With options limited by increased takeout orders, many Charleston restaurants have tightened their focus to get quality food out the door. But one spot is expanding their options by reaching out to other popular local chefs.
After connecting with other chefs and restaurant owners, Daps Breakfast & Imbibe owners Jeremiah Schenzel and Nick Dowling developed a collaborative project they're calling U.S.S. Friendship Plates. Each week, the fun-loving Westside all-day breakfast spot works with a new restaurant to offer a dish or drink that blends their specialities. One week: breakfast enchiladas smothered in Semilla's rojo sauce. Another, it was a breakfast sandwich with Chubby Fish's lamb and romesco sauce.
"We want to help each other move product at a time when it's harder to do that," said Schenzel. "It starts out very simple. We usually have an idea and then we see who could fit into that idea. A lot of it depends on how the chef from the other restaurant works. It's a good creative process because not all the pieces are there until the week of."
Schenzel said the initiative gained traction at the end of April following a successful smoked salmon sandwich using a Tavern & Table everything bagel. "We basically reached out to all of our other friends and it just kept steamrolling. All of a sudden we had all these restaurants that wanted to join."
One of their early collaborations was with Spanglish chef Tomas Prado.
"Jeremiah had reached out to me saying he wanted to do a breakfast Cuban, and he asked me which items we could offer to help make it a great sandwich," said Prado. "He said they had some nice smoked pork and bacon from Tank [Holy City Hogs], and I offered our Cuban bread that we get in from Tampa and our housemade mustard and pickles."
The sandwiches were a huge hit, selling out in just two days, Schenzel said.
Chubby Fish executive chef James London was also interested soon after Daps announced the initiative. After discussing ideas, London brought over lamb shoulder, an ingredient that rarely finds its way onto the breakfast menu at Daps.
"They wanted us to give them something that was representative of Chubby Fish but play with their concept," said London. "I threw out the braised lamb with romesco and that's what they wanted to do. We pulled in some really nice lamb shoulder, braised it and gave them the romesco and they took it from there."
Chubby Fish loyalists may recognize the romesco sauce from London's staple charred lamb rib dish.
The exchange with London was exactly the type of off-the-cuff cooking Dowling said they hoped for. "The whole theme is about pivot, staying creative and having fun dishes that people can come get," he said.
"To me, everybody's got their heads in the sand buried in our own little restaurants right now," London said. "To be offered the opportunity to do something a little different was refreshing."
Friendship Plates isn't solely focused on food. With the folks behind Second State Coffee, Schenzel and Dowling came up with the strawberry, rhubarb, rosé and red vermouth "Way Better Than Flowers" cocktail for Mother's Day. Two weeks later, they canned a mango and cava cocktail with Sightsee.
And the menu mashups have been a hit. "We've seen a lot of cross pollination and it's allowing people to try new places," Schenzel said.
What the regulars want, they may very well get. Daps has received commitments from 10 more restaurants. Kwei Fei's David Schuttenberg, Lewis Barbecue's John Lewis, Xiao Bao Biscuit's Josh Walker and Estadio's Alex Lira are all slated to contribute.
Follow Daps on Instagram @dapschs for Friday announcements revealing the plate or drink of the week, which will be available in limited quantities over the weekend.