Tabitha’s Bistro may be shoebox size, but it has big surprises for customers who stumble upon the year-old, 14-seat nook in a Davie shopping plaza. We heard about the place the way most regulars do, from a friend who had raved about its healthful, quick fare, primarily paninis, wraps, salads and sandwiches, plus specialties like homemade soups and desserts, not a treat you expect when the most expensive item is $7.75 (for a turkey meatball pita melt). Plus many of the ingredients, like jalapeño and Cubanelle peppers, basil, mint and parsley, come from the Garrison’s Cooper City backyard.
Tabitha is a charming space, with a small lending library and walls decorated with musical instruments and framed photographs (for sale). We were admiring the instruments on one dine-in visit, and Giles Garrison, who’s the dad in this family-run business, asked if we wanted to hear a song. He admirably played and sang Sunshine on My Shoulders by John Denver.
The entertainment was impromptu and so, in a way, was the birth of Tabitha’s. Garrison had been in the construction industry, but when the business tanked, he was looking for new opportunities. His daughter Audrey, a Florida Atlantic University grad with an English degree, always wanted to open a restaurant, so last October, they fulfilled her dream and opened Tabitha’s Bistro.
Audrey, 25, does the cooking, and her dad works the front. Audrey prepares mostly what she’d like to eat, which means there are lots of veggies, and she leaves beef off the menu. Audrey makes turkey meatballs and uses turkey bacon, though she does offer ham for sandwiches.
For starters, go for the homemade soup du jour. Our favorite so far is the fragrant split pea, spiked with cumin and garlic. Perfect for fall, pumpkin has a touch of sweetness. The most popular is the carrot and squash, with its hint of curry. All items come with a side, usually Audrey’s perky salsa or choice of hummus, served with pita chips. The olive hummus, a daily special, was good and hearty, with a slight kick.
We especially liked the chicken Philly panini special. Paninis are nice and toasty, and our Philly had lots of grilled green bell peppers and onions plus melted provolone on a generous slab of grilled chicken. The fat, tasty Thai wrap is bundled with fresh veggies that are steamed then chilled — squash, zucchini, peppers, carrots and alfalfa sprouts — plus lots of grilled chicken in a peanut sauce. While you can eat it cold, we warmed it up when we got home, and it was delicious.
We weren’t as enamored with the barbecue chicken pita melt; the sauce, one of the items that Audrey doesn’t make, was pretty sweet and overwhelmed the chicken. Melts come with a side of house or Caesar, and while it’s not a classic Caesar, the romaine is fresh and crisp, sprinkled with turkey bacon and Parmesan, homemade croutons and tomatoes from the Garrison garden.
End with a homemade dessert like ultra sweet amaretto cake or our favorite, the pumpkin bars topped with a cream cheese-based icing and candied pecans.
So we had to ask — who’s Tabitha? The name is a family joke. Mom Kathy’s nickname is Dorcas, and the Greek translation is Tabitha. One thing that’s not a surprise at Tabitha — it’s a find for good, healthful food with a homey touch.
5511 S University Dr, Davie
Hours: 11am-8pm Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday
Prices: Soup $3.75, sandwiches $6-$8, salads $5.75-$6.75
FYI: Delivery in 5-mile radius, with $15 minimum order. Free Wi-Fi. DS, MC, VS