The fika files: Tidings of coffee and joy

EUROPEAN FLAVOR: Filo owner Maria Papanastasiou was inspired by her family’s Greek heritage and her travels in Europe to bring her own brand of fika culture to East Asheville. By Elizabeth Reynolds McGuire

There is a little stone building on Tunnel Road in east Asheville. To me, it has always been a cool-looking building, but nothing more. Historically, it was a meeting place for the American Legion. However, recently I realized that behind that amazing architectural exterior there’s a cozy, bohemian, European-inspired cafe. Honestly, I didn’t know there were funky, cool, possible fika places in East Asheville. Boy, was I wrong.

(fee-ka) is Swedish for the idea of sharing a cup of coffee and conversation with another person. It’s the act of slowing down in the midst of the day to simply be — with yourself or with others. Always on the lookout for great new places to sip coffee and meet friends, I was intrigued by Filo (fee-lo).

I opened the cafe’s castlelike door and entered into a huge open space filled with a warm, glowing light that made it bright and yet, still very cozy. I am certain that someone heard me breathe a deep sigh of “perrrrrfect.” I don’t think I said that out loud, but I can’t be sure.

Maria Papanastasiou has owned and managed Filo for almost eight years. She says that she has tried to create a “comfortable and inviting place” that focuses on petite pastries and savory bites. Of course, coffee, tea, wine and beer accompany her yummy goodies, are also part of Papanastasiou’s vision.

An Asheville native and a New York City-educated pastry chef, Papanastasiou was inspired by her family’s Greek roots and her travels in Europe to bring her brand of fika culture to Asheville. She’s always understood the importance of “taking personal time, which gives [her] inspiration and energy” and seeks to spread that focus in her café, she says. Filo fosters these traditionally European values of creating and sustaining friendships while sharing coffee and pastries, which is the heart of fika.

Filo is also a cafe where people meet around big, wooden tables or comfortable, plush chairs to conduct business or make new friends. I met Asheville newcomer Shayla Morrigan, who described it as a great place to “really enjoy the chance to meet with new people in such a comfortable setting.” And James MacKenzie agreed, advising, “If you come by for its design, you'll definitely stay for its delicious lattes.”

Filo’s friendship-nurturing atmosphere comes naturally: The word “filo” is based on the Greek word for “friend,” philos. So, the entire concept of Papanastasiou’s cafe is built around the idea of good food, good coffee and good times with good people. Filo’s European influence and inspiration remind us to make time to enjoy life. That’s what fika is all about.

Especially during the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, it’s important to slow down just enough to savor life’s moments. There is always time for a cup of coffee. Think how beneficial it would be to take the time to slow down and enjoy something in life for just an hour every day. Think what it would be like if we prioritized that time. I’m pretty sure that we all would be much more at peace, focused, calm and happy.

This holiday season, as you remember that Filo’s name reminds us about friendship, grab a buddy and stop by for a leisurely, friendly fika. You’ll be glad you did.

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