Small Bites

Photo by Jonathan Welch

The Java Reef: It’s rare to encounter understatement in a press release, but one heralding the opening of “Asheville’s only public mini-reef Aquarium and coffee/espresso bar” surely hits the mark. The Java Reef may be one of the only spots anywhere where patrons can sip lattes while watching angelfish swim by. The centerpiece of Java Reef, pictured above and located in the Asheville Aquarium, is a 575-gallon reef display, featuring surging water splashing across coral outcroppings. Sitting amongst recreations of the Amazon river and African rift lakes may even counteract caffeine’s effects, says vice-president Dave Strack: “Many studies have been conducted with regards to aquariums and stress relief,” he writes. The full-service coffee bar and aquatic theater, located at 5 Regent Park Blvd., Suite 106, is open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sundays, noon-6 p.m. For more information, call 350-0992.

Gabrielle’s: Chef Perry Hendrix, whose recent tenure at The Market Place earned lavish praise from owner Mark Rosenstein (“He’s the man,” Rosenstein told Xpress last December), has gone back to Gabrielle’s at the Richmond Hill Inn. Hendrix first arrived at Market Place in 1999, working under Rosenstein’s tutelage before decamping to Gabrielle’s. He served as executive chef there for two years. Then, as Richmond Hill spokeswoman Susie Zimmerman writes, “Robert Redford whisked Perry off to Utah.” Hendrix last year returned to Asheville, taking the executive chef’s job at Market Place.

Clearly pleased to have Hendrix back in the kitchen, Richmond Hill is offering a promotion in conjunction with his return: Guests spending two nights at the hotel receive a $75 Gabrielle’s gift certificate.

A pair of chefs has been tapped to succeed Hendrix at Market Place: According to an e-newsletter issued by the restaurant, Justin Burdett and Michelle Bailey, a member of A-B Tech’s 2007 championship culinary team, have been named co-executive chefs.

South Asheville Closings: South Asheville is three restaurants short after a raft of closings linked to the weakening economy. The Boathouse on Lake Julian and Riverside Family Grill, both on Long Shoals Road, and The Original Steakhouse and Sports Theatre on Hendersonville Road all shut down earlier this month, blaming “soaring gas prices” and diners’ growing reluctance to splurge on an evening out. Owners of Riverside and The Boathouse, operated by Charleston’s Crew Carolina restaurant group, also pointed to continuing road construction in Arden as an insurmountable problem. Crew Carolina will continue to run its two remaining Boathouse restaurants in South Carolina, although it has cancelled plans to open a new one in Greenville. The Florida-based Original Steakhouse chain, which earlier this year announced it would convert its restaurants to NASCAR-themed grills, has closed all of its locations.


In last week’s Small Bites food-news column, we mentioned the soon-to-open Growing Young Café, a kid-friendly play space and eatery at 611 Tunnel Road. The café is slated to open Aug. 1, not Aug. 15, as we reported.

Five Guys Burgers And Fries: In what might be a further indicator of diners’ recent economic fortunes, burger places are popping up to replace the shuttered steak joints. Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the immensely popular Virginia-based chain, is slated to open a store in the Gerber Village shopping center at 1838 Hendersonville Road. Five Guys is already well-established in North Carolina, with more than two dozen outlets statewide. The eatery offers a tightly edited menu of—as the name implies—burgers and fries, standard or seasoned. For adventurous epicureans, hot dogs and grilled cheese are also on the menu. And how good are the burgers? Even though company policy prohibits advertising, the restaurant routinely turns up on “Best Of” lists: The Washington Post called the five guys behind the franchise “the Willy Wonkas of Burgercraft.”


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