Chicken and waffles settle in West Asheville

John, Julie, Milo and Hank Stehling Max Cooper
John, Julie, Milo and Hank Stehling Max Cooper

Forever is a long time to think about chicken and waffles, but such has been the plight of John and Julie Stehling.

Julie says she feels like the concept for her forthcoming restaurant, King Daddy's Chicken and Waffle, has been on her mind from time immemorial.

The Stehlings own Early Girl Eatery downtown, and they've been searching for a location for the new concept for a couple of years. “We knew that's what we wanted to do next,” she says.

Until April, the Stehlings thought they were going to open the restaurant in the South Slope neighborhood on Collier Avenue, but plans for the building they hoped to occupy were delayed, and they decided to look at different locations.

They settled on West Asheville, and if all goes well, come December, King Daddy's will be open at 444 Haywood Road in a space near Second Gear and B & B Pharmacy.

“We're in very good company in West Asheville, so we're going to try to do them proud,” Julie says, adding that she has nothing against South Slope. “I still really look forward to what happens in that area. For us, the spaces that were available were too big for us to think about doing.”

King Daddy's will offer an entirely different menu from Early Girl, although John will execute both menus with his characteristic Southern Appalachian flair. “There will be sorghum syrup and sweet potatoes and things like that on the menu for sure,” he says. “It will have that Asheville feel to it.”

John is a self-proclaimed lover of classic chicken-and-waffle restaurants, such as Los Angeles-based Roscoe's and Gladys Knight and Ron's in Atlanta. But he aims to cook his versions of the dish differently. He'll offer Belgian-style waffles, plus whole grain and gluten-free varieties. He also hopes to offer a sweet potato waffle.

Rumors that King Daddy's will replace Early Girl are circulating, Julie says, but they're totally unfounded. “We're really, really grateful to Early Girl, and Early Girl's not going anywhere,” she says. “Creatively, we just wanted to do something different.”

Back in South Slope

Until April, the Stehlings had planned to open King Daddy’s at 44 Collier Ave., next door to Burial Beer.

That building is still in development, says Burns Aldridge, who brokers the property.

The plans call for 18,000 square feet of new construction that will house multiple tenants: a restaurant with a rooftop bar, a smaller operation (retail or food service), measuring about 1,400 square feet, some warehouse space and Beer City Pretzel Company, a project that Aldridge will head up.

“Once we have a restaurant tenant, building will start,” Aldridge says. “We are all ready to go.”

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