When the cashier hands Christopher Skipper a customer’s order on a sheet of paper, he doesn’t call on a member of his staff to complete the request. Instead, the Virginia Beach native grins ear-to-ear and gets to work. In less than 10 minutes, he’s prepared to-go boxes of fried seafood, wings, or salmon bites from the latest location of Chef Skip, a modest carryout kitchen near Howard University’s campus. Each box comes with a signature purple flower and a side of his creamy, sweet secret sauce. Skipper watches in delight when customers decide to tuck into hot filets, well-seasoned shrimp, or crabcakes from the comfort of their cars, knowing that freshness won’t be guaranteed if they’re consumed even half an hour after they leave.
What’s in that secret sauce, anyway? “Can’t tell you,” Skipper says, only half-joking. He did reveal it has the consistency of a mayonnaise-based aioli, with garlic powder and other Cajun spices mixed in. Skipper doesn’t intend on keeping the sauce within the confines of the restaurant for too long. He wants to start bottling it soon.
Chef Skip 202 is the fourth restaurant from the namesake head chef and co-owner — and his first in D.C. Skipper has has sister spots in both Virginia Beach and Portsmouth, Virginia, and took on a D.C. expansion with encouragement from Chantel Skipper, his cousin and business partner. The District branch opened a few months ago, doing a brisk takeout business right out of the gate.
Nestled in between residential properties at 715 Euclid Street NW, the carryout appeals to a diverse community. Students from the South who attend the historically Black university might feel nostalgia for their favorite hometown spots after sampling from a menu full of fried food that Skipper blasts with Cajun spice. The shop opens from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Skipper graduated from the Culinary Institute of Virginia and started his business as a kitchen on wheels. The goal was always to “bring the fine dining experience to food trucks,” he says. He tried out hamburgers, pizza, and seafood, but the latter category eventually became the focus because it cooks quickly and always sold well.
At Chef Skip, customers can order combination platters divided into baskets or sandwiches. Skipper recommends the crabcake and shrimp platter for first-time guests, even for those who aren’t fans of shellfish. Jumbo lump crab meat gets a dash of breadcrumbs and a coating of a cornmeal seasoning with hints of garlic, onion, and red pepper. The crabcakes spend no longer than three minutes in a fryer. Oyster and shrimp po’ boys feature golden-brown seafood and sweet slaw atop a hoagie roll.
“If you like fish, then you’ll gravitate toward the fish sandwich or fish tacos,” Chantel Skipper says. “If you like our breaded shrimp as a standalone, you’ll like it even more in the shrimp tacos or po’ boy sandwich. Our menu is really customizable based on what you like to eat.”
A chopped chicken Philly 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 answer was to serve chicken and sweet peppers on a bed of Cajun fries with melted American cheese and a liberal drizzle of secret sauce.
In addition to the chicken and steak Philly, other non-seafood options include wings and mac and cheese bites. Skipper plans to add specials like crab fries and is playing around with the idea of a brunch menu.