They had me at hello. (Well, technically, it was “Hi.”)
In one of many delightful small touches at The Big Kitchen, my very first order came packaged in a simple brown paper bag to which this enthusiastic handwritten note was stapled: “Hi Jo! Yay! We’re thrilled about your first order! Thank you & enjoy!”
The Big Kitchen, which opened this January in Scott’s Addition, combines the know-how of the team behind Tazza Kitchen, those aforementioned small touches and a big concept: fully prepared meals ready to heat up at home that are ordered online and then picked up by driving through the big bay door of the space, which was once home to Superior Diesel Engine Repair.
On my first visit, I picked up several items, including The Arugula Celery Salad ($7.99) with celery, arugula, lemon-soaked currants (wonderfully tart) and candied hazelnuts (wonderfully sweet). It’s now my favorite salad in town, replacing — for now, at least — the Kale & Chilies salad with toasted pine nuts in lemon vinaigrette sold at Tazza Kitchen.
The Simple Salad ($5.99), which also appears on the Tazza Kitchen menu, was nicely done with wood oven-baked cherry tomatoes and roasted shallot vinaigrette.
Spicy Sausage and Black Pepper Honey Pizza ($7.99), one of several brick-oven pizzas, is both The Big Kitchen’s most popular pizza and most popular item, period. With its spicy homemade sausage, drizzle of sweet honey and perfectly crisp crust, it’s no surprise why.
Smokehouse BBQ is sold by the pound and half-pound ($13.99 and $7.29). The Chopped Prime Beef Brisket variety was tender and smoky.
Roasted Beets with Peanut Salsa Macha ($4.99) provided an earthy and healthful side dish.
On a second visit, I got the Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup ($10.99). Rather than screaming “CUMIN” as this soup often does, The Big Kitchen’s version was far more complex: a little spicy, a little smoky and deeply flavorful.
Chicken Alfredo ($13.99) featured a generous serving of chicken breast sliced over pasta and Alfredo sauce. When heated, it was enjoyable but could have benefited from more sauce.
Meatloaf ($9.99) made with beef and bacon was pure comfort food and went perfectly with a side of rich Red Skin Mashed Potatoes ($4.49). The meatloaf comes with a choice of shiitake gravy or tangy tomato gravy. (Like the Alfredo sauce, the gravy portion was relatively small and more would have been nice.)
The Big Kitchen’s owners have been promising delivery for a while, and it finally started Monday. Last week, they also opened a smaller version of The Big Kitchen next door to the Tazza Kitchen in Short Pump.
Now, back to the small touches. Adjacent to its drive-thru area, The Big Kitchen has a small and charming retail space with items such as beer and wine, local breads, crackers and The Big Kitchen-branded items, including T-shirts, hats, beer glasses and adorable baby onesies.
Then there’s its commitment to composting, recycling and using compostable materials in much of its packaging. It also offers a take-back program, allowing customers to return their food packaging and have it composted by The Big Kitchen.
When asked about the competition, co-owner Susan Davenport said she doesn’t know of an apples-to-apples comparison to The Big Kitchen, with its drive-thru concept, prepared meals purchased online and 30-minute lead time between ordering and pickup. For that matter, neither do I.
That means it’s well worth a visit for its good food, good pedigree and belief in the power of big ideas and small touches.