As a hardworking real estate agent, Julie Woodcock’s days are long and unpredictable, leaving her little time to cook meals for her husband and 12-year-old son.
“I keep a full schedule, so I always like to have something healthy and easy to prepare on hand,” she said while at home in Holly Springs.
How does she do that? Donovan’s Dish, a full-service catering company in Apex with an accompanying storefront called Takeout Market that provides chef-prepared soups, sides, entrees and even desserts.
“These days everyone works, and if both mom and dad don’t get home until six at night, there’s no time to cook quality meals for the family,” explained Jill Donovan, owner and co-founder of her namesake business at Peakway Market Square. “Our slogan is ‘Never cook again.’ You can come here, pick up a meal, and you don’t have to spend hours cooking and cleaning.”
Woodcock visits Takeout Market regularly, stocking up on Southern-influenced meals like chicken and dumplings, shrimp and grits, and braised short ribs.
“It’s great to find such outstanding food that’s so convenient,” she said, adding that she also relies on Donovan’s for dinner parties and other special occasions.
The gourmet grab-and-go concept has become a popular trend, offering an alternative to typical restaurant takeout. Donovan’s Dish offers about a dozen multi-portion entrees made from scratch and frozen upon preparation. These need to be thawed before heating, while daily specials, which are listed online, are refrigerated and available to heat and serve straightaway.
“We felt there was such a strong need for good takeout food with locally sourced ingredients and no preservatives,” said Donovan. “Our cheese comes from Ashe County and Goat Lady, pork is from Heritage Farms and vegetables come from North Carolina growers.”
The cost for meals is typically more than frozen dinners from the grocery store but less than carryout fare from an upscale restaurant.
“It’s a good value since I’m getting wholesome food made with fresh ingredients,” Woodcock said. “My husband and son also love the variety of dishes, so that’s a plus.”
Donovan and her husband T.J., an award-winning chef, debuted Donovan’s Dish earlier this year after building a successful catering operation in Raleigh. Then tragedy struck.
“Just four days after opening the store, T.J. passed away unexpectedly,” Donovan said. “Opening this location was his dream and a big part of fulfilling his legacy.”
More menu options
Also finding its niche in the grab-and-go segment is locally-owned The Butcher’s Market, with locations in Cary and Raleigh. Here you can find single-serving selections such as marinated steak tips and rice, free-range chicken with fusilli pasta, and comfort-food favorite macaroni and cheese.
“These are popular with our customers, and each one is hand-prepared by our experienced cooks,” said operations manager Nick Santucci. “There’s typically a good rotation with the seasons, but we also have staple items that remain available year-round.”
Santucci says vegetables such as potatoes and green beans are procured from Blue Sky Farms in Wendell. Beef and poultry are all-natural and free from antibiotics and hormones.
“The chicken, for example, is not pumped full with sodium or preservatives, and the tenderness is remarkable,” he said.
Another source of hand-picked cuisine is The Fresh Market. It sells “Little Big Meals,” which offer shoppers a convenient solution for preparing a home-cooked dinner.
“We have a team of foodies who work to create new and interesting meals for our customers each week,” said Stephanie Lowder, public relations manager at The Fresh Market.
Different from the prepared items from Donovan’s Dish and The Butcher’s Market, a Little Big Meal is a kit containing all the needed ingredients to cook a meal for a family of four. One meal costs $20.
“Each weekly meal includes several options from a healthy protein, produce kits and even dessert to give shoppers the opportunity to customize the ingredients based on their palate,” said Lowder.
Choose from meals like shrimp and pasta with sourdough boule, or burgers with brioche buns, potato salad and corn on the cob.
No matter which place you visit, there’s no need to be apologetic about not cooking a homemade meal every night.
“Why would anyone feel guilty?” Donovan asked. “I say they are smart. Let us do the cooking, because it’s all made with love. Go enjoy time with your family.”
Where to Go
Donovan’s Dish Takeout Market
800 W. Williams St., Suite 112, Apex
The Butcher’s Market
1225 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary
The Fresh Market
3655 SW Cary Parkway, Cary
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