As General Manager and Co-Owner (with her brother) of downtown’s Cahawba House restaurant, Tara Essary always has multiple pots on the stove, but the role she enjoys most is serving up heaping helpings of hospitality to city residents and visitors.
Are you from Montgomery? I grew up traveling the world as a military brat and ended up in Prattville. After graduating high school, I moved to south Florida, where my love for the food and beverage industry flourished. My brother Tim and I saw an opportunity to become a part of a growing city and restaurant scene here, so I found myself back in the River Region embarking on a new hospitality journey in 2016.
When and why did y’all open Cahawba House? It opened in fall 2016, but the seeds were sown long before that. I wanted to bring old family recipes and Southern dishes to the community, and with lots of hard work and love, Cahawba House evolved from that dream.
What is it like owning the restaurant with your brother? We have always had a close relationship. We’re only a couple years apart and being “military brats” and moving often, we many times considered ourselves best friends. We have 30 years of experience solving problems together and share the same passion for the hospitality industry.
What all does your job at the restaurant involve? My business cards may say “Co-Owner,” but that just means I wear many hats. I’ve taken a strong lead in the business side of things. You may find me greeting customers in the dining room, turning around to scrub out a pot in the back, then running payroll.
What is your personal favorite dish? Our Southern Biscuit: pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes and bacon on a biscuit and our Mommas Meatloaf with mac and cheese, house salad and smash potatoes.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work? Creating jobs for our community as well as creating a welcoming environment for all of our guests.
After shutting its dining room to dine-in guests in early March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cahawba House got innovative, transforming the space into a market called Bama Bonafide Bodega and selling produce and other products from the area farmers and vendors that regularly supply the restaurant.