West Asheville has been booming lately. Within the past year, Haywood Road has seen some significant changes to its dining and bar scene, the latest of which is the highly anticipated Buffalo Nickel, which opened March 18 to a packed house.
“Everyone in West Asheville has been really good about welcoming us to this side of town,” says Head Chef Ryan Kline. A culinary graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Kline moved to Asheville in 2009 to work at the Biltmore Estate, where he helped open Cedric’s Tavern. He is best known in Asheville, though, as the sous chef of Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro, where for the past two years his use of whole, local animals earned him quite the favorable reputation.
Kline’s menu at Buffalo Nickel is as sprawling as its venue. “I don’t really have anyone telling me what to do,” Kline explains, “so I can kind of let the creative demons fly a little bit.”
Chicken pot pie sits next to a cola-braised beef short rib; and house-made scrapple shares the same menu as Kline’s family recipe for pierogies. “It’s actually my mother’s recipe. When I was growing up, I’d get in trouble and have to make pierogies with my mom,” Kline jokes. “I always hated making them when I was a kid; I wanted to be outside causing trouble! It’s crazy how things come full circle.”
To say those pierogies were a hot-ticket item at the restaurant’s soft opening would be a massive understatement. Buffalo Nickel sold more than 25 pounds of them on that first night alone.
“We’re not pigeonholed into doing anything particular here,” he says. “The only things I see staying the same all the time on the menu are the oysters and the pierogies.”
But it is not just his menu that Kline has been laboring over. He has also been assembling his back-of-house dream team. “My pastry chef [Kim Walton], sous chef and I are really excited to work together again. We’ve worked together in the past, and we all bring something a little bit different to the table.”
His sous chef, Brandon Miller, helped open Seven Sows with Mike Moore of the Blind Pig Supper Club as well as managing the kitchen at the oft-praised White Duck Taco. “The first shift I ever worked in Asheville was with Brandon,” Kline remembers.
The restaurant and dining room stretches down a long, narrow first floor with an open kitchen and a ceiling peppered with mismatched chandeliers. Climb the stairs to the very pretty bar made of reclaimed wood, and you’ll find an expanded seating area and a lounge with couches and pool tables. “[Owners Rob and Lynn Foster] had owned the building for nearly 28 years” Kline explains. “And they just now decided to do something of their own with it.”
Buffalo Nickel could not have made a better choice than Ken Klehm to tend bar. Currently a student at A-B Tech’s brewing program, he is also already a staple of the West Asheville bar scene, best-known from his time behind the bar at the Rocket Club, The Magnetic Field, Burgermeister’s and Jack of Hearts. “Ken is like the godfather of the Asheville cocktail scene,” Kline says with a laugh. “He likes to say he is the creepy uncle, though.”
The early openings of Buffalo Nickel did not go as smoothly as expected, however. An hour before opening for the very first time, a kitchen hand dropped a tray of all 30 crème brûlées that had been prepped for the night. “That was about the worst thing that could happen,” Kline says. “It was 10 times more of a clusterf**k than I wanted it to be.”
But that is to be expected on someone’s very first attempt at opening a restaurant as a head chef. “I’m really focused on this place,” Kline says. “Having a little time between here and Storm really helped me get a better game plan about how we are going to execute it.”
Buffalo Nickel, 747 Haywood Road in West Asheville, is open for dinner starting at 4 p.m., with a late-night menu and bar running until 2 a.m.