Small Bites

Chips ahoy: The Steury family is opening a gourmet chip shop across from the Mellow Mushroom on Broadway Street In downtown Asheville. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Cure yourself, or eat Spanish tapas, they say

The much-anticipated Cúrate is opening on Friday, March 4, in the former Arts Council gallery space on Biltmore Avenue. The traditional-style Spanish tapas bar is the project of Heirloom Hospitality, a group that includes chef Katie Button, an alumna of the internationally renowned Ferran Adria's el Bulli and a former associate of celebrated Spanish chef José Andrés.

Cúrate's dining room service will be directed by Felix Meana, Button’s fiancé and fellow former el Bulli employee. Meana also managed Andrés’ tasting room, SAAM, and was featured in a piece about high-end service in Art Culinaire Magazine. Local foodies expect the restaurant to be further proof that Asheville’s on the serious end of the dining-scape.

Cúrate's menu features dishes like jamón Ibérico (imported Spanish ham) and croquetas de pollo. The wine menu features Spanish wines, and the beer list will feature local draft brews and Spanish beers. Cúrate also offers sangria, made table-side.

Cúrate is located at 11 Biltmore Ave. and will be open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, from 5 until 11 p.m. Lunch and brunch service are scheduled to begin in April. For more information, call 239-4946 or visit curatetapasbar.com.

A full-on chip experience

The Gourmet Chip Company is opening at 43 1/2 Broadway St. in downtown Asheville. Neala Steury, who's opening the eatery with her husband, Adam, got her inspiration for the concept while walking around a touristy area near UCLA. She wanted a snack, but could find nothing but sugary foods — ice cream, cupcakes, frozen yogurt — but all she could think about were chips. That experience stuck in Steury's head, she says, and she eventually started putting together a business concept.

Steury's company will feature all manner of chips — slow-cooked, kettle-style and sweet potato, plantain chips, apple and other seasonal fruit and vegetable varieties. The café a variety of topping options. "You'll have all-natural ingredients," she says. "Real sun-dried tomatoes, real shaved gouda, dark Belgian chocolate shavings with smoked sea salt and bacon bits, aiolis, fondues and caramel. Basically, it's going to be a full-on chip experience."

"I thought people might be into something like that," Steury says. "And I'm 99.9 percent sure that there's nothing like it in the country. There's people that make chips and put things on them, of course, but not a chip café."

The menu will include different recipes that Steury has developed. For example, kettle-style chips might be drizzled with lavender honey, Stilton blue cheese crumbles and sea salt. "It's pretty simple, but with the honey and the lavender and the cheese, it's pretty amazing," she says.

Another example is the sweet and salty Cuban, which consists of a pile of plantain chips, smoked sea salt and a warm chocolate fondue dip.

"Everything is made to order, except for the kettle-style chips, which will be made throughout the day because it's a slow, old-fashioned, small-batch, low-heat process," says Steury. "It would take too long for people to wait for them. But they're going to be served warm, and they'll be fresh within the hour." Chips will be served in paper cones, street-food style. The café, says Steury, will also serve Boylan sodas and, eventually, local beers.

Will there be any healthy options? Yes and no, says Steury. "The oil that we're getting is called Healthy Harvest. It's a soybean oil, processed in a very natural way without chemicals." It's also naturally rich in vitamin E and Omega 3s, she says, so the oil is healthier. "And all of the ingredients will be fresh and natural."

That said, don't necessarily look to the Gourmet Chip Company as a haven for health nuts, says Steury. "You're definitely getting chips. Even apple chips will be fried in oil. You might get caramel drizzle with crushed almonds on them. When you go to an ice cream shop, you're definitely going in to have an experience and a treat."

The Gourmet Chip Company's projected opening is April. For more information, visit gourmetchipcompany.com.

What’s up at the downtown market?

Pho Fusion is now open for business six days a week in the Downtown Market at 45 S. French Broad Ave. The Vietnamese restaurant is open Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays, from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. (Previously, it had been a three-day-a-week affair).

Pho Fusion now offers one of the best lunch deals we've come across in a while: a half of a traditional Vietnamese hoagie (banh mi thit) or tofu sandwich plus a small bowl of meatball or veggie pho for $5. The deal is only available from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Or get a full order of veggie pho with rice noodles for $4.95.

For more information about Pho Fusion, visit downtownmarketasheville.com or the restaurant's Facebook page, which is updated with daily specials.

In more Downtown Market news, Hi-Fi Café is under new ownership. The duo, Katie Baird and Aaron Gibbs, turn out scratch-made food and creative coffee drinks at low prices, especially considering that everything in the tiny eatery — down to the bread — is handmade.

Classically trained Gibbs is the main culinary mind behind the venture. He makes soups from scratch, bakes all breads, makes pizza sauce and dough, bakes cheesecake and roasts all meats for the sandwiches in an amazingly small space behind a service counter. "It's basically as house-made as you can get," says Baird. "It's really fresh. We make everything, for the most part, on a daily basis."

The best deal seems to be the pizza, a dinner-plate-sized pie, conceivably large enough for two light eaters to split. Pizzas cost $5, and additional toppings are $1. "It's amazing how filling that little 10-inch pizza is," says Gibbs.

It's yet another business joining the ranks of affordable places for people to ease their lunch-time hunger without breaking the bank — an encouraging trend.

"I lived in San Francisco for a year, and I miss that about that place, that there was great food for very reasonable prices," says Gibbs. "This town has a lot of great food, but there's not a lot of great food for reasonable prices, and I definitely wanted to make that happen."

And that seems feasible; nothing costs more than $7 at the eatery. House-made soup is $3.50 a bowl, and house-baked bread can be added for $1 for a substantial meal. Hi-Fi will also turn out chilled soups for the warmer weather. "For the price, you're not going to walk away hungry," says Baird.

"And you also get to know that there are no preservatives added," says Gibbs. "It's a very wholesome product. I don't add anything that shouldn't be in food. It's very basic, very simple. I don't make things that are frou-frou. I do what's simple and what works."

Hi-Fi is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the Downtown Market, located at 45 S. French Broad Ave. For more information, visit downtownmarket.com.

Grab an affordable breakfast downtown


The Sandwich Company
, located on the first floor of the BB&T building (Suite G-110, College Street entrance) now offers breakfast. The truly tiny sandwich shop serves bagel sandwiches and burritos and other hand-held breakfast fare at very low prices — a spinach, egg and cheese burrito on a 10-inch tortilla with a side of salsa, for example, costs only $2.29. Sandwich prices for lunch range from $3.99 for a loaded all-beef dog, to $6.99 for a cheese-steak sandwich made with Angus beef.

The Sandwich Company is open from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information, call 210-8130.

— Send your food news to Mackensy Lunsford at food@mountainx.com

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