Tara from Simon’s.
You either know her because you are a regular at this dinner joint (which is pretty amazing) or you have seen her being referred to on Yik Yak, where everyone has nothing but good things to say. Why would anyone have anything bad to say? She greets every student with a smile and makes an effort to make us all feel a little more at home.
For the vast majority of Lafayette students, the only time we get to talk to Tara is when we are struggling over our order, paying at the counter, or responding to her all-too familiar phrases of “Hi honey,” “You are welcome, sweetheart!” or “Have a great day!”
I decided to have a talk with Tara and get to know her a little better. She answered some of the questions I have always been curious about- including what her order of choice is at Simon’s.
Read on to find out more about the woman behind the counter.
Spoon: Tell me what your favorite thing is about working at Simon’s.
Tara: My favorite thing is serving all of you guys. Those who are away from home, away from family, away from the familiar.. knowing you will come in and be in MY kitchen and get great service every moment we are open. I love being able to look out for each one of your needs and specific tastes. I feel like I have made Simon’s my home away from home.
In my family, we always hung out in the kitchen, laughing, talking, eating… I have tried to make Simon’s that for all of you. My favorite thing is seeing each one of you daily, some several times a day. Knowing I have you helped you want to come in and get delicious food has been a blessing. I will always have your best interests at heart.
Spoon: What is your favorite sandwich at Simon’s?
Tara: Ahh! Hardest Question Ever!
Spoon: I know! But I have to ask!
Tara: I have become like you. (my sandwich of choice is a MYO on a multigrain roll with garlic aioli spread, artichoke hearts, spinach, onion, provolone and cheddar cheese… no meat) I have become slightly vegan at times because I eat my sliced meats with one piece of cheese… usually some salami with fresh mozzarella, but I’ve grown partial to the classic (garlic aioli spread, mozzarella, basil, and tomato).
Sometimes I add bacon as a reward for my hard work. But the French bread, hands down, is my favorite- usually not even toasted!
Spoon: If there was any sandwich you could add to the menu, what would it be?
Tara: I actually have! I added the Chicken Parm, the Tyler, and the Princess!
Spoon: Can you tell me what those include?
Tara: For the Chicken Parm, there is the regular (French bread, cut up crispy chicken, marinara, shredded mozzarella and shredded parmesan) Then we also have “Carlito’s Way” (all the same as above, plus garlic aioli on the bread, and carmalized onions and red peppers under the chicken).
The Tyler includes a handful of shredded iceberg lettuce, shredded parmesan, and grilled chicken, mixed in a bowl with caesar dressing, all placed on a ciabatta and topped with provolone cheese to keep the lettuce from wilting.
The Princess is my salute to Brian Keller, which includes blue cheese spread, barbecue sauce, shredded lettuce and spinach, and roast beef topped with cheddar and pepper jack cheese. It is one of my favorite “Simon’s Secrets”.
Spoon: Do you have any dreams of furthering yourself in the food industry because of your positive experience at Simon’s?
Tara: My true dream is to continue to better myself in my personal life and that eventually flowing over into my work. If my positive experience at Simon’s furthers me on campus or to another location, I will embrace it if it fits best for myself and my well-being. I have a talent to serve and care for people around food.
I grew up in a religious home where the guest ministry would come visit my church, and then after church they would eat in my home. I was raised by an Italian grandmother and mother and was taught, from a very young age, to properly set a table and serve guests. I take great pride in it.
I also learned on my study trip to Israel that back in the Bible, people used to lay on their sides- relaxed and vulnerable, even when they ate. That always stuck with me. So much of our daily lives is wrapped around eating, whether we are sad or happy. So many emotions can affect how/what/where we eat… My “dream” is that I will always be a blessing to those I get to serve and care for… Even if it’s “just” one meal swipe at a time.
Spoon: So, your upbringing definitely has made a difference in your taste in food. What is your favorite type of food to cook?
Tara: Everything that I remember to get ingredients for! Pinterest is one of my addictions. And now, with my boyfriend and his three kids, they don’t like what I whip up. They just like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. So for right now, I make an incredible twice baked mac and cheese with chicken cutlets.
Spoon: Tara, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I, for one, know that many students here at Lafayette have positively been impacted by you. I sure have been.
Tara: I’m so blessed to be a blessing, Olivia. You guys honor me every single day, seriously. I can’t thank you enough.
That, ladies and gentleman, is a little inside scoop on the infamous Tara. If you haven’t been to Simon’s and want to meet the legend herself, it is open seven days a week, 5:30 PM to Midnight.
Go on in… Grab a sandwich and/or salad at Simon’s… or should I say Tara’s.