One hot time at new sub shop: Tatanka Subs & Grubs a collaboration among Dover natives

 

Tatanka Subs & Grubs is zeroing in on a ribbon cutting and grand opening toward the end of October. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Tatanka Subs & Grubs is zeroing in on a ribbon cutting and grand opening toward the end of October. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — Travis Bowers and Kim Yates have been offering up samples of their distinctive Tatanka hot sauces at competitions, festivals and local shopping centers for the past couple of years.

But there was something missing.

Scott Parsons (left), Travis Bowers and Kim Yates - not pictured - have focused their attention of expanding the Tatanka Sauce brand over the past couple of years, including recently opening a new Tatanka Subs & Grubs sandwich shop in Dover.  (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Scott Parsons (left), Travis Bowers and Kim Yates – not pictured – have focused their attention of expanding the Tatanka Sauce brand over the past couple of years, including recently opening a new Tatanka Subs & Grubs sandwich shop in Dover. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Scott Parsons, who is a partner in the hot sauce business with the Magnolia couple, believes he knows exactly what that void was — a permanent place where they could sell jars of their products and feature some of their very own delicacies at the same time.

So when Mr. Parsons learned that Primo Hoagies was abandoning its location at 155 N. DuPont Highway in Dover in late July he knew he had to act fast.

And just two days later, Tatanka Subs & Grubs was born.

“When we did this we thought this would be perfect because now we could have a location for our sauces,” Mr. Parsons said. “Travis [Bowers], Kim [Yates] and I have been promoting Tatanka hot sauce and we’ve been working on that for a while and we always used food when we do our festivals in our presentations.

“When I found out Primo’s was closing down the light bulb kind of went on. Everybody was like ‘Hot sauce and subs?’ But when we get into hot sandwiches, it really makes a lot more sense.”

According to Mr. Parsons, the first couple of months have been spent refining the menu, developing consistency with the food and working on efficiency at Tatanka Subs & Grubs.

Chase Elliott zips past the Tatanka Sauce billboard in the Citizen Soldier 400 Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway on Oct. 2. Delaware State News/Paul Morales photo

Chase Elliott zips past the Tatanka Sauce billboard in the Citizen Soldier 400 Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway on Oct. 2. Delaware State News/Paul Morales photo

He admits that he is a stranger when it comes to the restaurant business, so he relies heavily on his manager, Kim McElroy, who is one of three out of four employees for the new Tatanka restaurant that previously worked for Primo’s.

“It’s been very good so far,” said Mr. Parsons. “Right now, what we’re trying to work on is interjecting our [original] sandwiches and getting everybody to know how to make them quicker and getting everybody going as fast as possible.

“We’ve never really heard any complaints about the food. It’s just been probably logistically trying to get it going so everybody’s served and all that and, honestly, that’s something that I really don’t know anything about, but our staff does.”

Tatanka Subs & Grubs’ expansive menu features cold subs, classic Italians, hot subs and original Tatanka-inspired sandwiches that all come on seeded or non-seeded rolls and plain or flavored wraps, depending on the customer’s preference.

It also dishes up a kids menu, desserts, sides and party trays.

The restaurant offers 20 percent off their orders with a “20 on 20” promotion that runs from 4:20 until 6:20 p.m. daily. It also offers a 10 percent discount to military and all first responders.

“I’m thankful that we had Tatanka move in here now and that we all still have jobs,” Ms. McElroy said. “The place stays busy and our customers really seem to love our sandwiches.

“I would have to say our most popular item so far is the pulled pork, the pulled chicken and the cheesesteaks. We make cheesesteak wraps that are phenomenal. With those you get more meat and stuffing and the toppings that you want to put on it.”

Finding the right ingredients

Mr. Bowers and Ms. Yates spent many a long night in their Magnolia home trying to create the perfect hot sauce and marinade after one of their favorite places to eat buffalo wings in Dover closed down a couple of years ago.

They finally discovered it with a zesty blend that includes red pepper sauce, honey, butter, garlic, Parmesan, brown sugar and secret spices.

“The next thing we knew, we were selling it at Fordham Brewery and everyone loved it, so we decided to take it to the next level and here we are,” Mr. Bowers said.

While they made the sauce themselves the first couple of years, the business expanded into an LLC a couple of years ago and now their recipe is mixed and bottled at Dutch Valley Foods in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“You look back to when Kim and I were making it in the kitchen to where we are now,” Mr. Bowers said. “We don’t have our vacation home in Florida yet, but we’re still working on it.

