Serving Up Southern Staples
Catering for all types of events with home-style food just like mom used to make. Fancy That!
By Cecile S. Holmes Photographs by Jay Browne
When Harvey Etheredge talks about food, his eyes darken and then lighten. You can tell food is his favorite subject. When he thinks about it, memories of his mother’s excellent cooking – especially her fried chicken – assault him. And when Etheredge shifts to the topic of catering, the conversation turns serious with a few comical twists.
Etheredge, owner of Fancy That Bistro and Catering has been in the business since 1991. He will never forget his worst catering nightmare.
He catered a wedding about 18 months ago. It was a full menu replete with the signature hot Southern dishes he loves. The problem was the food didn’t jive with the bridal prep. The bride took 6 ½ hours to get ready. At the wedding venue, the guests waited and waited and waited. So did Etheredge and his employees. By the time the bride finally decided to appear, Fancy That’s carefully prepared hot menu was cold. And Etheredge was really frustrated. “She just took forever!” he says.
Luckily for Etheredge, most of his catering experiences have been much more pleasant. “I do this because I really like being around people,” he says.
For early-in-the-day catered events, Fancy That offers a full Southern breakfast: eggs, sausage or bacon, grits or hash brown casserole, biscuits and juice. Cost is $6.99 per person with a 10-person minimum. The deluxe version runs $9.99 per person (50-person minimum) with the addition of gravy and cut fruit to the basic menu. Fancy That can also do breakfast casseroles such as fluffy eggs, cheese and hash browns. The brunch menu proffers shrimp and grits, eggs Benedict, fried chicken strips and pancakes.
Midday catering options include homemade chicken pot pie with golden crust and side salads; slowed cooked roast beef, seasoned oven roasted potatoes and green beans; eggplant parmesan and hamburger steaks. The events and wedding catering menu is even more diverse with hors d’oeuvres choices such as egg rolls with dipping sauces, seafood stuffed mushrooms, cocktail sausage, various fruit and cheese trays and chicken salad puffs; and entrée choices including sliced baked ham, pork tenderloin and chicken, beef or shrimp skewers.
Etheredge’s restaurant, open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, stays busy. Tucked in an alleyway beside the downtown Marriott, it’s a prime place for breakfast, brunch, lunch or a midafternoon snack. There is a huge choice for breakfast and brunch. At lunch, he serves delicious lemonade and iced tea (sweet or unsweet), scrumptious fried green tomato sandwiches with bacon, tasty chicken salad and enormous burgers not to mention fried okra and assorted desserts.
As the fall and winter holidays approach, Etheredge’s catering business picks up. Hosts and hostesses need a good menu, not to mention loads of food: both hot munchies and cold ones. Fancy That’s Thanksgiving repertoire features turkey and dressing, fresh veggies, sweet potatoes and mac n’ cheese. Christmas dinner choices and holiday party selections make your mouth water. Fancy That can also provide full bar service for catered events.
But Etheredge’s chief catering target right now is folks who tailgate and after-football game-day parties. “The football game schedules are out! Practice has started and the students will be back in 10 - 12 days,” he posted online in early August. “It is time for you to call and tell me about all of your catering needs before it gets too crazy around here. We can take care of all your catering needs from tailgating food to your after-game parties.”
Etheredge loves what he does. He used to work 70 to 80 hours a week. In the last few years since his stepson, Patrick Griffin, began working with him, he has scaled back, but he still puts in 50 to 60 hours every week.
Aged 58, this catering maestro grew up some 40 miles from Columbia in the tiny Orangeburg County community of Springfield. Family remains central. As the business has expanded, he’s turned to family for help with his daughter, Candace Etheredge, and brother-in-law, Laney Watkins, now helping out on weekends along with his stepson. Still, he hasn’t moved far from his culinary roots. Southern staples cooked with care and loaded with good seasoning always undergird what he serves. Stop by Fancy That and you’ll find couples, families with small children, and even employees on break enjoying all that good food.
On staff for three years, Bradley Williams does a little bit of everything for Fancy That. Why work at Fancy That and not somewhere else? “Pays well,” Williams says as he chows down on a late lunch. “And I worked at bigger places. Here, they treat you better. Like family.”
That family feeling is important to Harvey Etheredge. What does he want to ensure people remember about Fancy That’s food? “Tell ‘em, it’s all fresh – and cooked with love,” he says, recalling his days as a small child watching his mama cook.