Tasty Bun lives up to its name, packing a palm-sized punch into every decadent hot morsel.
Although the new eatery located at 829 E. Boone Ave. is not as flashy as surrounding businesses, the flavor behind each creation can easily stand alone.
Suite C has been empty for a while, just begging for someone to fill a hole in Zag diets. Luckily, Tasty Bun strays from the traditional bar food and pizza joints that adorn every corner directly surrounding campus. The added bonus of accepting Bulldog Bucks makes Tasty Bun that much tastier.
“I just drove by one day and I saw this was vacant and I kind of wanted to be in [a] community, either like Garland or Perry Street, or when I saw this more with the students and stuff like that,” Jeff Skaife, chef and owner said. “We’ve had a ton of people who came in first time yesterday and they’ve already come back today so that’s a positive step, so that’s really what lead me down here.”
Tasty Bun employees recommended the Asian Pulled Pork bun, which hit all the flavor notes of authentic Asian cuisine and lived up to expectations. However the Bun du Jour, which Skaife concocted the recipe for that day, surpassed the Asian Pulled Pork in my book. The Swedish Meatball bun carried more originality and heartiness, filling my arteries and soul with joy.
All buns are priced at an affordable $3, making it almost impossible to avoid indulging in more than one at a time. The menu also lists a vegan option for those who prefer veggies or have dietary restrictions.
“It’s not expensive and it’s not something that you’d be like, oh I don’t have the money for,” a Tasty Bun employee said. “Plus it’s right next to campus so you can just grab some on your way and I love food like that, especially with working all the time and studying. I need that food where I can just grab it and take it to go instead.”
The storefront may be new but Skaife’s culinary expertise extends for slightly more than a decade. Constant experimentation has allowed him to develop flavor profiles and determine what pairs best with his homemade buns.
“I was in [food service] for 15 years really, from 16 [years old] to about almost 30,” Skaife said. “Then I got into construction because back then it wasn’t cool to be a chef and you made $5 an hour.”
The menu covers a wide variety of cuisine, reflecting Skaife’s fearless personality.
“Honestly, because I was in construction I was slow every January so I had a couple weeks off, so I would teach myself to cook a certain type of style, whether it was French, Italian, Mexican,” Skaife said. “I had gone over to Seattle and I didn’t like the Asian bread and I didn’t like their fillings because I thought it could be better. So I just practiced this at home and went well ‘You know, we should try selling these,’ because no else is doing it. I’m not ripping off someone else, we kind of designed our own bread and grind our own fillings and stuff like that.”
In true entrepreneurial fashion, Skaife hopes to expand Tasty Bun into a franchise, should business continue to go well, following the model of Subway. Humble beginnings and missteps have allowed Skaife to gain full knowledge of what it takes to be both a strong chef and business owner.
“I had my own line of salad dressings I’ve sold in stores for about three years,” Skaife said. “I was in a small business incubator by WSU and they had a free kitchen, and so they helped me and I got into QFC stores and a few others around the coast. I was driven out of business because I had no idea what it would take to facilitate and maintain that type of sales with demo ladies and stuff like that. So really, my early success put me out of business for being naive. So that was a really good business lesson and life lesson too, just because you have a good product doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful. You’ve got to service it and you can’t be too big for your britches.”
Despite the name of the store, the honey sesame chicken salad with Skaife’s homemade dressing leaves the lasting impact, with customers scraping the container for every last drop. Veritably, the owner’s remark that it will change your life for the better rings true.
Nothing captures the experience of Tasty Bun better than the words spoken from the owner himself.
“I’m not taking it too seriously, but honestly I think the food’s serious,” Skaife said.
The staff’s lighthearted and friendly disposition only adds to the flavor of Skaife’s creations, causing patrons to root for the small business owner. Perhaps Skaife’s second time’s a charm, and will enable “world domination one bun at a time.”
Nicole Glidden is the opinion editor. Follow her on Twitter: @NicoleGlidden16.