With sweet potato pies cooling on a tin, Barbara Jackson talks about her start in cooking at O' Taste and See on East Brooks Road.

O' Taste & See is a nice lunch deli in Whitehaven​

Twice in a matter of weeks people mentioned O' Taste & See to me; one a stranger, the other an old friend who told me a friend of his said I should try it. It went in the mental notebook, but that one fills quickly and only down the road did it come back to me. A couple of weeks ago, I headed over to the Whitehaven lunch-only spot.

The first thing I noticed was the name of the owner: Barbara Jackson was the name my recently deceased aunt was born with and I told the woman at the counter that I expected good food under the circumstances. She told me to be sure that I tried the chess pie and pointed to a pastry tray of miniature pies. These little gems were one of my aunt's specialties. It was kismet.

The food

With sweet potato pies cooling on a tin, Barbara Jackson makes a sandwich at O' Taste & See on East Brooks Road. The small sandwich shop offers lots of good stuff like quiche, mini pies, salads, and cheesecake brownies made by Jackson, a former school teacher who felt called to open a restaurant. 

This is simple stuff. Look at the menu and you’ll see a few sandwiches and salads, a quiche or two and a couple of desserts, but when you look around there’s no telling what you’ll spy with your little eye. Besides the tray of tarts—chess, chocolate chess, lemon chess, sweet potato and pecan this day—you’ll see a line of cake slices in plastic boxes. If you’re lucky, you’ll come upon the cheesecake brownies, a decadent dessert of brownies topped with a layer of plain cheesecake. 

They’re cut in bite-size bits and you get a dozen or more per order. Be warned that even though you can't eat them all right then, you won’t want to share. You’ll want to take them home and if you make the mistake of telling your friend to oh, just take them, you'll be sorry that night. Just get two orders. And also be warned that they sell like hotcakes, so if they’re gone, sorry Charlie. You’ll have to try another time.

Pies and cakes decorate the front counter at O' Taste & See on East Brooks Road. The small sandwich shop offers lots of good stuff like quiche, mini pies, salads, and cheesecake brownies made by owner Barbara Jackson, a former school teacher who felt called to open a restaurant.

Once you think you’ve seen everything, you might notice that there’s a refrigerated case set back from the counter, and you can start over. That’s where you’ll find the miniature quiches, chicken salad, and a variety of little pies including a very respectable Key lime. Next time, you might find something different. Whenever you go, you’re likely to find friendly women to help you and take your order and Jackson in the kitchen, whipping up pies and quiche.

There’s a soup of the day and I took a gamble on ordering chili. While there are several good chilis in town, chili is usually better made at home and almost always better when made in your home. We all have a way we like it—tomato or not, maybe heavy on the cumin, perhaps with a touch of brown sugar, maybe with a hint of cocoa, hot, mild and so on. The variables are almost endless. When I saw that it came with a grilled cheese sandwich, that told me two things: One, they know how to pair food and two, the worst that could happen is that I’d eat a grilled cheese for lunch. I’ve eaten worse.

The chili was good. It wasn’t how I’d make it at home, as I gravitate toward a browner bowl with just a touch of tomato and Jackson’s was redder. She uses kidney beans and I like smaller red beans, and I go a bit spicier. Still, with onions and cheese on the top, I was glad to eat it and the sandwich was the grilled cheese we all love: Thick Texas toast, grilled until it formed a nice crust, and gooey American cheese inside. Sure I like a fancy grilled cheese—I like almost anything with cheese—but I love the one from my childhood today as much as I did then.

If it’s a grown-up sandwich you want, go for her Mama Martha Buster club sandwich. It’s a handful, but not a traditional club. You’ll get thick slices of chicken (no puny deli slices), bacon and cheese, topped with bread and butter pickles, pepperoncini slices, lettuce, red onion, tomato, black olives and mayo on a thick ciabatta bun.

The Mama Martha Buster club sandwich at O' Taste & See on East Brooks Road is a big chicken and bacon creation with lots of toppings on a ciabatta bun. The small sandwich shop offers plenty of good stuff like quiche, mini pies, salads, and cheesecake brownies made by owner Barbara Jackson, a former school teacher.

I went back on a Saturday intent on trying the meatloaf sandwich, but despite the online hours saying the restaurant is open, it wasn't and I didn't call ahead (the door sign tells it like it really is, Tuesday through Friday). The meatloaf sandwich remains a mystery to me and while I've been told I'll love the loaded potato soup and have no reason to think I won't, I haven't tried it yet as soups change daily.

The ham and cheese sandwich was solid, generously piled with good ham and served, as all the sandwiches are, with a bag of chips. 

We tried the miniature Italian sausage and spinach quiche, which was flavorful, cheesy and hearty. It wasn't custardy, which I like in my quiche, but the custard comes at the expense of fillings; here it's the right trade-off. You can also get whole quiche of several varieties to go; prices range.

The rest

Jackson is a retired school teacher who said she felt called to open a restaurant after a life of cooking ("O' taste and see" is a passage from the Book of Psalms, if you're wondering). She opened her little shop seven years ago and it's small, clean and she and the women who work for her are hospitable and friendly. If you're looking for a sandwich and some iced tea for lunch and you're in Whitehaven, drop in.

O' Taste & See**

Food: **

Service: **

Atmosphere: **

Address: 2045 E. Brooks Road

Telephone: 901-346-3001

Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday

Reviewer's choice: Chili and grilled cheese ($8.99); miniature quiche ($3 to $3.50), Mama Martha Buster club sandwich ($11.49 with chips); cheesecake bites ($4 per order). Whole quiche prices range, $25-$33.

Alcohol: None

~ Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal

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