Stargazing usually takes place in a rustic setting, like a backyard or a field. You turn your eyes heavenward and survey the speckled dome. But when the Green Room opens this week, Asheville will have a new place for possible star sightings — of the terrestrial, not celestial, sort.
“The Green Room is a traditional term for cast and crew, where they hang out before and directly after the show,” says Tiffany Lee, who co-owns the restaurant and bar with her husband, Brian. “[We're] giving our patrons, fans and community a place to hang out.”
The Lees also own the Altamont Theatre, a few doors down Church Street from their new venture. They hope musicians and music lovers will gather at the eatery before and after the show, breaking down the division between performer and audience over food. “In true Altamont style, it's up close and personal,” Tiffany says. “It's not a big place; it's cozy.”
With mingling in mind, the Lees designed a menu with plenty of snacks and shared appetizers. In particular, the Green Room will specialize in Belgian-style pommes frites, which will come hand-cut in thick strips and fried in beef tallow. “The old-fashioned way of doing it,” Brian says. “If you're going to pay the calorie penalty for something fried, it might as well be really tasty.”
Don't eat meat? Don't worry. Chef Polo Alonso was a vegetarian for 18 years, so he'll work with special requests. “I just want to make sure everyone's getting a great meal and [to] offer a variety of food,” he says. “I like to cook like a vegetarian. Most things are very simple, earthy tones. That's just the way I've always cooked.”
Alonso worked in fine dining for most of his career, both at Red Rocker Inn in Black Mountain and at The Big EZ Lodge in Big Sky, Mont. At the Green Room, he'll depart from upscale price points while keeping some of the polish. He'll smoke meat in-house and create game specials inspired by his time out West. “It's really easy to translate fine-dining food into a sandwich,” he says.
In fact, Alonso has never been a big fan of white tablecloths and rolled silverware. Even at the posh Big EZ, he convinced diners that food was tactile. “Everyone knows how to eat with their hands,” he says. “It takes the stuffiness out of the place.”
Thus the pommes frites. Plus, Alonso will create burgers, hot and cold sandwiches, salads and soups. The dinner menu includes a couple of main dishes — a sirloin steak, pork chops and a salmon dish — but for the most part, the offerings are casual. Lunch focuses on sandwich combos that make for an easy workday lunch or a relaxing, weekend sit-a-spell.
Alonso calls the offerings comfort food, and he hopes they will support the atmosphere of the place, encouraging people to connect with one another.
The Green Room, 12 Church St., opens daily at 11 a.m. It closes at 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and midnight during the rest of the week. For more information, visit The Green Room on Facebook.