Down and dirty, Escoffier-style: King James Public House will open on Charlotte Street in Fall

Steve Goff and Peter Slamp Max Cooper
Steve Goff and Peter Slamp Max Cooper

Charlotte Street has been waiting for a new business since last fall, when Blue Water Seafood closed.

In February, Josh Wright of The Chop Shop Butchery announced he would open a bar, Shambles, in the space, which is near the intersection of Charlotte and Chestnut streets. But recently he reconsidered.

Not to worry, Charlotte Street. Chop Shop abides, and a new bar is still on the way — only now, one of the owners of Zambra will lead the project.

“Things are great with Chop Shop,” Wright says. “I just have some stuff going on. I can't really do both things right now. … Chop Shop is not going anywhere.”

Instead of Shambles, King James Public House is on the way. Zambra co-owner Peter Slamp and sous chef Steven Goff named the venture after the 1920s-era building that houses the shops. They expect to open this fall.

Goff says the pub's small size will give him “room to play.” He'll prepare dishes in two formats: modernist small plates and family-style, Escoffier-inspired dishes.

For the fomer, think a deconstructed oxtail with braised meat, jus and roasted vegetables. The family-style offerings will consist of roasts for four and side dishes like gratins, served still-bubbling from the oven.

Goff sees the larger portions as a new way of eating out for Asheville, although other cities have already embraced that style. “I feel like the larger roast is not a market niche we've fulfilled here,” he says. “But if you look at the bigger food world, there's a lot of restaurants going back to that around the country. People are enjoying that style of dining.” (For an example of how this format works in practice, check out David Chang’s Má Pêche at momofuku.com.)

Just expect to wait a bit longer for a lamb shoulder than a small plate — maybe as long as 45 minutes. “You can come in and have a cocktail or two, prime yourself for dinner, and then your roast comes out already sliced up,” Goff says.

The bar, too, will have seemingly dissimilar options, says Slamp, who heads up that enterprise, with specialty liquors and what he calls “down and dirty” options. “It's all about just going in there and having what you want,” he says. “If you want to come in have a real crafty cocktail or something like that, that option will be there. But if you want to come in and have a bottle of Mickey's Big Mouth, that will be there too.”

Both Goff and Slamp look forward to opening a small restaurant. “Zambra is kind of a beast,” Slamp says. “It's a pretty big place. It's nice to do something more intimate.”

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