Ashevilleans looking to escape the cold this winter may find refuge in downtown’s newest eatery and watering hole: Pete’s Pies. Designed to replicate the cozy, warm and welcoming vibe of a traditional British pub, Pete’s will feature hearty English fare, a wide selection of local and British brews, regular broadcasts of English football matches and an expansive heated courtyard garden. Taking over the former home of Creperie Bouchon at 62 N. Lexington Ave., the pub is set to open Friday, Dec. 9.
The new venture is the lifelong dream of London native Pete Waissen. The recent Asheville transplant, a former industrial business manager and mechanical engineer, has always loved cooking. At the tender age of 10, Waissen would help his mother cook big, traditional British meals for his eight siblings. Many of the dishes he’ll be serving at Pete’s Pies trace back to those family meals; others are variations developed during his years as a home chef.
Waissen came to Asheville to be closer to his two sons: Jack, a 2012 graduate of North Carolina Central University in Durham, and Matt, a 2013 UNC Asheville alum. Both came here on collegiate tennis scholarships and have remained stateside ever since.
Both sons are financial partners in the new family business, but it was Matt, who’s lived here since 2009, who initially pitched the idea to his father. “I’ve always missed the pies from England, and Asheville is just such a unique place to have a restaurant,” he explains.
The pies in question are hearty, savory meat-and-vegetable dishes. “They’re such a huge part of any British person’s life,” Matt explains. “Americans don’t really know much about meat pies, but it’s just sort of a staple, something you might throw in a kid’s lunchbox.”
Pete’s menu will feature such treats as Steak & Mush (tenderloin, mushrooms, brown gravy, puff pastry and cheese); Beef & Ale (sirloin, carrots, peas and local brew); Pub (chicken, seasonal vegetables, cheese and white wine gravy); and Garden (roasted local vegetables, red wine gravy and mash).
Standard pub grub (think fish and chips) will also be on offer, along with assorted “butties” (British sandwiches) ranging from corned beef and lamb to vegetarian options featuring egg and roasted eggplant. Salads and sides will favor locally sourced ingredients, and vegetarian plates will include a pad thai made with sweet potato noodles. Desserts include a seasonal fruit tart, crème brûlée and flavored sorbet.
Waissen enlisted executive chef Josh Jones to help bring the menu to life. Trained in classical Italian cuisine, Jones attended culinary school in Florence, and he’s worked at Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian in Asheville and other restaurants across the country.
“Pete isn’t much of a recipe follower,” Jones says, laughing. “A lot of the menu ideas come from Pete’s brain; others are a collaboration, but I know how to piece recipes together and make them work on a large scale.”
Lake Lure native Chelsea Zappel will serve as front-of-house manager. Having previous experience at Farm Burger, Zappel says she’s excited to help bring a true British pub to life in Asheville. She sees enormous potential in the allure of the garden courtyard, which may be downtown’s largest covered seating area. The space features heat lamps and an outdoor stage that will eventually be put to use, says Zappel.
The new watering hole also plans to establish a strong relationship with local breweries. “We really want to match the drinks with the food,” says Waissen.
Matt agrees, noting, “I’m not sure that there’s too many restaurants downtown who really advertise the fact that they use local brewers’ beer in their recipes, but that will be something that we’ll definitely be doing.”
And while the core team says it’s starting off small, it has a bigger vision for the future. “The grand plan,” says Waissen, “is to eventually expand, renovate some additional space and add another bar portion if all goes well.” He intends to eventually do breakfast, opening extra early on days when English football matches air at 7 a.m. He might also offer catering and maybe even a Pete’s Pies food truck.
In the meantime, Pete’s Pies looks to be a potential fixture for those eager to grab a pint, enjoy traditional British pub grub and watch a football match among friends.
Pete’s Pies opens Friday, Dec. 9, at 62 N. Lexington Ave., accessed through the courtyard to the right of Virtue boutique. A second entrance on Carolina Drive, off Walnut Street, also leads to the courtyard. Hours will be 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. For more information, visit petespiesavl.com.