Few Asheville dining establishments can boast the staying power and history of the Silver Dollar Cafe, a diner that’s been open since the 1940s in the area now known as the River Arts District. But before the neighborhood was a hot spot for arts and food, the diner was a haunt for the average blue-collar Ashevillean.
Even with the quickening transformation and gentrification of the area, the Silver Dollar has remained an anachronistic island in Asheville where flapjacks, eggs, biscuits, gravy and sausage make up the typical breakfast — and there’s not a bowl of granola in sight.
But things are likely to change for the family that owns the landmark restaurant later this month. The Dotsikas family has owned the property since 1966 and includes son Gus Dotsikas, his mother Catherine Dotsikas and her husband, Theodore Dotsikas, who’s been running the kitchen since the family took over the place, Gus says.
Though Gus cautions that nothing is set in stone, the family is likely to ink a lease with two couples who live in Asheville. Mark Henegan, originally from South Africa, and his wife Jenny form half of the team. The Henegans own Madiba, a Brooklyn restaurant named in honor of Nelson Mandela (In South Africa, Mandela is called Madiba). The menu at Madiba focuses on traditionally prepared South African specialties with an emphasis on organic and local products. Some of the yearly proceeds from the restaurant, which has been open since 1999, go to benefit South African charities. The planned new restaurant in Asheville will not bear any resemblance to Madiba.
Madiba has handled catering for the South African Consulate, Nelson Mandela’s family and for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to name a few.
As of yet, the team is remaining tightlipped about the concept. Xpress spoke with Mark Henegan over the phone, who did not want to reveal too many details before the ink was dry on the contracts. One thing is certain, the group intends to honor the area and Dotsikas’, who will be their landlords.
“It’s such a landmark; there’s such a history. I think we were at the right place at the right time. They’re a really sweet family,” says Mark. The group intends to start construction and will likely open in the late fall.
Gus Dotsikas did reveal some basic information about the group’s plans for the property; not only are they leasing the restaurant, they’re also taking over the grassy area beyond the Silver Dollar’s parking lot. He adds that it will be an exciting addition to the neighborhood. “I think it will be good. I’ve talked to them and seen photos of what they want to do, and I’ve listened to their vision, and I like it,” he says. “Several people have wanted to take this location, but we think that these people will be right for the area.” Gus says that the property will remain in the family, who will continue to monitor construction and maintenance.
Gus says that he hopes to see his hardworking parents retire and go do their own thing. Catherine, his mother, was congenial and wistful and acknowledged that she will miss the business and her customers very much.