Owner Tony Wiggins and chef Robyn McArthur at Caraway Café and Market are bringing just that idea to Savannah diners.
Located at 5002 Paulsen in the hospital district, Caraway Café and Market offers from-scratch cooking at a price most from-scratch cookers cannot afford themselves.
Its a very good deal for our customers, says McArthur. They can stop in to dine or take out meals ready to eat with ingredients they couldnt purchase for the price of the ready meal.
Wiggins and McArthur opened the restaurant January 19 of this year after Wiggins took the plunge on getting financing for a restaurant plan hed been considering with his wife for three years.
Im a CPA by profession and when layoffs at my company forced me to re-evaluate where I was, I thought Id try it. I just needed someone to embrace the concept and run with it, he says.
That someone is McArthur, whos been in the restaurant business practically her whole life.
Ive been in the restaurant business since I was 18 and my familys in the business, so thats pretty much all Ive known.
Caraway Café and Market offers what McArthur calls chef-crafted meals with seasonal ingredients. The menu includes items both familiar and new to many diners, a trick Wiggins and McArthur use to help lure customers into trying the unfamiliar.
She says, I try to put things on to get people to try something theyve never tried before. I call those items transition pieces to get people to return and maybe try something new they saw someone eat the last time they were in.
McArthur says her favorite items on the summer menu are the Smoked Barbecue Chicken Legs or the Shrimp and Grits. Wiggins loves the Black-Eyed Pea Bula Cakes. Bula is hello in Fijian. McArthur says the Shrimp and Grits will probably stay on the winter menu as well.
I couldnt take it off the menu, she laughs. So many people love it, and if they came in and it wasnt available anymore, Id be drug out into the streets and beaten.
While those items may not sound particularly healthy, most of the dishes are, in fact, healthier than most alternatives people would choose elsewhere. McArthur says as a chef she is very health-conscious and is willing to work individually with customers who are trying to eat special diets. She recommends customers take some time to visit with her to tailor their dishes to their health needs.
The service here is very intimate. I teach people to read labels. I help them make choices about what foods fit their needs. We see a lot of return customers from the service, she says.
And its not just the adults. Wiggins said kids fall in love with McArthurs homemade macaroni and cheese and other dishes, suggesting that kids like good food, too.
Most people just want to see their kids eat anything, he says. I dont know if its just our customers, but their kids seem willing to try things. Theyre just like their parents. They see an item in the case and say, I want to try that and generally like it.
McArthur says another group the restaurant caters to is vegetarians, who often are only offered the choice of steamed or stir-fried vegetables at many restaurants. On a recent Wednesday, Caraway Café and Market offered an excellent veggie quesadilla with black beans and spicy salsa. The Black-Eyed Peas Bula Cakes are also popular items with the vegetarian crowd.
We try and make sure vegetarian meals are done right with a good variety, says McArthur. I emphasize veggies being cooked right.
Another important health item to McArthur is portion size, which she says is a major reason more and more Americans are overweight.
When people go out to eat, often theyre given enough food for four people. Im a real stickler about portion size. People often dont know what a portion size is and when they see the amount of food on their plate they think, That doesnt look like very much. But they never leave here hungry.
In addition to the dine in and take out services, Caraway Café offers catering services and will create picnics and hampers for people to take to the beach or the park for special days.
We want to be for locals who want to do little dinner parties, says Wiggins. We want to be that place locals think of when they need something. Once we do party items for someone and they see the beautiful presentation and taste Robyns food, they come back. People discover were fun and the food is good.
Caraway Café and Market is open Mondays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, take out or catering, call 691-1266.