Editor’s note: In the conclusion to this two-part series, correspondent Micah Wilkins checks in with some of the many restaurants that opened in Asheville last year.
More than a dozen new restaurants opened throughout Asheville in 2013, adding even more to the city’s lively restaurant scene. With the beginning of the new year, XPress checked in with some of the restaurants’ owners and chefs to see how things are going after their first few months in business.
Charred Octopus at The Bull and Beggar (Alicia Funderburk/ Mountain Xpress)
The Bull and Beggar
When Chef Matt Dawes, formerly of Table, and Drew Wallace, who owns the Admiral, teamed up to start the Bull and Beggar, the pair started an establishment that is unlike other restaurants. In its River Arts District location, next to Wedge Brewing, the Bull and Beggar has no sign to make its presence known. You either know it’s there, or you don’t. Under a bridge in an old warehouse building, the Bull and Beggar’s customers have been steadily growing in number, simply through word of mouth.
“For six months people were asking me what kind of restaurant it would be, and I couldn’t come up with an answer,” Dawes says. From wild hare shipped from Scotland to raw oysters to ham that has been curing in-house for four months, the Bull and Beggar offers a wide variety of high-quality meats, seafood, creative salads, a plethora of cheeses and more.
The kitchen is even open as late as midnight, if need be. Serving late-night double cheeseburgers, an off-the-menu item that is only available after 10 p.m., Dawes likes to be able to offer a late-night service to those in need of good food after dinner hours. “As long as they’re coming we’ll stay open,” Dawes says.
But they can’t do everything, the restaurant owners decided. When the Bull and Beggar opened in July, the restaurant offered brunch on Saturdays, but this proved to be too difficult, so Dawes and Wallace discontinued it. Says Dawes, “We’ve been doing a lot of things by ear, I suppose.”
Chef Dean Neff of Rhubarb (Alicia Funderburk/ Mountain Xpress)
Rhubarb in Pack Square is the first restaurant where Chef John Fleer has worked that does not require a reservation. As a James Beard Award-winning chef, he has worked at an isolated resort and a five-star restaurant, both of which were off the beaten path. Since he opened Rhubarb in October, every day has brought about a new surprise. “We did what each night would hold,” he says. “Being in the center of town makes each day exciting.”
Fleer has also learned from the ebb and flow of the city. “Not every day has been superbusy,” he says.
Rhubarb features what Fleer calls contemporary American cooking with a diverse menu. Rhubarb “builds a good niche of creative but accessible food,” he says. “I’ve tried to be conscious to make sure the menu is fairly broad so that the prices aren’t superhigh.” Diners can come for inexpensive snacks and share plates like rosemary roasted pecans or the local cheese plate, or they can enjoy full plates like sunburst trout roasted in the wood oven, served with fennel and leek confit.
The menu evolves with the seasons, and in the warmer months, guests will be able to enjoy the patio seating, which, according to Fleer, “has got to be the best outdoor dining spot in town.”
Urban Orchard General Manager Josie Mielke (Alicia Funderburk/ Mountain Xpress)
The family-owned business Urban Orchard had its grand opening Oct. 30, but the idea for this West Asheville cider bar started about five years ago. General Manager Josie Mielke, who is the daughter of the owner, is gluten-free and explored drinking cider a few years back along with her husband, who is also gluten-free. “Back then there was no craft cider,” she says. “It was all sugary. We were pretty disgusted by it. So we decided to ferment our own cider.”
When her father’s building firm tanked with the economy during the recession, the family decided to start a small business centered on providing an “alternative to the beer craze,” Mielke says. “It offers an alternative to women and people who are not into beer at the same time.”
Pressed from apples grown in Hendersonville, the bar offers a dry sweet English cider and a ginger-infused Champagne, as well as other seasonal options on the rotating tap, like hot mulled cider. Urban Orchard also offers a small selection of beer and wine, as well as your typical wine bar fare, which includes local cheeses and crackers. But according to Mielke, about 70 percent of the sales have been cider. “It’s definitely a new and interesting idea,” she says, and a good fit for Asheville. “People like new and interesting things here.”
Oyster House owner Billy Klingel. (Alicia Funderburk/ Mountain Xpress)
When Billy Klingel decided to move his brewing company out of the Lobster Trap in downtown to its own location in West Asheville, he says it was his plan all along. The Oyster House now serves food and brews more beer than its previous location would allow.
Klingel, who lives just a block away, is delighted by the new location, a stand-alone building across the street from Sunny Point Cafe. “It’s the standard West Asheville beautiful architecture old-style,” he says. The Haywood Road building has its own parking lot. Klingel says, “You can’t beat it.”
Oyster House offers inexpensive pub fare like fish and chips and lots and lots of oysters, in lots of different ways, plus Klingel’s specialty Oyster House brews: the Oyster House IPA, the Moonstone Oyster Stout, the Cask-conditioned Rum Barrel Aged Citra IPA, the Ole Dirty Blonde and more.
Since opening in September, Oyster House has quickly become a neighborhood bar in West Asheville. “It’s a great spot,” says Klingel. “We see a lot of the same faces.