My Picky Companion and I both cook for a living, so many people assume that our home life must revolve around baking soufflés, whisking our own mayonnaise and preparing elaborate meals for each other.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
When the invariable question pops up – “So, who cooks at home?” – the answer is, for the most part, no one. I do make a mean egg and cheese sandwich around 3 a.m., and he does a fabulous job of brewing coffee and toasting (store-bought) bread, usually some time near noon. But come dinnertime, six days a week, one or both of us is at work making meals for restaurant customers.
And then, Sunday finally rolls around. After 20 hours of cooking for behemoth weekend crowds, getting out of bed to make more food is about as enticing as filing taxes. So for me, Sunday is about moving very slowly and not going near the stove. It’s also the only day that I can have a daytime drink without feeling guilty – and without having to work with sharp and dangerous equipment afterward.
All of these factors lead me to one destination: brunch. The meal is the first of many reasons that Sunday is my fun day.
One of my favorite spots for Sunday brunch (or breakfast any day of the week, save Monday, when they’re closed) is the Sunny Point Café and Bakery, at 626 Haywood Road in West Asheville.
I usually get the MGB (Mighty Good Breakfast), with hormone-free, house-made sausage, free-range eggs, the incomparable chipotle-cheese grits, and amazingly fluffy and buttery angel biscuits. The items are almost always perfectly cooked, and for the quality and size of the portions, the $6.95 MGB is a mighty fine deal.
For the amount of business this place gets, everything moves along pretty fast, and the staff is quite personable and considerate. When Picky Companion lived in West Asheville, we would go to Sunny Point several days a week and do a crossword puzzle over coffee and grub, so the man behind the counter took to offering us a pencil every time we walked in. Very classy.
Many folks have heard that Limones, at 13 Eagle St., offers up great new alternatives for dinner in downtown Asheville. What some may not know is that the restaurant also serves an excellent brunch. The Sunday menu includes some distinctly breakfast-y items, as well as more lunch-like fare, including sandwiches and salads, with plenty of vegetarian options in both categories.
The style flows from fresh takes on traditional Mexican dishes like chilaquiles, a tortilla casserole with scrambled eggs and queso fresco, to California-style options, such as fresh fruit dishes or tofu scramble with fresh organic veggies.
The Torta de Huevo is one of my favorites. This lovely breakfast sandwich seems to change slightly each time I visit the restaurant, allowing me to eat the same dish without getting stuck in a rut. Typically, it consists of an over-easy egg and some form of hormone-free pork (such as the delicious house-made sausage), served on a surprisingly light sourdough roll.
Then there’s Limones’ scones, which are also not your typical dense brick of flour. I tried them on suggestion of my server, and found them wonderful – they’re infused with fruit and served with a tart and tangy lemon curd, making for a great little pre-brunch appetizer to accompany the house’s excellent coffee.
Picky Companion, for his part, tends to gravitate toward the items that most closely resemble huevos rancheros. I usually end up convincing him to trade meals with me, and eat half of it myself.
photo by Jon Elliston
The Over Easy Café, at 32 Broadway in downtown Asheville, recently changed ownership, and some changes are indeed noticeable. The two women that currently run this extremely popular little spot have tweaked the seating arrangement so that it seems less of a squeeze than it used to. (For me, that’s a fortunate adjustment, because on Sunday morning, especially, I’m generally a little grouchy and in no mood to be touched by strangers – even inadvertently.)
The menu offers a super selection of ingredients to fill up your free-range omelet, like smoked trout or salmon, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, fresh herbs and much more. (A line cook I work with swears by the breakfast sandwich, a homemade croissant stuffed with eggs, cheese, bacon, tomatoes and dijonnaise.)
I’m also a new fan of the carrot-ginger juice they make fresh; it’s hot as hell, in a way that feels like it’s burning all the Saturday-night toxins out of your body. Just what the doctor ordered.
Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company
Come Sunday night, I may not be awake. But if I am, and it’s not football season (in which case my butt is more than likely parked in front of a big-screen TV with a pint of beer and a cheeseburger), I often opt for the Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company at 675 Merrimon Ave.
There I can perch on a barstool with a pint of beer and a slice. The pizza seems like it somehow gets better all the time, and the establishment offers a wide selection of toppings, including Spam (yes, Spam).
What’s more, the staff is friendly and attentive, especially if you sit at the bar. Master brewer Doug Riley makes fantastic beer, including the Roland’s ESB, a malty, nut-colored ale, the crisp Houdini ESP, and my long-time cold weather favorites, the delicious Rook Porter and the creamy Scout Stout.
The place has become more family-friendly since the days when my (then) hooligan friends and I used to hang out all night and shoot pool. I certainly don’t remember anyone playing Dance, Dance, Revolution back then, but now it seems like there’s always a pre-teen or two bouncing around on the video game, and an anguished parent squinting at their offspring through the spasm-inducing lights. (This is primarily what keeps me out of the game room and at the bar.)
photo by Jon Elliston
On the odd Sunday nights that I feel like consuming something other than vehicles for cheese, I head for the bar at Wasabi, the newest sushi joint in downtown Asheville.
The restaurant is located at 19 Broadway, almost directly across the street from Over Easy. On Sunday nights, I tend to see a lot of fellow cooks and other various restaurant workers there, tossing back sake and sampling the always fresh and good – but fairly expensive – rolls, sashimi and sushi.
I like this place for its bold and unfamiliar special selections, and also for its tendency to warn the customer of the presence of “crunchy” if it happens to lurk in any of their rolls. I find the inclusion of this substance, which is basically tempura flake, to be an alarming trend among sushi restaurants. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that not only should Americans be offered cream cheese and smoked salmon with their seaweed and rice roll, it might also be a good idea to make a roll that tastes like fried chicken.
I know that plenty of people love this stuff – but if it’s there, I want to know about it so I can avoid it like the plague. Thank you, Wasabi, for the warning (along with the unfiltered sake and the fabulously fresh raw flesh from some sea creature I’ve never heard of).
And thank you, everyone else that takes care of those of us who go out to eat on our blessed days off. Sunday wouldn’t be the same without you.