Salsa’s goes next door

Where succulent sweets once reigned, spices and salt will take over. Salsa's Mexican Caribbean Restaurant, a downtown Latin food stronghold for the last 18 years, will take over the space formerly occupied by the Sisters McMullen Cupcake Corner, which closed on Sunday, Aug. 12.

Hector Diaz, founder and owner of Salsa's (also of Modesto and Chorizo, the Italian and Latin restaurants, respectively), will occupy the building beginning Sept. 1, and he plans to open a companion bar to Salsa's on Oct. 1.

“There's always a lot of people waiting at Salsa's outside, so what we're going to do with the corner is we're going to make that a bar for Salsa's, a beautiful bar that all has to do with the same things we're doing now,” he says.

But his plans don't stop there. He will continue to refine his concept at the corner until early next spring, when he says he will launch a unique — but for now secret — venture.

“It's a pioneer concept to Asheville and the United States,” he explains. “No matter what we do there, it's going to be a concept where you take and you go. It's going to be a quick thing.”

A Salsa's expansion has been rumored for some time because waiting patrons for the Patton Avenue restaurant often overflow onto the sidewalk. More than a year ago, Diaz purchased the property at 23 Broadway St., but said in a January 2011 Xpress story that the property was an “investment.” The commercial space at that address remains vacant.

Sisters McMullen bakery will consolidate its efforts at its 840 Merrimon Ave. location, according to a sign posted on the now-closed downtown spot.

Rosetta’s goes to school

Rosetta's Kitchen has done a lot of traveling this year, through its food anyway. The Lexington Avenue staple launched a retail line in February, placing boxes of veggie burgers in area grocery stores such as Ingles and Earth Fare. In March, UNCA picked up the product for its cafeteria, a move that was popular enough with the students to bring more of the menu to campus — if not the restaurant itself.

Starting with the 2012 fall semester, Rosetta’s Kitchenette will set up shop there as the first subcontractor on the property.

UNCA approached owner Rosetta Starr about the project about two months before the Aug. 20 scheduled opening day. Time was short, but the restaurant is now set to open on schedule in the Sherrill Center for three squares a day.

Emily Williams, senior director of dining services, says Rosetta's was the school's first choice for a local vendor who could meet the needs of the campus’ considerable vegan and vegetarian community. She added that the response from faculty and summer students has been extremely positive. Although Rosetta's will have to comply with campus dining hall policies, much of its downtown identity will transfer. Williams estimated that about 85 percent of the downtown menu will be available in the Sherrill Center location.

“They've really taken on the Rosetta's brand and role into the facility, so there are table-side terrariums; there's a mural going in in the middle of September,” she says.

The café will be open to the public and the campus community Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Little Bee Thai goes to the market

After mysteriously disappearing from their 3101 Sweeten Creek Road location at the beginning of the summer, the folks at Little Bee Thai have returned, sans dining room, as vendors at the French Broad Food Co-op Wednesday Tailgate Market. Took, who cooks the food, and her husband, Rick Corcoran, offer fresh spring rolls and packaged sauces for take-home, and happily recommend protein pairings from neighboring vendors to complete the meals.

In keeping with her characteristic commitment to freshness, Took cooks the dishes on the day of the market. Thai classics such as Panang curry, red and green curries, pineapple red curry — a favorite of Corcoran — as well as basil, ginger and sweet and sour sauces are all available until they sell out. The spring rolls come in chicken, shrimp and tofu varieties.

Corcoran says that he and Took are happy to take the summer slowly. Business was booming in their small gas station hideaway — with 45-minute waits for tables in some cases. But when the building changed ownership, they knew it was time to move on. The once-weekly market is a welcome respite for the pair, but the lull will be brief. They plan to re-open in east Asheville before fall. Updates will be available at

Meanwhile, Toi's Thai Food has set up shop in Little Bee's stead. The Tois — another husband-and-wife team — are transplants from Los Angeles, friends of a friend of Took. The meals are no-frills, hearty staples of Thai restaurant fare — curries, soups, salads and noodle dishes. While the Tois are not exactly gourmands, their meals are satisfying, and their enthusiasm for what they prepare will justify any downtowner's drive south.

The Toi's menu is available online at Lunch is served Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Weeknight dinner is available from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Saturday hours are 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. The restaurant is closed Sundays.

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