Home-cooked Meals To Go: Wendy’s Kitchen brings families back to the dinner table

Savannah Chastain
Christen Munsch and Wendy Neel work from the early morning hours to prepare meals for families across Destin and Santa Rosa Beach.

Everyone needs a dinner shortcut sometimes; especially for those busy days juggling work and family life, or the days when cooking just seems impossible. Wendy’s Kitchen, located at 14091-C Emerald Coast Parkway, offers just that with home-cooked meals ready to pop in the oven.

“Our idea is to bring families back to the dinner table,” said owner Wendy Neel. “People probably don’t eat a home-cooked meal because they don’t have time to go to the grocery store, cook and then clean up. My heart and vision is to bring people back to the dinner table with homemade meals.”

Neel said that her inspiration for the ready-meal business came from years of encouragement from neighbors.

“I’ve always cooked full meals for my family, and my neighbors were amazed that I had the time for that. They always joked that I should cook for them too, so that’s kind of where the idea came from.”

As for her passion for cooking, Neel said she has her mother to thank.

“My mom taught me when I was really young and always had dinner for us every night. I always preferred cooking to baking and I love making dinner.”

 Neel told The Log that initially she and her husband had researched the possibility of opening a concierge business for seasonal condo owners, but opted instead for a more local approach.

“We started seeing a need for local families and we thought it would work well as a local thing not just a tourist thing,” she said.

Wendy’s Kitchen opened in March of this year, and Neel said the response from the local community was far better than she expected.

“It surprised me,” she said. “We thought we’d do a lot of tourist business but it’s been mostly locals. It’s grown a lot and just continues to grow.”

Dinner selections vary with weekly menus and daily specials, sold with side dishes, and even dessert if requested.

“It’s a whole meal, and it’s home-cooking; all things I made for my family at home,” said Neel. “The most popular meal is the poppy-seed chicken casserole, and the chicken and dumplings are a close second.”

Meals come ready to cook in aluminum pans with instructions on how to heat each item.

“They are all 30 to 45 minute meals and we adjust cooking times so that it all comes out of the oven at the same time,” said Neel.

Two meal sizes are available, small feeds two to three people and large feeds four to six.

“A lot of things have grown from customer suggestions,” said Neel, noting that she now carries iced tea due to a customer request. “We do whatever we can do to fit our customer’s needs.”

Wendy’s Kitchen is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a daily lunch special offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We didn’t plan to do lunch but this place has a dining room space so we decided to offer hot lunches.”

Neel said that lunch is exclusively the daily special, while dinners can be varied a bit if ordered in advance. 

“If you order 24 hours in advance the meals are guaranteed but I always have extra because sometimes you don’t know you don’t want to cook until you just don’t want to cook,” she laughed.

Wendy’s Kitchen also delivers meals if pre-arranged.

“We do delivery one time a day so we must know in advance. We do delivery anywhere in Destin, Miramar and Santa Rosa Beach,” said Neel. “We will even meet people at 331, or on this side of the Destin bridge if needed.”

For more information or to see what’s cooking call 837-8837 or visit www.wendyskitchentogo.com.