It’s definitely not a food truck lot, but it’s not exactly a traditional restaurant either. New eatery The Asheville Commissary Kitchen and Pub offers South Asheville guests the ambiance of an indoor, full-service dining experience while sourcing its ever-evolving menu from a cast of food trucks and burgeoning local chefs.
For the culinary talent, this business model offers a low-risk opportunity. Trucks and chefs currently aren’t expected to pay a fee, and the commissary doesn’t take a cut of sales. Instead, owners Benjamin Dunbar and Jeremiah Jackson plan to cover their costs by selling beer, wine and nonalcoholic drinks in addition to other locally sourced food products.
A culinary concept
“We considered just doing a full-service restaurant, but we want to bring community and collaboration to the south side with this,” Dunbar says, citing food truck lots and pop-up kitchens across downtown and West Asheville as inspiring local trends. “My business partner and I are both from the south side, and we don’t have any of that.”
The duo met while working together on Jackson’s Farm to Fender food truck. While serving from outside the building at 3080 Sweeten Creek Road (formerly CinTom’s Frozen Custard), they saw an opportunity beyond the pavement.
“We sat in that parking lot for 18 months … vending out of the food truck while the custard shop was there building a clientele, developing this idea and writing a business plan,” Dunbar recalls.
As he observed customers who waited outside, wishing to extinguish their own hunger and the summer heat, Dunbar reflected: “Why wouldn’t we have a place where they could just sit down, hang out and grab a beer? If you could sell every one of those people a beer while they were waiting, why wouldn’t you?”
Apparently, the businessmen didn’t come up with a suitable answer for those two questions, because now their culinary venture occupies the building at 3080 Sweeten Creek Road instead of the parking lot. And soon, Dunbar and Jackson hope more members of the Asheville food scene will join them.
“For right now, we’re not going to charge [food trucks] anything,” he says, explaining that the costs and risks associated with vending from a paid space are higher than most people realize. “We may or may not in the future. I may not ever.”
Along with the complimentary space comes assistance from the commissary’s staff members, who will take orders and run meals to customers — a low-risk proposition that should enable even the smallest businesses to partake in the collaboration.
Expanding the fleet
“We’re a local community kitchen to be shared by anybody who wants to come and use us as a restaurant,” Dunbar says, adding that fledgeling entrepreneurs are welcome.
“Aspiring chefs who don’t have a food truck or restaurant can come in and use our kitchen,” he says. “We’re totally wanting to help launch people into the right culinary direction.”
While the pub’s indoor kitchen will be fully functional for transient chefs, Dunbar says food trucks will typically cook from within their own mobile preparation spaces.
Although only one truck or chef will serve at a time, Dunbar and Jackson are building a pool of talent to call upon. Eventually, they hope to create a regular menu rotation that customers can learn to count on.
“We have 50 seats inside and a couple dozen on our deck, so we really don’t have the massive room to warrant more than one truck,” Dunbar says. “We’re looking for something a little more intimate than that.”
In addition to hot meals, the commissary is curating a minimarket full of artisan food products sourced from Western North Carolina.
“We want people to come in and explore every aspect of Asheville’s food under one roof,” Dunbar explains, adding that Farm to Fender’s smoked and cured meats and nitrate-free deli meats will also be among the inventory. “This is far from a food truck lot. … We want people involved in the local, sustainable community that’s in South Asheville.”
The Asheville Commissary Kitchen and Pub is at 3080 Sweeten Creek Road and currently operates Tuesdays through Saturdays, with lunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and dinner from 4-9 p.m. Visit facebook.com/TheAshevilleCommissary for more information.