Note: Bonfire Barbecue’s projected opening date changed subsequent to the original publishing of this article, which has been updated to include the new date.
Barbecue, a culinary institution in North Carolina, is both uniting and divisive at once. While the decision to partake in a barbecue feast is generally an easy one, heated discussions surrounding the area’s best meats, sauces and sides are quick to follow.
This summer, the debate continues with newcomer Bonfire Barbecue (in addition to chef Elliott Moss’ forthcoming Buxton Hall). Owned by married couple Stephanie and Jeff Barcelona, the eatery is scheduled to open Thursday night, May 14, on West Asheville’s busy Patton Avenue stretch, and the culinary twosome promise to bring something unique (and slow-cooked) to the table.
“We are offering a wide array of specialty sandwiches unlike any other we’ve really seen around town,” Stephanie Barcelona says, crediting her husband as the restaurant’s chef. “Some of our sandwiches will feature toppings like Hoop pimento cheese, brie, fried brussel sprouts, homemade aioli and apple butter, just to name a few. … We will also have a couple of really tasty vegetarian (with vegan option) sandwiches and a variety of delicious salads with protein options from catfish to brisket to smoked mushrooms.”
Bonfire’s meats are cooked “slow and low in our rotisserie smoker for the best possible flavor,” according to the owners, who also say their brisket and burnt ends will appeal to barbecue connoisseurs.
“We want to offer the best possible ingredients at the best possible price point for our customers,” Stephanie says, “and we have found that regionally sourcing our meats is the best way to start.” In the future, the Barcelonas say they may buy more from local farms and source some produce from area distributor Mountain Food Products.
While entrees are certainly important, sides can make or break the best of barbecue joints. Bonfire has a host of all-vegetarian accompaniments planned, and they “don’t skimp on the flavor,” according to Stephanie, who expects one dish in particular to bolster the restaurant’s credibility.
“A baked mac and cheese packed with a ton of flavor,” she says, “is one side that we anticipate being very well-known for.” Bonfire’s other sides include triple greens (turnip, collard and mustard greens), house-cut fries, fried brussels sprouts, mayo-based white slaw, smoked molasses beans, broccoli raab and salad.
For the dipping-inclined, Bonfire has fashioned a sauce bar that will feature a multitude of homemade sauces. Bonfire will also offer daily specials and cater to sports enthusiasts with several televisions and a projector screen for big games.
The Barcelonas, who moved to Portland, Ore., before laws permitted food trucks in Asheville, achieved great success with their first project, Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack, appearing on the Cooking Channel‘s “Eat St.” among other media outlets. But the culinary renegades missed home.
“The rainy weather took a toll, and all of our family lives here in North Carolina,” Stephanie explains, “so we sold the business and moved back.” Originally from Green Bay, Wis., Stephanie has spent nearly a decade in Asheville cumulatively, while Jeff is an area native. Collectively, the two bring 30 years of service industry experience to the Bonfire Barbecue venture.
Bonfire Barbecue, at 1056 Patton Avenue in West Asheville, has a tentative open date of Thursday, May 14, during the evening. Regular hours will be Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight thereafter. Visit bonfireavl.com for more information.