Food news to go: Salsa’s stays put, Bandidos arrives and more local food news in small bites

Salsa’s moving? No, says Diaz

In this week’s Xpress, we reported that Salsa’s, Hector Diaz’s flagship Mexican-Caribbean restaurant, was moving. That’s not the case, says Diaz.

Though he recently purchased the building at 23 Biltmore Ave., Diaz says that plans for the building are up in the air — though he does intend to put a restaurant in there some day.

“We purchased the building as an investment, but we don’t know what we’re doing,” says Diaz. “Not yet.” He acknowledges that it is tempting to move Salsa’s into the much larger building — currently, Salsa’s has a rather cramped dining room —  and the kitchen is tough to work in, to say the least. Having spent a few years toiling there, I can confirm that is indeed the case.

Whatever Diaz does with the space, he says, Asheville can likely look forward to another installation in the Hector Diaz food empire. Though exactly when remains to be seen. We’ll fill you in as we learn more.

Moderately surprised by Modesto

Speaking of Diaz, I dined at his Modesto restaurant in the Grove Arcade recently, finding an outrageously good meal there, from start to finish. The kitchen turns out amazing house-made pastas and risottos as well as some pretty impressive pizzas. And the tiramisu? It’s good enough to rival any that I’ve tried in this town. It’s enough to make me wonder: why is this restaurant, which has been around for a few years, flying so far under the radar? Give Modesto a shot if you haven’t yet.

Word on the street

Bandidos Burritos recently opened a store front in West Asheville. The owner, Justin Smudde, is best known for selling great Mexican street food downtown, at the Wedge and at the Green Man Brewing Company. Bandidos burritos, tamales and addicting home-made chips and salsa will still be available on the street, but the brick-and-mortar restaurant near Burgermeisters allows for more creativity.

Case in point: A recent visit to Bandidos found deeply flavorful food, including a dish that Smudde calls bahn mi tacos. Aside from the lightly vinegary daikon and carrot slaw and that tops the dish, the similarities to its Vietnamese hoagie namesake end.


Bahn mi fish tacos at Bandidos Burritos — photo by Jonathan Welch.

The tacos are a sampling of world flavors, with tempura-battered local trout, a smear of chipotle sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro nestled in a warm tortilla for one of my favorite cheap eat finds I’ve encountered in a while. True, at $7, it’s on the upper end of cheap, but when served with house-made chips and a perfectly executed fresh guacamole on the side, it’s not a bad deal at all.

The menu changes frequently, and is scrawled on a chalkboard that hangs above the pass-through window that separates the dining room and the kitchen. There’s also a small selection of local beers on tap and plenty of vegetarian options. Also, all of the salsas are made fresh. It’s a great addition to West Asheville.

Quick nibbles

The Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village is hosting a wine dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 12 at 6:30 p.m. Menu items include smoked salmon, pork loin, elk chop and a selection of “mountain” cheeses. Wine selections include a single-vineyard baby Meursault and a nine-year-old gold medal-winning Premier Cru from Pommard. Call at 274-2439 for information and reservations. Dinner is $75 per person, all-inclusive.

The Wine Studio of Asheville is hosting a Carolina Bison wine dinner tonight (Jan 7) at 7 p.m. Also, on Friday, Jan. 14th at 7 p.m., the Wine Studio team hosts a sake appreciation evening. They’ll explain the basics of appreciation for the rice wine, and offer tastes from six different sakes. The event is BYOS — bring your own sushi. Says the press release, “Since everyone has their own taste when it comes to sushi, we request that you bring some of your favorite to nibble on as we taste.”

The cost for each Wine Studio event is $20, and reservations are required. They can be made by calling 255-5955.

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3 thoughts on “Food news to go: Salsa’s stays put, Bandidos arrives and more local food news in small bites

  1. bikeman

    I’ve had many a great meal at Modesto, and frequently recommend it to friends and visitors. Personally, the old room felt better, the new booths appear too large for the room, but that has nothing to do with the great food

  2. Kathryn

    Mourning the passing of Pastabilities. Hands down, the best steak sandwich in town, and pretty good pizza, too. Owner of the building kicked them out, from what I hear.

  3. NC Momma

    Does anyone know why Sugar Beet in Fairview closed? That was one terrific restaurant.

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