“From the kitchen, to the first shows we did, to people really liking the sauce to the point where if this many people like it this much in this little town of Dover, what if more people knew about it?”

More people are definitely receiving the word about Tatanka Sauce as it was featured prominently on a billboard between the first and second turns at the NASCAR races at Dover International Speedway a couple of weeks ago. That’s big news for a small-town sauce and marinade.

Tatanka is offered at several different retail locations across Delaware, including Pepper’s in Lewes, Haass Family Butcher Shop and Frankfurt Bakery in Dover and Fifer Orchards in Wyoming, among others.

It is also served at many restaurants such as Murphy’s Sports Book at Harrington Raceway & Casino and at Meat Mechanics, La Hacienda, Frankie’s, My Roma Pizza, McGlynn’s and the Touchdown Lounge, all in Dover.

About that name …

Mr. Bowers said that he and Ms. Yates could not agree on a name — until they were sitting on the couch watching a movie one night.

“We were watching ‘Dances with Wolves’ with Kevin Costner and there was a scene where the buffalo were running across the plains and an Indian came out, looked and said, ‘Tatanka!,” he said. “So we were like ‘That’s it, right there!’ Tatanka is the Sioux Indian word for buffalo.

“It seemed to be the perfect fit for our buffalo sauce.”

Mr. Bowers and Ms. Yates offer up four versions of their hot sauce and marinade, from their mildest jar to Tx, the spiciest.

Last year was very good for Tatanka as it won the “Best of Delaware” award for hot sauce from Delaware Today magazine, earned second place in the world in at the Screaming Mimi in New York City and third place at the Louisiana Hot Sauce World Championship.

Mr. Bowers said that another reason the restaurant will be a good location for promoting the sauce is because some people are afraid it might be too spicy for them.

“The restaurant should provide us with some great exposure,” he said. “Sales are doing really well at the restaurant with the sauce and it just puts even more legitimacy to our hot sauce.

“Also, for all of the people who are scared of hot sauce, our milder sauces are on the menu so people can try something that’s got a little bit of spice to it but it’s not something that’s going to burn their heads off … We have pulled chicken, meatballs, pulled pork and other offerings.”

Dover High connection

Mr. Parsons (1988 graduate), Mr. Bowers (1986) and Ms. Yates (1984) are all alumni of Dover High School.

Mr. Parsons and Mr. Bowers used to play in local bands together called “No Excuse” and “Trailer Park Casanovas” so they have become accustomed to collaborating with one another for quite some time. Ms. Yates was on the Senators’ cheerleading squad.

“Travis [Bowers] and I were in a band together years ago,” said Mr. Parsons. “I was the original drummer and then I had kids and it became too much. Everybody else was like, ‘Let’s practice some more!’ and I was like, ‘How about less?’

“But Travis and I have known each other forever. He was just asking for help here and there and stuff like that and after a while he said with the amount of time I’m putting in, if I could be a partner it would help him out a lot, so that’s when we started with the hot sauce.”

Looking to the future

Mr. Parsons, Mr. Bowers and Ms. Yates say they are not going to stand pat when it comes to their secret recipe.

Mr. Parsons said he hopes that the new Tatanka Subs & Grubs will eventually be able to spawn new locations throughout Delaware, much like Capriotti’s has been able to accomplish.

“That is the eventual goal,” he said.

For now, it’s baby steps.

“It’s grown by little pieces at a time,” Mr. Parsons said. “The name is definitely out there and the sauce supports itself. We’ve probably doubled in size since we opened.”

Mr. Bowers is happy — and excited — that his sauces have found a permanent home base.

“If you just want a ham and cheese sandwich all the meats are top notch, all the cheeses are top notch,” he said. “The neat thing you’re going to see is pretty much every week you’re going to be coming in here and there’s going to be something special.

“We’re always going to try something new, something different and something no one else in this area is doing.”

The new Philadelphia-market style sandwich restaurant is now zeroing in on an official grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting.

“We haven’t had a grand opening yet,” said Mr. Parsons. “The thought was to do a soft opening and get all of the pieces of the puzzle right before we officially opened with our grand opening. I would say probably by the end of this month would be our target date.”

It promises to be one hot time.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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