If you like southern style food and good home cooked meals, Tamitha Holloway will get you fixed right up. She is the new proprietor of Southern Girl Café at the Wichita Falls Regional Airport.
A small town girl, Tamitha graduated from Graham High School in 1989, went to college at TWU in Denton, continued her studies at Midwestern State University, and then moved to the DFW metroplex where she worked for a financial company and had a catering business for 20 years. When she divorced ten years ago, she and her son moved back to Wichita Falls to be close to her family. She landed a good job in an attorney’s office, and her son liked it here, she met her fiancé, and it seemed like the opportunities just kept coming to do other things, so she ended up staying.
“I didn’t start off catering when I moved back,” Tamitha says. “It was a lot to do for one person. There were a lot of requirements by the city, and trying to compete with other restaurants and catering businesses made it difficult in the beginning. I’ve always been a baker and I’ve always catered. When I moved here it took a lot longer to get started. So, I worked as a legal assistant for Monte J. White for ten years, and on the side, I started a bartending and event staffing business where I would provide service people for weddings and events. As that grew I started doing a little catering here and there, and a few years later I went to a city approved kitchen downtown. And when the opportunity came at the airport, I quit my job and started doing this full-time.”
Although she has extensive catering and business experience, Tamitha admits that owning a restaurant is a whole different ballgame. “It’s been a big adventure so far. I’m learning a lot. Food costs, labor, sales- restaurants are totally different. In catering you know what you’re cooking, how many you’re cooking for, and you know when you’re cooking for them. In a restaurant you don’t know who is going to show up, if they’re going to show up, and what they will want to order. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But anything is what you make of it. I’ve always been a go-getter so I’m taking advantage of every opportunity the city has given me to be successful.”
The southern home-cooked style food she prepares are family recipes. “I grew up learning to cook with my grandmothers, aunts, and people in my family. Everything I did with my family was always around food- family reunions, fish fries, barbecues- but that’s how I started learning how to cook. Southern Girl came from that. All the recipes are family recipes, things I had when I was growing up. I cook what I like to eat- fried chicken, chicken fried steak, catfish, and things like that, and that’s how it all came together. The fried chicken is my mother’s recipe, the collard greens is from my aunt. Different things I took from my family and I put it all together to make it work. I thought, we do this all the time for family, why not do it all the time and make some money doing it.”
“And I make a lot of desserts, too,” she adds. “Peach cobbler, 7-up pound cake, and I have a new dessert I call Big Bear Pecan Bread. It is named after my father-in-law, Big Bear, and he loved pecans, so I named it after him.”
I asked Tamitha what her top seller is, and not surprisingly she said, “Chicken fried steak. And the crazy part about that is I wasn’t even going to put it on the menu. I was thinking that you can get chicken fried steak anywhere, why bother. But my fiancé (who is a cattle rancher in Loving, Texas) told me that I have to. I will be married to a cattle rancher and we sell cattle. I get my steak from Red Barn Butcher, and, as it turns out, it is the biggest seller.
“And my catfish- people love my catfish. I’m a fried chicken person so that’s one of my favorites.”
Southern Girl also has a special Sunday brunch menu, too. “We have a Sunday special where I highlight a southern dish or cuisine that is not on our everyday menu. Of course, we have burgers and fries, fish, salads, pasta, things like that. But on Sundays I get to play. I get to do things I really like to do that aren’t on our regular menu.”
Tamitha keeps eight items on the menu and changes it up on occasion. She started with the basic things and as she got into it more started adding new items to see what sells. “And everything sells,” she exclaims. “I will put a new item on for a time to see what the public is going to like and see what their feedback is, and it’s been really good- especially the desserts. People love the desserts!”
The kitchen is where Tamitha feels most comfortable. With a great wait staff to take care of the customers she rarely sees how many people are in the dining room. “When my fiancé comes in on Sundays, he tells me that the dining room is full and to come out and talk to the people, but I stay in the kitchen. That’s where I like to be. As long as the food is good and the service is good, I’m fine.”
Although she misses DFW, being here is good. “I appreciate the opportunity the city has given me. When they first came to me I wasn’t sure I would be able to do this. But the city has been great and it’s an opportunity I am taking full advantage of. There’s a lot I can do here and I’m going to do all that I can. So far, so good!”
So if you get a hankerin’ for some great home cooked southern style food, come on out to the Southern Girl Café in the Wichita Falls Regional Airport. Maybe you can draw Tamitha out of the kitchen long enough to say hello.