Rosetta’s Kitchen prepares to pour

Rosetta Star Max Cooper
Rosetta Star Max Cooper

When Rosetta's Kitchen opened a decade ago on Lexington Avenue, owner Rosetta Star was in the midst of her “personal rock bottom,” as she calls that time in her life. She was a 25-year-old single mother and waitress with too much beer and not enough money. “My big goal in life was not to go broke and die,” she says.

Why open a restaurant? “I was young enough to be that foolish,” she says. “I was young enough to be that bold.”

Now, as she prepares to open her second venture, she says she benefits from an additional 10 years of wisdom — and the help of her husband and business partner, Jack Buan. But her principles remain unchanged. “If there is any one secret, it's that we're transparent; we're authentic; we're raw — and not just in an uncooked way,” she says. “I think in the business world right now, there's a lot of facade, a lot of front.”

Come late summer, she'll open a pub in the former auto garage beneath the restaurant. The business will have a name of its own, she says, but she's not ready to release those details yet. Xpress reported on her plans in their formative stage just over a year ago; a loan from Mountain BizWorks came through in May, Star says, and renovations should start soon.

The bar will feature cocktails, nonalcoholic spritzers and tonics, and food from the restaurant above.

For diners who don't want to wait in the line upstairs, the pub will provide table service during mealtimes. Late-night, it will keep bar hours with a limited menu of Rosettta's staples available until the bars close (the restaurant already stays open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).

With the restaurant, Star has created her own niche. The business is a casual eatery, a late-night hangout and a philanthropic endeavor (this year alone, patrons have donated about 750 meals to their fellow diners who cannot afford to pay full price through the Everybody Eats program).

Similarly, the bar will channel multiple identities. Star imagines a hybrid dive bar, craft cocktail lounge and environmentally conscious pour room. “Rather than our top shelf being the kind of bougie, aged-forever type of thing, our top shelf will be things that are organic, biodynamic, micro-distilled or have some other positive slant on them,” she says. “So yes, you'll be able to buy an expensive, bougie cocktail here, but there will be a reason, a story behind it, not just a brand name.”

Not into cocktails? That's OK, Star says. The menu also will include watering-hole standbys. “We'll be holding the Asheville favorites,” she says. “If we don't have Old Crow and PBR, then we're just stupid.”

Asheville companies will be on the menu, too. Star has partnered with Buchi to create non-alcoholic tonics and kombucha-based mixed drinks. Noble Cider, which just released its first brew in May, will be on tap by the pint and as a mixer.

Star hopes to open the pub in time to commemorate the restaurant's 11th anniversary in September. (Ideally, the opening would coincide with LAAFF, but that might take an “Asheville miracle,” in Star's words.)

The space was an auto shop for 47 years, and by the look of the interior, it hadn't been renovated in that time. Star says a farmers market on Lexington Avenue predated the car shop, and the building was used to store produce. An old walk-in cooler remains, but it looks more like a wooden closet than a freezer.

Star has already started the upfit, albeit outside of the building. She salvaged a U-shaped, stainless-steel bar from a fondue restaurant in Charlotte, and she's been collecting furniture in marble and mahogany. “We're thinking an alchemical, Asheville-steampunk-type theme,” she says.

She'll change out the metal garage door for one made of glass and add a substantial, shady patio underneath the porch upstairs. A dumbwaiter will transport food from the restaurant to the bar below. With a can of red paint, she's sprayed lines on the concrete slab floor, laying out how the pieces will fit together. “I don't feel the need to come up with great adjectives to describe [the bar] because either you get it or you don't get it,” she says. “If there's anything we are, we are quintessentially Asheville.”

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