Chef Lauren Cotner makes a different dinner every night, one single dish to feed all her customers. They order it, pick it up and take it home. It’s like a food truck, but at a space that used to be a restaurant on a golf driving range. Of Delicious Dish, Cotner says, “It’s like having a daily pop-up.”
Apt for a kitchen that stresses fresh ingredients, Cotner’s success story is homegrown. The Sonoma native and SVHS grad moved to San Francisco and, after a media job, got into catering. Delicious Dish found a great niche — corporate gigs. The business took off, but Cotner wanted to raise her daughter (Maizey, now age eight) back home, in Sonoma. They re-relocated in 2011. “We want roots here.”
For their new commercial kitchen, Lauren and husband/partner/chef Charles, found the empty restaurant (once a rib place, then a sports bar, etc.). The driving range is gone, but the space was perfect to base the catering company, which is still serving its Bay Area clients.
They next introduced a retail element, the “out the door dinners.” Each day, one menu choice, with main dish, side, veggie/salad. Dinner for two, $25. Dinner for four, $40. Pick it up, take it home. The grab-it-and-go concept fits the times: clickable, convenient, kitchen clean-up free.
It’s like a meal kit without any cooking. And minimal, biodegradable packaging.
Serving lunches to packs of SF foodies and techy clients, Cotner learned it was important to offer unique, memorable dishes on par with the City’s ethnic range. Then again, pot roast. “Never forget the comfort food.” Sonoma folks, she’s found, like a bit of each. Upcoming dishes show the range: Beef Tips in Red Wine Sauce with Roasted Garlic New Potatoes one day, perhaps Korean Tacos and Chili Soy Kim Chi Slaw the next.
“I’ve got thousands of recipes on file,” she says. “We can cook whatever the heck we want to.” The casual manner belies some serious chops, both in hand-on experience (years of 500+ lunches each day, for demanding clients like Microsoft) and training. Both Lauren and Charles are accomplished chefs with fine dining experience, and classes abroad, on their collective resume.
Keeping the price down is important. Cotner’s a working mother, she gets it. Price, and convenience is a key. “It’s a value, not a luxury.” The pre-ordered, one-choice-per day model limits overage. Utilizing the menu for that day’s corporate offering is also a factor, both in purchasing power and kitchen efficiency.
Cotner is proud to be part of her community, as a native, a mom and a business owner. Delicious Dish is an active nonprofit donor, supporting the Boys & Girls Clubs, the Red & White Ball, youth soccer, local schools and more. “The family element is very important.”
Next up, opening the Arnold Drive space for dine-in lunches. They’re making improvements to the interior and screened patio, and will soon offer a nice place to sit, and limited table service. As in, you can grab but you don’t need to go.
It may be a Cheesesteak, perhaps a roasted Petaluma chicken, but for Cotner, one thing’s for sure. “The best food is the food you don’t have to cook yourself.”
Delicious Dish, 18709 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. Dinners Mon-Th. Menu preview and orders: Deliciousdishsf.com.707.721.4231.