Bryan Kimmett, formerly of The Swag, an upscale inn located near Waynesville, and one-time employee of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C., has signed a lease on the former Flying Frog Café on the corner of Haywood Street and Battery Park Avenue in downtown Asheville.
Kimmett and his wife, Annie, (whose credentials include a stint as the director of restaurants at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York) will open Restaurant Solace in May of this year. This is not the duo's first venture together; they owned and operated the Black Coffee Bistro in Middleburg, Va., a small, wealthy enclave outside of D.C.
Restaurant Solace's menu will focus on European bistro and "comfort food with a twist," Kimmett says. "I like to take old family recipes, old regional recipes and update them by working with what's available local and seasonally," he says.
The upstairs café portion and patio of the restaurant will offer a casual experience, with a menu of primarily small plates. "We're going to do what I'm going to call seasonal plates," says Kimmett. “They're a little more substantial with more components than an appetizer will have."
Diners should expect to find everything from Cuban sandwiches to foie gras, alongside recognizable comfort fare like braised short ribs. Kimmett also mentions seasonal risottos with shaved white truffle and salads with house-smoked trout among the offerings he’s planning. Small plates served in the café will range from $4 to $16, he says..
Although Restaurant Solace will offer white tablecloth-style fine dining downstairs (dinner only), don't expect a stiff dining experience on either floor, says Kimmett. "We want people to feel like we're bringing them into our home, rather than just having a starched restaurant where you're shuffling people in and out." Kimmett says that a more casual feel appeals to him and his wife — she lived in Paris for a stint, and he lived in Munich, where sidewalk cafés abound.
"We want to bring the European, more café feel back to that corner," says Kimmett. He says that they want to fill the patio with herbs and plants "like you might find in a Tuscan or French villa. I'm very much into going outside and picking things off of vines and having people see us do that." The rest of the patio will be trellised to support scarlet red runner beans and nasturtiums. "It's bringing that country feel back onto the street," says Kimmett.
The restaurant will also feature house-made desserts and scratch-made artisanal breads and crisps, says Kimmett. One example that he offers is a black olive bread, which will be a chief component of a smoked-salmon BLT with heirloom tomatoes and lemon-caper mayonnaise.
Kimmett says that Tony Fraga, whose FIRC Group owns the Haywood Park Hotel, has started renovating the hotel, and is planning to include the hotel lobby, rooms and restaurant space in the updating process. The changes sound positive: Restaurant Solace patrons will no longer have to trek through the lobby of the Haywood Park Hotel to visit the restrooms, for example. Hotel guests will also be able to take the elevator directly down to the restaurant.
"Bringing my concept on and the food that I do was one of the things that [Fraga] wanted to bring to the hotel," says Kimmett. "We have a good working relationship right there already — and they know good food."
Restaurant Solace is located at 1 Battery Park Ave. and will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner (café), Tuesday through Sunday (downstairs) with some brunch items available in the café on Sunday.
A fun new way to try your wine
Been to the Asheville Wine Market on Biltmore recently? The wine shop has installed a new, state-of-the-art method for wine tasting — the Intelligent WineStation from Napa Technologies. Here's how it works: a selection of wines is kept in a climate-controlled dispenser that doles out carefully measured portions (one, two or four ounces). Tasters swipe a pre-paid "smart card" and pick their wine from a selection that runs the gamut from value wines to rare finds.
"In a way, it's like a very high-quality wine bar at very inexpensive prices," says Eberhard Heide, the owner of the market. "Why go to a wine bar and buy a $5 glass of something that you're not even sure of? Here, you can take a one-ounce taste and decide for yourself. And the wines are always held at the perfect temperature," he says.
Each pour is purged with argon, says Heide, so it's fresh through and through — and much cheaper than springing for a full glass, much less a bottle. On the day that Xpress stopped by to visit, a $125 Bordeaux blend was in the rotation with one-ounce tastes going for $5.50. A 2008 Châteauneuf-du-Pape was available for $2.50 a taste. Some of the other wines, like a 2007 riesling, were going for around $1 a taste. What a fun way to try wine.
For more about the Asheville Wine Market, visit ashevillewine.com.
On Friday, April 22, The Wine Studio of Asheville hosts "France 102," an introduction to French wine that includes a tasting. The event costs $20 and starts at 6 p.m.
Looking for something fun and quirky to do for Easter? The Wine Studio of Asheville hosts a showing of Jesus Christ Superstar on Monday, April 25, at 8 p.m. Admission is free.
For more information, visit winestudioasheville.com. RSVP for Wine Studio events by calling 255-5955, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Burgers, where there used to be Dawgs
A new gourmet hamburger shop is going into the former Cats and Dawgs space. The owners of Carmel's — Melissa Lausch, Jess Bowers and Carol Bowers — are opening a fast-casual burger place in the Grove Arcade directly next to their restaurant. The new venture, Burgerworx, will feature burgers made with all-natural Meyer beef (veggie and chicken will also be available) finished with a variety of creative toppings.
The menu is not finalized, but one example of a possible dish is the kimchi slaw burger — perfect for topping with a squeeze of Sriracha. If that’s not your thing, there are plenty other tamer options to pick from. "It's a build-your own concept. You mark off on your menu what you want, turn it in and we build it for you," Lausch says.
The counter-service only restaurant will be tight on space, but will likely allow seating for approximately 30 at the bar and at a communal table and a few smaller tables in the dining room. "A lot of it's going to be more take-out, since it's going to be a fast-paced type of environment," says Lausch.
She also says that the team hopes to keep the prices quite low, starting at around $3.50 for a burger with basic toppings, like lettuce, tomato, onion — bacon, cheese, avocados and the rest of the toppings will cost extra. Cheese offerings will range from standard American to ripened Brie.
The restaurant owners are also experimenting with rice, salad or noodle bowls that can be finished with some of the Burgerworx toppings if a customer doesn't want a sandwich. "It will be something that you can't get anywhere else," says Lausch. "We want to be able to offer as many cool possible toppings as we can without taking up too much space. And we're toying around with the idea of milkshakes, too."
Burgerworx is an independently owned restaurant, even though there is a Canadian franchise of the same name. The restaurant is slated to open in June, "hopefully," says Lausch.
"We just want to have fun with it and provide a place that people really want to come back to with good food, quick service and an upbeat atmosphere."
— Send your food news to Mackensy Lunsford at email@example.com.
who: Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s (with The Enemy Lovers)
where: Stella Blue
when: Saturday, Oct. 2 (9 p.m. $10. myspace.com/stellabluelive)
when: Saturday, Sept. 4 (3 p.m. $20 advance/$25 doors. delmccouryband.com/delyeah)