The Summer of Skillet: Skillfully Executed Rustic Urban Food
Posted by cmh gourmand on July 26, 2010
Skillet is a family affair. Angela (mom), Patrick (son) and Kevin (dad) Caskey call the shots at this Ingredient Driven, Comfort Food with an Edge dining destination. The Caskey’s know their way in the restaurant business due to their connection Banana Bean Cafe (the original Banana Bean was housed in the confines of Skillet World Headquarters) and many other restaurants. They all have their roles. Dad creates the concepts. Father and son execute the concepts – without doing the same to each other and mom keeps it all together by keeping the focus on the customer while the boys are playing with their food.
Skillet started slow in the late fall: small menu and short hours. The plan was a soft opening…not happening when the food enthusiasts of Columbus are awaiting your arrival. The buzz on Skillet was fast and furious. The Foodarazzi desire local food, seasonal ingredients, simple preparation without pretense and lots of pork. Skillet delivered. In fact, Team Caskey and Skillet sizzled with support from the likes of: the Press; Columbus Foodie; Hungry Woolf; Columbus Foodcast and Columbus Underground.
So as you can see and read, it was a good winter and spring for Skillet. But wait there is more. On Earth Day, Skillet launched their mobile kitchen to take comfort food to the masses. Skillet on wheels hits the road with three to four dishes which can be prepped and cooked on the fly. The mobile kitchen has most frequently appeared in the parking lot of O’Reilly’s Auto Parts in Olde North Columbus (at N. High Street and Hudson). The adventures and appearances of the mobile kitchen can be followed best on twitter at: @SkilletRustic. Columbus is quickly growing a diverse and strong mobile food scene with Skillet on the crest of the wave that will probably hit with tsunami force next spring.
So with all of this activity what are the gang at Skillet doing…expanding their hours by adding a few evenings of service at the restaurant and by moving from counter service to servers, or at least exploring that possibility. They make their own hot sauce for sale too.
In the first few months when this was a three person show, Patrick was acclimated to 18+ hours days of foraging, prepping, cooking, serving and closing the restaurant. They have a few staff on board now, which allows him to spread the gospel of porchetta sandwiches to the streets of Columbus.
So why is all of this rustic, urban food so good? Because it is simple. Because it is ingredient driven (which means you make what you can make with what is fresh, local, and in season so that the food shapes the menu not vice versa.) And because the people that cook the food can see your reaction to it when you eat it – that is an incentive not to muck it up and to keep pushing for better everything. The menu changes fairly frequently, so I will not torture you with mouth-watering descriptions of menu items you may never have. You will have to take my word for it and you can take a peek at the Skillet website as well as watch their twitter feed for what they have cooking.
So why is this the summer of Skillet? Simple – experience and variety are teaming up to knock things up a notch or three. The Caskey’s have been at the ingredient driven menu game for almost a year now so they have worked out any kinks. Summer is the season of ingredients. In the early days of Skillet the mainstays of the menu were pork (no complaints), seasonal produce (Ohio has some limits in the winter time) plus what they had pickled, canned, foraged or McGuyvered. It is now open season for creativity, a time of endless ingredients and maybe some greatest hits from the boys in the kitchen. Therefore, I am excited for what the summer holds. Caskey’s please park the mobile kitchen at my Beechwold address.
But wait there is more. Columbus likes to have positive national exposure for our food community and we recently got it by having Skillet on the PBS documentary, Breakfast Special (with Rick Sebak). I wish my fair city had the passion about our excellent food scene that it has for OSU Football, if so, we could be national champions in the restaurant arena as well.
410 East Whittier Street