When the cashier hands Christopher Skipper a customer’s order on a sheet of paper, he does not bring in a member of his staff to complete the request. Instead, the Virginia Beach native smiles from ear to ear and gets to work. In under 10 minutes, he’s whipping up take-out boxes of fried seafood, wings or salmon bites from Chef Skip’s latest location, a modest take-out kitchen near the Howard University campus. Each box comes with a signature purple flower and a side dish of its creamy and sweet secret sauce. Skipper watches with rapture when customers decide to enjoy hot fillets, well-seasoned shrimp or crabcakes from the comfort of their cars, knowing that freshness will not be guaranteed if consumed even half an hour after departure.
What’s in that secret sauce, anyway? “I can’t tell you that,” Skipper said, half-joking. He revealed that it had the consistency of mayonnaise-based aioli, with garlic powder and other Cajun spices mixed in. Skipper does not intend to keep the sauce within the confines of the restaurant for too long. He wants to start bottling it soon.
Chef Skip 202 is the chef and co-owner of the same name’s fourth restaurant – and his first at DC Skipper has sister places in Virginia Beach and Portsmouth, Va., and has embarked on an expansion in DC with encouragement from Chantel Skipper, his cousin and commercial partner . The District branch opened a few months ago, making it a quick take out business from the start.
Nestled between residential properties at 715 Euclid Street NW, the on-the-go product appeals to a diverse community. Southern students attending the historically black university may feel nostalgic for their favorite places in their hometown after tasting a menu filled with fried dishes that Skipper seasoned with Cajun spices. The boutique is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
Skipper graduated from the Culinary Institute of Virginia and started his business as a kitchen on wheels. The goal has always been to “bring the gastronomic experience to food trucks,” he says. He tried burgers, pizza, and seafood, but the latter category eventually became the focus as it cooks quickly and always sells well.
At Chef Skip, customers can order combination platters divided into baskets or sandwiches. Skipper recommends the crabcake and shrimp platter for new guests, even for those who aren’t shellfish fans. The giant chunky crabmeat gets a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and a coating of cornmeal seasoning with hints of garlic, onion and red pepper. Crabcakes don’t spend more than three minutes in a deep fryer. The oyster and shrimp po ‘boys offer golden seafood and sweet coleslaw on a hoagie bun.
“If you like fish, you will turn to the fish sandwich or the fish tacos,” says Chantel Skipper. “If you like our breaded shrimp on their own, you’ll like it even more in the shrimp tacos or the po ‘boy sandwich. Our menu is really customizable depending on what you like to eat.
A Philly ground chicken was Chantel’s idea. In an attempt to cut down on bread, she also encouraged her cousin to come up with a deconstructed version. His response was to serve chicken and peppers on a bed of Cajun fries with melted American cheese and a generous drizzle of secret sauce.
In addition to chicken and Philly steak, other non-seafood options include wings and mac and cheese bites. Skipper plans to add specialties like crab fries and is playing with the idea of a brunch menu.