Small Bites: New businesses continue to take root while one slips

Pho no mo: Chef Tru Phan of Pho Fusion had to close up shop on Friday, August 26. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Pho Fusion in the Downtown Market on French Broad Avenue closed on Aug. 26. Chef Tru Phan says the location of the restaurant was difficult for business, adding, “I tried to do my best, but it didn’t work out. I tried to serve healthy food to the Asheville people at a reasonable price.” When asked if he will serve Vietnamese food somewhere else, he says that there are currently no plans — though it’s not out of the realm of possibility. For now, Phan says that he has secured an executive chef position at the Cleveland Country Club in Shelby.

Also, the building that housed the now-closed Curras Dom (then Curras Nuevo) is under renovations to become a Californian-Mexican food restaurant called Baja Cafe. The owners, Celest Andrus and Walter Fogg, have lived in Asheville for three years and are 40-year veterans of the restaurant business. Andrus also owns a Baja Cafe in Boca Raton and sold another location in Deerfield Beach, Fla., about a year and a half ago.

The food will be accessible and straightforward — carnitas or Baja fish tacos, steak-and-cheese enchiladas, fajitas con carne. Tortillas, sauces and such will all be made in-house, says Andrus. “Nothing is bottled — everything is handmade.” Andrus says that the Baja Cafe will use local and hormone-free meats and will keep the food free of trans-fats.

The Baja Cafe will open in early September at 72 Weaverville Highway. For more information, call 250-3600.

The Local Joint in Fairview will open in mid-September where Sugar Beets used to be. (See the story elsewhere in Small Bites).

And last but not least, Pancho’s Carniceria has opened on Merrimon Avenue where the Artisan Deli used to be (Artisan Catering and Deli is now across the street at 1020 Merrimon Ave.). The menu is authentic, straightforward Mexican and quite small — but it’s the real deal. These guys make all their own chorizo for Mexican tortas stuffed with avocado and cilantro, plus beef tongue for tacos. They have rotating special plates — on the day Xpress stopped by, the restaurant was serving authentic carnitas. Prices are reasonable, with a stacked burrito with fillings like steak, shrimp, tilapia or vegetables with guacamole and all of the fixings at $6.50. This being an authentic carniceria, you can grab some Mexican ham and handmade chorizo on your way out. Service is friendly and bilingual. Pancho’s is located at 961 Merrimon Ave. Call 505-2399 for more information.

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