The Asheville Public (or TAP) is set to open in the River Arts District, in the former location of the Silver Dollar, an Asheville mainstay for quick and hot breakfast from the 1940s until late this year. The official opening date for TAP is Monday, Dec 19, but the restaurant will hold a soft opening this weekend.
The restaurant has undergone quite a transformation from the worn but lived-in feel of the beloved-by-many greasy spoon that preceded it. Chrome and metal accents add a crisp modernity, while a breezy palette of whites and blues in the main dining area give the building a light and clean feel. Reclaimed wood and old-fashioned furniture, from mid-century modern touches toward the rear of the restaurant and cupboards and sideboards near the front, add a homey touch and keep the renovation from tipping toward the sterile. New windows in the wall that faces Clingman Avenue let plenty of natural light into the dining room. The old Silver Dollar chairs have been reclaimed, painted silver and reupholstered by two of the four owners, Jenny Henegan and Dara DeBoer-Schwalje. “Luckily, all four of us seem to be, aesthetically, on the same page,” says Henegan. “I think that it could be challenging if you’re not. But we were all excited about bringing in elements of chrome and newness and a touch of shine, while keeping that whole juxtaposition between the old and the new. I think people want to walk into a place that feels homey, and I think that old things that are given a new life make you feel that way.”
Though TAP quartet originally planned to serve a light breakfast of pastries and coffee daily, the neighborhood has (politely) demanded the real deal, and a more substantial breakfast it will get. An early-morning menu, served from 8 until 11 a.m. weekdays, until 4 p.m. on weekends, will include pancakes with fresh or stewed fruit, yogurt and homemade granola and omelets.
One of the owners, Danny Schwalje, is an A-B Tech culinary program graduate and will take control of TAP’s kitchen as the executive chef. Schwalje is a fan of the art of charcuterie and will present an array of handmade sausages on the menu, a selection that will include a vegetarian version that eschews tofu in favor of mushrooms. Various other handmade sausages will run the gamut from merguez (Spanish in style, frequently made with lamb) and boerewors, a South African-style farmers’ sausage usually made with beef and herbs). Condiments like chow-chow, sauerkraut and chutney will be made in house. The menu will have a farm-to-table bent, featuring a handful of bistro comfort-food items like steak-frites, soups and salads with plenty of options for vegetarians. Prices will range from $5-$11 for the handmade sausages, with mid-range prices for entrees. The most expensive item, a high-quality rib-eye, will come in at $24.
Some of the meats, eggs and dairy will be local, some won’t, says Henegan. “We’re going to do the best we can to keep it as local as we can — we love to support local and we’ll be clear about what is and what isn’t on the menu,” she says. “But the longer we’re open, the more we’ll get there.
Behind the comfortable-looking bar is a row of taps that will hold both local and imported beers. The tap lines run through the kitchen into a cooler near the rear of the building where the kegs will be held, a kind of “stoop-in” refrigerator fashioned out of the sliced-off rear end of a milk truck that’s permanently affixed to the building. The milk-truck rear is a holdover from the Silver Dollar, although the artifact has been scrubbed, painted and re-floored. The back of the truck, lights and all, is visible on the side of the building where the patio will go.
That terrace area, says Jenny Henegan, will sprout green when the weather warms. The four partners will plant some of what they will use in the kitchen there, from salad greens and herbs to tomatoes and berries. The side terrace may, in the future, accommodate outdoor movies and weekend warm-weather outdoor markets.
The Asheville Public is located at 175 Clingman Ave. in the River Arts District. The restaurant will be open seven days a week. Breakfast is served from Monday through Friday from 8 until 11 a.m., with brunch on weekends from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Dinner is served until 11 p.m. daily, with a late-night menu served until midnight on weekdays, later on weekends. For more information, visit http://www.theashevillepublic.com or The Asheville Public Facebook page.