Dawn and Tom Dittus solidly have taken the reins at Take 2: A Resonance Café, and they seem to be off on one of the most enjoyable rides of their lives.
“Working with the staff is very rewarding,” Dawn said. “We have the ability to make a difference in women’s lives, but in reality, they are changing ours.”
Take 2 is part of the Choose to Change program of Resonance Center for Women. It is staffed by formerly incarcerated women who are making the transition back to a normal life.
Tom Dittus, longtime restaurateur and founder of Blue Rose Café, was named general manager in April and took over in May while he and Dawn still were operating the year-old Swamp House on Third Street. They closed it in June.
“It was a difficult but necessary decision for everybody,” he said. “The Swamp House was just starting to get traction, too, but three months into the pandemic with no income, we couldn’t keep it going.
“The Take 2 opportunity was something that just rolled right into our laps. We've enjoyed getting to know a lot of the downtown workers, and we are glad to see we are getting some of our former Swamp House customers. They like to come on Tuesdays for the blackened shrimp and cheese grits.”
The blackened shrimp and grits is among a few dishes that have been added to the menu so far. Much of the menu, including the popular prime rib sandwich, was adopted from the original operators, Susan and Tom Butcher, when Take 2 opened its doors in March 2016.
“Tom and Susan had awesome stuff, and we aren’t going to mess with that too much,” Tom Dittus said. “We will have an updated, seasonal menu ready to roll in two or three weeks.”
We recently stopped in for lunch. We were happy to see the tables were spaced for proper social distancing and all sanitizing recommendations were being observed.
We had the Riggs Abney prime rib au jus ($10.99), the Stacked Deck sandwich ($10.99) and the French dip ($9.89).
The hand-cut prime rib was as good as ever. We lucked into some rare slices — our favorite for prime rib — with au jus and horseradish on a French roll. We asked Dawn to add a touch of mayo with the horseradish, and it was perfect.
The French dip on a buttered and toasted French baguette served with au jus also was terrific. We were told it has become the top seller among the sandwiches.
The Stacked Deck was right down my alley with roast beef, salami, turkey, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, lettuce, tomato and mayo on a French roll.
I upgraded my side from kettle chips to beef chili ($2), and it was worth it. The meaty chili had some cooked-in veggies and just a little heat on the finish. We ended up getting a quart to take home.
The kettle chips with the prime rib and a mixed-greens side salad were fine.
Dawn is doing the pies now, and slices of signature chocolate almond and peanut butter pies ($4.95, half-price on Fridays) topped with thick layers of whipped cream were rich and flavorful. Whole pies are half-price on Fridays, too, but it’s good to order a day ahead of time.
In addition to salads, soups and sandwiches, Take 2 also offers loaded spuds. The Veg Head vegan spud has been popular.
Daily specials include grilled cheese and tomato bisque, Monday; blackened shrimp with cheese and green chili grits, Tuesday; corned beef or turkey Reuben, Wednesday; chicken bacon ranch or prime rib quesadillas, Thursday; and half-price pies, Friday.
The nonprofit Take 2 is available for catering, and the restaurant can be rented for private functions.
Tom Dittus said when the pandemic is over, Take 2 likely will return to its original format of customers going down a cafeteria-like line to get their food and pay. For now, diners order and pay at the cash register, and food is brought to the tables.
“It was a little tough taking over right in the middle of the pandemic,” Dittus said. “But we’ve had a steady stream of improved business. It will be a lot better when downtown comes to life a little more.”
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