Small Bites

Double D's: It's the return of the double-decker bus: Last week, Karen and Jeff Lazzaro, who recently purchased the red bus on the corner of Biltmore Avenue and Aston Street, opened Double D's (pictured here) inside the colorful coffee shop. And they didn't waste time: "We've actually tried to rush it," Jeff told Xpress as he was putting on the finishing touches of a quick refurbishment. "We've been working on it for only three weeks."

Photo by Jason Sandford

Double D's carries some of what you might expect, along with some added offerings — from specialty coffee drinks to smoothies to a range of desserts. The revamped operation features outdoor seating, including a back patio where local musicians will be performing on Friday and Saturday nights.

Hours are Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 505-2439 for more information.

Vue Expands: Hendersonville's Vue Wine Bar has expanding its offerings — and, accordingly, its name: The reconstituted Vue Wine Bar & Kitchen, at 123 5th Ave. E., now features a full dinner menu to complement the establishment's Old World wine scene.

"We offer seasonal cuisine using authentic products from the local land and apply classical French technique to our fare," says a news release from owners Lawrence Kobesky and Ariel Glassman. There's still plenty of vino, of course: Vue offers more than 40 wines by the glass (all "small production wines coming from farmer-oriented vineyards") and an extensive bottle list.

Vue has three main areas, each suited for a different dining experience. The downstairs seats up to 32 diners; upstairs is a couch-filled lounge; and there's a private dining room that seats 12 and features a fireplace. In the spring, the owners say, they plan to add a rooftop patio.

Vue is open for wine and dinner at 5 p.m. daily, closed on Tuesdays. For more information, visit www.vuewinebar.com or call 698-7282.

Best Dish In N.C.: If the results of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture's annual Best Dish in North Carolina contest can be trusted, Boone's The Table at Crestwood serves up some of the finest food in WNC.

The Table took third place in the fine-dining category, narrowly besting Crippen's Country Inn and Restaurant in Blowing Rock (for more on both eateries' entries, check out the June 24 Xpress). In the casual-dining competition, Hendersonville's Inn on Church Street's menu, featuring pan-fried flounder and butternut-squash ice cream, earned a second-place nod. Other regional finalists included Flat Rock Back Room and The Purple Onion in Saluda.

Top honors were awarded to Yanceyville's Yancey House Restaurant in the casual-dining category and Durham's Four Square Restaurant in the fine-dining field. To learn more about the winners, visit www.agr.state.nc.us.

Urban Harvest: With the goal of growing more than just vegetables, the Bountiful Cities Project — billed as Asheville's urban-agriculture and food-security organization — has announced plans to use the area's community gardens as fundraising venues.

Photo by Jonathan Welch

The group is hosting the first of a series of Urban Harvest dinners at the Pearson Community Garden in Montford (pictured here) to raise money for its outreach projects. A press release describes the Friday, Sept. 25, function as an "elegant, on-garden evening." The menu includes a focaccia appetizer, fresh salads and local sweet-potato cupcakes prepared by Artisan Catering, Chef Mo and Short Street Cakes, among other contributors.

Tickets to the dinner are $60 and can be purchased online at www.bountifulcitiesproject.org.

Nova No More: Nova, the eatery on Broadway in downtown Asheville, closed its doors for good earlier this month, ending restaurateur Eric Backer's high-end run at downtown dining.

Backer, whose previous ventures included the enormously popular 28806 Bakery in West Asheville, blames the troubled economy for Nova's failure.

"There just weren't enough people coming in the door," he says. "It got to the point where we were out of options."

Nova, which opened as Scratch last December, was forced to re-christen itself this spring when an attorney pointed out the name rightfully belonged to his client. The restaurant had recently hired a new executive chef and extended its small-plates strategy to lunch.

"You have to be an optimist," Backer says. "I did everything I could to keep the doors open."

Fellow restaurant insiders have speculated that Nova was doomed by its location, due to limited walk-by traffic, complicated parking arrangements and an overly ambitious seating plan, but Backer maintains that the only element in his control that could possibly have used some tweaking was the dining room's acoustics.

"The feedback I got was so minute that I knew we were doing everything right," he says.

Still, Backer says, the restaurant couldn't weather the stock market's plummet in March, which stemmed three months of steady growth. Regulars who used to dine at Nova once a week winnowed their visits to once a month, he reports.

"The whole foundation of Nova was offering a product you couldn't find anywhere else," Backer says. "Looking back, should I have compromised? I don't know if that would have been the solution or not."

Backer is now dealing with unpaid bills and unhappy catering clients who forked over hefty deposits to secure Nova's services. "I have a lot of people I'm indebted to," he says. "The cleanup is massive."

Backer was badly shaken by the closure, which he interprets as a referendum on his vision. "This was my dream," he says. "I don't know what's in the future. That's so hard to see right now."

Although Backer doesn't know what's next for him, he fears he can predict what lies ahead for fellow restaurateurs. "I can't imagine I'll be the last to close," he says. "Everyone tells me this makes them very nervous. These are tough times and a lot of restaurants are struggling."

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One thought on “Small Bites

  1. Dionysis

    The original review of this establishment (when it was Scratch) described it as offering very costly meals (the reviewer noted she had four pricey items and was “still hungry”) and that the focus was on ‘ambience’. It’s no surprise that in a tough economy, the luxury of paying top dollar for meager portions in order to soak in ‘ambience’ wasn’t a winning formula.

    It’s too bad the place has failed, but it shouldn’t be any big surprise.

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