savory sisters' main focus with favorites such as their tangy and rich tomato pie ($15), shrimp and artichoke casserole ($12/small; $18/medium; $40/large), and seafood lasagna ($12/small; $18/medium; $40/large). According to Traci, Savory's gourmet to-go customers are varied. "We have a lot of families and older customers who live at home alone," she says. "Our goal is to help make our customers' lives a little easier by providing home-cooked meals, even for one," Traci says. Although Savory will always have plenty of their southern favorites, the sisters are working on some healthy and vegetarian options for early 2008.
Savory Market and Catering Company
1956B Maybank Hwy.
Local Is Best
As if being a master pie-maker was not enough, Sublime Pies & Cakes' Tamlyn Willard decided to take her food business even further. In July of last year, Tamlyn launched Homegrown Grocery inside Sublime's small Avondale storefront. The focus of Homegrown is to promote local South Carolina products such as produce, meats, cheeses, and eggs, all straight from the farm. Homegrown uses the same farm-fresh ingredients sold on its shelves to create some pretty tasty meals such as chicken enchiladas ($10/2 people) and buffalo chicken ($10/2 people). This successful homage to wings contains chicken, cream cheese, loads of cheddar, and some kickin' hot sauce — a crowd favorite. "Moms and professionals make up a lot of our business," Willard says. December offers a set menu, but Homegrown's regular menu changes weekly and is e-mailed to customers in advance for convenience. Although pies make up a majority of the business, according to Willard, she is looking to expand Homegrown's offerings for 2008 and is presently working on a website. Better yet, you can pick up a fresh local dinner and one of Sublime's famous cakes or pies for dessert all in the same location.
829-A Savannah Hwy.
Bringing Families to the Table
After purchasing the Square Onion from its original owners six years ago, husband and wife team Mary and Cary Zapatka, along with their crew of restaurant veterans, have established a Mt. Pleasant fixture. With an expanded space and a revamped gourmet to-go selection, the Square Onion offers a wide variety of casseroles, which customers can purchase both frozen or thawed, as well as entrées, side dishes, and desserts. Mary says customers come from all over Charleston to the I'On location to sample the Onion's coveted Chicken Divan ($8/mini; $16/small; $48 large), with lots of tender chicken, broccoli, cheddar, breadcrumbs, and a signature creamy sauce. Meatloaf ($9 per loaf) and crab cakes ($4.58 per cake) are popular items and healthy choices such as edamame salad (by the pound) and grilled vegetables (by the pound) are what keep patrons coming back for more. "We want to bring people back to the dinner table," Mary says. For 2008, Zapatka plans to increase the Square Onion's focus on gourmet to-go, which presently makes up about 30 percent of their business. "Gourmet to-go is a trend that is here to stay," Mary says. "Bringing people to the table reminds us why we do what we do."
The Square Onion
188 Resolute Lane