Chefs Derrick and Laquonta Clark have got their eyes on the prize. At a ribbon cutting yesterday at the Southern College of Optometry's fourth floor, they officially opened A Square Meal Café & Catering in partnership with Chef Quan Anderson.
The Clarks opened their food truck, A Square Meal on Wheels, about a decade ago, and over the years have established several brick and mortar locations. Anderson is the owner of Aspiring Meal School Meals Dining Services, and has an extensive background in both kitchen-work and catering. Both the Clarks and Anderson were interested in the fourth-floor vacancy at SCO when it became available, and they pitched a dual-concept restaurant/catering business to the school.
“In just one night, we got our RFP together and came in to interview,” says Laquonta Clark. “We had been discussing a partnership with Chef Quan a few years back, so when we found out that he had interviewed for the space as well, my husband suggested we team together, and we love it so far.” With the restaurant up and running, Derrick handles the kitchen, Laquonta handles administration, and Anderson is in charge of catering.
Derrick Clark calls his menu simple, but it covers breakfast and lunch dishes including a salmon club sandwich, Philly cheesesteaks, pizza, southwestern chicken egg rolls. Meanwhile, a separate section has plenty of pre-prepared meals (think salads, sandwiches, fruit cups, desserts) to grab when in a hurry.
From Tuesday to Friday, A Square Meal mixes it up with specials. “We got Taco Tuesday. Wednesday we might do wings or lasagna,” says Derrick Clark. “On Thursday, we do a soulful meat and two. Different meats, different fresh vegetables from greens to asparagus, and everything in between. Friday is catfish, in everything from po’boys, to blackened, to deep-fried.”
The SCO branch is A Square Meal’s fourth physical location, but the Clarks aren’t worried about splitting time between their establishments. “Once we get our restaurants up and running, they’re pretty self-sufficient,” Derrick Clark says. “We also like to give opportunities to culinary students, so we’ve hired a few students from L’école Culinaire, and also have an intern from Escoffier [School of Culinary Arts].”
On the catering side of things, Chef Anderson is flexible in his approach. He can service large gatherings, or create individual boxed lunches for a large group. “Our menu has a variety of things, but we also allow you to build your own catering,” he says. “We’re open to suggestions, and we’re not locked in to just one menu.”
With things off to a great start, the trio hopes that the partnership can be the beginning of a new venture. “We want this to be a foundation where we’ll be recognized as the city’s first local-contract food service company,” says Anderson. “We’re going to try to expand and see if we can work with private or public schools; really, whoever wants us to use our gifts and our talent to serve meals to their kids. I do have a school background as a private school chef, so I’m familiar with that territory.”
A Square Meal Café & Catering is open Monday-Friday for breakfast (7:30–10 a.m.) and lunch (11 a.m.–3:30 p.m.). email@example.com; 901-722-3289. Southern College of Optometry, 1245 Madison Ave.