By Beth N. Gray
SPRING HILL — Whether shopping is an outing's highlight or a day's drudge, it presents an opportunity to eat out. So every shopping plaza of a certain size seems to serve up a chance to indulge.
Two new dining spots recently opened in Timber Hills Plaza.
"Restaurants and delis help to bring customers in who will, hopefully, purchase products from other tenants, just as other tenants bring in people to eat," said shopping center manager George Keramas. "We look for a synergistic mix."
Anchored by a Winn-Dixie, Timber Hills is south of the 3400-home community of Timber Pines, a ready audience for new dining options: one a sandwich shop, the other a Mexican eatery.
At Rogue Sandwich Company, culinary school graduate Michael Webster brings a Food Network-like trove of sauces and condiments to his sandwich board for breakfast and lunch, with additional weekly specials.
"We do things a little differently," the executive chef-turned-entrepreneur said. "I won't say mine's exotic. I like to lay on the couch and think of things on Sunday, come in and make it on Monday, and no one can tell me 'no'. I love creating. I love trying something different."
Webster, 39, finesses classic sandwiches.
"The croque coquin is our take on the croque monsieur" he said, noting that "coquin" is the French translation of "rogue." The croque is a French-styled ham and cheese sandwich, dipped into beaten egg and grilled in butter. Webster amps it up with Thomasville Tomme, a French cheese he said is "like the best cheddar you've ever eaten," broils it under his own paprika bechamel sauce, then dresses it with his homemade green tomato chow chow.
Webster's turducken club sandwich — a page from that over-the-top turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken — is layered with sliced turkey and chicken breast, but surprises with duck bacon.
"It's like bacon, but way better — a cleaner taste than pork bacon, a sweet taste," he said. He replaces sliced fresh tomato with his personal recipe of creole tomato jam.
Diners also can marvel at condiments like smoked peach barbecue sauce, roasted garlic aioli, peppadew tapanade and other concoctions found mainly in food dictionaries.
With Rogue Sandwich tucked on one side of the plaza, the Azteca Mexican Restaurant faces front, opposite Winn-Dixie.
Azteca's brightly colored murals lacquered onto high-back booths are a prelude to the spicy flavors to come, family recipes of owner Sal Radvin and his wife.
Radvin opened his first Azteca restaurant in Missouri about a decade ago. When nephew Kevin Heath and his wife Amy moved to Spring Hill, Kevin complained to Radvin that "there weren't any Mexican restaurants down here that were really good."
When Radvin visited the area, he decided to open his second Azteca.
Radvin's daughter, Karin Otani, runs the kitchen and a staff of five. Amy Heath shuffles between the cooktop and the dining area, which seats 92.
Azteca offers a four-page menu of lunch combos, house specialties, appetizers, platters and sides. Lunch is Azteca's busiest time.
Entrees include fajitas, tacos, quesadillas and enchiladas featuring chicken, beef, shrimp, chorizo or veggies. A basket of tortilla chips with salsa accompanies each order.
Fajitas — a half-dozen varieties — are Azteca's most popular item, said Amy Heath. Grilled tortillas are filled with lime and spice-marinated beef, chicken, shrimp, chorizo or vegetables, then slathered with grilled onions, bell peppers and tomatoes. Rice and beans are served alongside, as well as a measure of pico de gallo.
Popular lime margaritas are available by the glass for $6 or a 60-ounce pitcher for $20.50.
A range of diners comes through the doors, Kevin Heath said with no pun intended, "A lot of it is by word of mouth."
Contact Beth Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.