Lutz soul food restaurant Ava’s Lowcountry Cuisine expands with indoor seating

Chef Ava JonesAlexandria Jones

The pandemic has thrown many curve balls at restaurateurs over the last six months. While some have had to shutter, others have used this time to get creative with offerings and operations.

One of those restaurateurs is disabled veteran mom and former NBA personal chef, Ava Evans, better known as Chef Ava. The chef-owner debuted Ava’s Lowcountry Cuisine in December 2019 solely offering lunch services, but once self-quarantining began during the pandemic, she was forced to pivot and began operating on the weekends and offering meal bundles, allowing diners to taste a variety of her menu. Being that the unit next to the restaurant is newly vacant, Ava’s is taking over the space and will begin offering indoor seating in late October.

“As a new restaurant that opened up in the midst of the pandemic, it has been a challenge to keep our doors open. Especially since we did not qualify for many of the financial relief options provided by the government. While it’s a challenge we really want to help Tampa Bay Area residents enjoy Lowcountry Cuisine close to home,” Chef Ava wrote in a release.

Located off of State Road 54 in Lutz at 112 Flagship Drive, Ava’s serves up Lowcountry favorites with a southern twist.

That means eats like blackberry Cobb salad, Carolina gumbo, three cheese bake mac with your choice of red wine short ribs or herb beef tenderloin. Not to mention sides like candied yams, braised collard greens and elote corn. The dessert lineup includes cobblers like banana foster, very berry, peach, and pumpkin spice cheesecake. 

“Best of all, our meals are prepared fresh, from scratch by highly skilled chefs and cooks. We source the highest quality produce, proteins and other locally grown goods, showcasing the best of Tampa and Florida,” explained the chef. 

“We do more than just soul food. We can make homemade pastas, foods from French and Spanish cuisines. We can do anything we want and add our own twist to it,” she told CL in March. At the time, Chef Ava told CL that she’d tried to quit cooking many times, but people kept calling, and she couldn’t deny that cooking was her purpose.

“I love what I do. I know I want to grow and go bigger,” she said.

Chef Ava started her cooking career while in active duty in the Army as she attended The Chef’s Academy in Raleigh, North Carlina. After she was medically retired from the Army in 2014, she looked at her life differently. Evans started her cooking career as a personal chef in 2016, cooking for Charlotte Hornets basketball players Kemba Walker and Nick Batum at one point. 

“When I went back to culinary school, I met a guy who was cooking for athletes. I was persistent and kept in touch with him. That’s how I got the job cooking for the Hornets players,” explains Evans, who is the sole owner of Ava’s Lowcountry Cuisine.

The concept is now offering carryout, limited covered outdoor dining and delivery through UberEats. Chef Ava also offers catering, private chef services, virtual cooking lessons, meal prep, and vacation chef services. By the way, the restaurant offers military, health care professionals, first-responders and teachers discounts and special offers year-round. 

Ava’s Lowcountry Cuisine is open from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. And while we still don’t know when Ava’s will expand beyond weekend dine-in services, Evans says it’s a blessing to come this far as a new business. 

“I want to open a café or restaurant with my customers leaving with a smile on their face. My 10-year goal is to open a hotel with a restaurant,” she says.

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