Kat Swift’s Miss Happ’s Kitchen turns Lola’s Saloon into your one-stop night-out destination.
Every once in awhile, a new business captures the soul of a community. For the locals of west Fort Worth, Kat Swift is a familiar face. A photographer and service industry wunderkind, Kat has manned the ship at several area watering-holes. She considers Fort Worth’s music community, centered around Lola’s Saloon, as the true home for herself and husband Steve “Steedo” Smith.
Anyone who knows Kat appreciates that beneath the facade of the friendly bartender lurks a chef with some serious culinary chops. Now, with the establishment of her food truck, Miss Happ’s Kitchen, Kat and her husband can share their gospel of delicious cooking and community. Located in the Trailer Park at Lola’s Saloon on West 6th, Miss Happ’s Kitchen has a rotating menu chock-full of home-cooked goodness. Kat holds down the fort as the park’s sole permanent resident, and further establishes Lola’s as the epicenter for authentic west Fort Worth.
For Kat, the roll-out of Miss Happ’s Kitchen stands as the natural culmination of her time in Fort Worth. A 20-year veteran of the service industry, this Kat has worn every hat from general manager to prep cook, bartender to waitress. She also graduated from the University of Texas School of Business with a 4.0, so a self-directed entrepreneurial endeavor should come as no surprise.
Kat’s recipes embody her unique character, and represent a creative variety of changing styles. Eclecticism serves as a good buzzword, and sums up even the rationale behind the food truck’s name. In the lead-up to opening the food truck, Kat came across the story of a U.S. marine in the Korean War who rescued a kitten from the trenches. The marine named the cat “Miss Hap”, because she was born at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I really liked that,” says Kat. “I feel as if my life has been a series of un-calculated moves and misadventures, yet everything always works out. We’re never short on surprises or adventures.”
Stories also imbue Kat’s recipes. Her signature “Bomb Sauce”, a poblano cream sauce that garnishes several menu items, got its name from Kat’s daughter, Kada.
“At dinner several years ago, Kada asked ‘What is this sauce? It’s the bomb sauce!’” says Kat. “The name stuck, and I get more compliments on The Bomb Sauce than anything.”
Kat first discovered Fort Worth in 2000, when she stopped to visit a friend on her way to Austin. She fell in love with the community she found, the people she met, and the music she heard, so she never left. The decision to start her own business actually grew out of unfortunate circumstances. Persistent back problems led to spinal surgery in January of this year. Six months later, Kat still wasn’t cleared to return to bartending.
“I started worrying about what capabilities and limitations I would have, and how I would help provide for my family,” says Kat. “A friend of mine asked what I love to do, and my response was ‘feeding people’.”
With few resources beyond boundless enthusiasm, experience, and connections to the community, Kat and Steve took only three months to get Miss Happ’s Kitchen off and running. Kat’s right-hand man, Bud Mize, assists with the menus and cooking, while the truck itself arrived thanks to Robbie Turman, owner of Oscar’s Pub.
“My passion for cooking really grew the six years I worked at Oscar’s Pub,” says Kat. “I also worked for Keith Hicks, who now owns Buttons. I always tried to catch as much knowledge as possible from him.”
Other cooking styles and techniques arrived from family and friends, and contribute to the flavorful synthesis that represents Miss Happ’s offerings. For sample items, consider the Greengo Star, which is slow-roasted pork with chili verde sauce over rice; or the chicken and dumplings; or Kat’s signature chili Frito pie. Expect the menu, which you can view at www.misshappsfw.com, to change frequently, as Kat adapts to serve customer’s needs and wants. This fall and winter, Kat plans to debut a more unified concept that builds upon the rave reviews she’s gotten so far.
“The biggest reward has been the overwhelming amount of positive feedback I’ve gotten,” says Kat. “Sometimes I can see people open their boxes from the window of my truck, and they get a big smile on their face. That makes me so happy.”