Auntie Tam’s Brings ‘Home’ to Kirtland Community
By Donna L. Robinson
Did you ever have an aunt who meant the world to you — who, when you visited, not only opened her door with welcoming arms and heart, but provided a healthy meal?
That was the vision and mission of Tammara and her husband, Curtis Banks, owners of Auntie Tam Signature Salads, Soups and Slushies, when they opened their business at 9183 Chillicothe Road in Kirtland last September.
After working out of her home for a while, Tammara said the business was getting too large for the house.
“My husband came home and said that he found us a place for our restaurant,” she said during a recent interview. “Mike from Mike’s Market in Kirtland informed me that a place was available a few doors down from him. At that time, I was one of his delivery drivers. I then retired from MetroHealth after working there for 22 years. Cooking was always a passion of mine. Little did I know, one day when my friend Amber came over and asked me to make her a salad for lunch … that this would open my eyes to making them for others. I used to bring salads to work, when we had a party. So, once I finished making a yummy salad for Amber, she posted it on Facebook and the rest is history.”
Tammara and Curtis thought opening their restaurant in Kirtland was a good choice, as it was a nice location directly across from Kirtland Schools.
“Healthy food and salads are good for all ages,” she said. “If we start children off at a young age teaching them about healthy eating habits by providing them small junior portions, it benefits the kids to develop those healthy eating habits. The same goes for seniors and small meal eaters. We also provide kids snack packs.”
She added, “Sometimes if I’m cooking something at Auntie Tam, I’ll give out samples of my cooking. You know that you can always get a taste of good food at your favorite auntie’s house. I have always enjoyed cooking and catering events, from planning and cooking food for birthday parties, weddings, at the homes of people and also going-away events over the years.”
Auntie Tam Signature Salads, Soups and Slushies provides a Mediterranean house mix, spinach or iceberg lettuce with unlimited fresh toppings, such as protein toppings like black Angus steak, Alaskan snow crab lump meat, salmon, chicken breast tenderloins, turkey off the bone, jumbo scampi, lobster tails, and thick-cut bacon.
“We keep four to five soups in rotation, such as lobster bisque, clam chowder, seafood gumbo, broccoli and cheese, and baked-potato soup. I do take suggestions for both salad and soup ideas,” Tammara said, adding the “Auntie Tam Signature Chicken Salad” is one of the favorites on the menu because it is seasoned and the chicken is always tender and juicy.
However, Tammara said the “Hungry Hornet Signature Steak Salad” — appropriately named in Kirtland — is a close second due to the fact the Angus steaks are seasoned and cooked to the customers’ desired temperature. It comes with the house salad mix, up to six ounces of black Angus steak, fries, croutons, eggs, and cheese.
“At Auntie Tam, when your food is done, we provide the customers with a smell-a-vision. We open the box, let the customer smell and see the master-piece-work-of-art,” Tammara said. “Each salad is put together up front, then it’s sent back to me in the kitchen. That’s where the ‘Signature’ comes in. I cut up, slice, and arrange each salad according to what toppings they have on their salad. That’s why no two salads look exactly alike. I always put my signature touch on them.”
Since Aunty Tam is so close to the schools in Kirtland, Tammara said a few faculty members and kids have stopped by. “The kids love my homemade macaroni and cheese and the slushies are a hit, too,” she said. “If a kid comes in with their friends and they don’t have money to purchase a slushy, I always let them get one. I never turn down the kids. I added the slushy machine for the kids. And while I have their attention, I always encourage them about healthy eating. My favorite question for kids is, ‘Have you had your three ‘S’s’ today — salad, soup, and side?’ Sometimes the third ‘S’ becomes a soda or slushy.”
Auntie Tam has tables both inside and outside, so customers can enjoy their meal while their food is fresh, but they can also order take-out, as well. “Our short-term goal is to continue to encourage healthy eating habits one salad at a time and our long-term goal is to spread the experience through utilizing food trucks to go out and get people interested in healthy eating habits … one plate at a time,” Tammara said. “Eventually, we’d like to open in other locations, so that all the communities can have another choice beside fast food eating.”