Small Bites

Now that's New York-style pizza

Circle in the Square Pizza on Merrimon has always claimed to offer “a slice of New York.” Indeed, the pizza served is touted by plenty of Northern transfers as one of the only authentic New York-style slices to be found this far south of the Mason Dixon.

Sure, the pies recall what can be found quick and cheap in the myriad pizza palaces of Manhattan, Brooklyn, et cetera. The slices are big and unapologetically, perfectly greasy. The crust is thin enough to fold for maximum sidewalk-noshing portability. The prices are reasonable, too. But, when I go for pizza in the Big Apple, the main thing I'm looking for? Something quick and booze-mopping to grab en route to whichever late-night happening is on the agenda. Until recently, the Asheville night-owl could find nothing equivalent.

Yes, Barley's serves late, as does the Mellow Mushroom, but neither of those establishments claim to serve New York-style pizza, and rightly so. Circle in the Square has heard the call, and now offers late-night slices to grab and go — or dine in, if your party schedule allows.

Pizza by the slice is now available from the eatery from 11 p.m. until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The slices are affordable, too, at $2.75, with toppings, well, topping out at only $.50. What's more, UNCA students receive a 10-percent discount with student ID.

The restaurant shuts down between 9 p.m. and reopens at 11 p.m, serving only pizza, beer, fountain soda and bottled water. For now, says self-proclaimed pizza man Nick Blackshaw, the eatery offers whole pies as well. Once the late-night idea catches on, he says, Circle in the Square will be a slice-only affair late-night — and it sounds like a party. "It's a little bit more of a loud atmosphere — we turn up the music a little bit and try to have fun with it," says Blackshaw.

Circle in the Square is located at 640 Merrimon Ave. For more information, visit circleinthesquarepizza.com or call 254-5442.

Monk bites

The Thirsty Monk has made its fair share of news. This year, the online publication, Rate Beer, named the Thirsty Monk number 41 out of the 50 best places to drink a beer — in the entire world. The April 2010 issue of Paste Magazine, in an article about the 30 best beer bars in America, called Asheville “the hidden gem of the South” (though, with all the tourist traffic one has to wonder how hidden we actually are). They then went on to call the Thirsty Monk “the hidden gem of Asheville.” Then the article went on to name the Belgian beer bar in the basement of the downtown brew-lover's treasure as “the hidden gem of the Thirsty Monk.”

True as it may be for beer connoisseurs, the Thirsty Monk, which has a south Asheville location in addition to their central Asheville joint, has another hidden treasure — and this one's for the foodies among us.

Both locations now feature a menu created by Mark Rosenstein, blogger, wood-fired-everything enthusiast and all-around omnipresent Asheville food-smith. Anyone familiar with Rosenstein's work with Slow Food as well as his former restaurant, The Market Place, will find it no surprise that the new menu at the Monk focuses on local, seasonal ingredients.

Items you can expect to see include a mozzarella quesadilla stuffed with local Hickory Nut Gap beef and house-made salsa, or lamb sliders made with meat from East Fork Farm just over in Madison County. The cheekily named Bleu Ball sliders — a local lamb and beef combo topped with bleu cheese — also deserve a nod.

Desiring a meat-free experience? You can have that too, with curry-tossed local veggies, served with Roots Café organic tabouleh.

What's more, the Thirsty Monk features a “food” happy hour. What's up with that? Well, the state of North Carolina doesn't allow happy-hour drink specials for one reason or another, so some restaurants try to make good with you and your wallet by featuring post-work cheap eats.

The Thirsty Monk has egg salad, small cheese plates, hummus plates, nuts, pommes frites and more — for just $3. Other selections at $6 include a wee personal pizza, beer boiled shrimp and trout quesadillas. Not a bad deal at all.

The Thirsty Monk has two locations: 92 Patton Avenue and in Gerber Village next to the Office Depot on Hendersonville Road. For more information, visit monkpub.com.

The secret's out

What's the best-kept dining secret in Asheville? For those of you who think it's the Admiral, you're off by several years.

My money's on the A-B Tech Department of Culinary Arts and Hospitality and the meals that they serve in the dining rooms of the Magnolia and Fernihurst buildings. Each week, students from the acclaimed program put together and serve a themed lunch and dinner — at a pretty amazing price.

The buzz has been positive. Ingles Dietitian Leah McGrath and city councilman Gordon Smith recently dined at A-B Tech for Southern Week, sending accolades through the Twitter-verse.

Smith declared his lunch of bourbon sweet-potato corn bread, succotash, scalloped potatoes, shrimp and grits, among other items, "amazing" and an "incredible deal." McGrath said that the staff did a "great job," and that the Fernihurst building is "beautiful."

Lunch features gourmet sandwiches and entrees, accompanied by appetizers, desserts and beverages. Prices range from $10.95 to $11.95 plus tax, depending on entrée choice.

Evening guests have a choice of a full buffet in Magnolia, or an a la carte dinner in Fernihurst. Buffets include all of the fixings — appetizers, entrées, side dishes, desserts and beverages — for $14.95, plus tax.

The a la carte dinners in Fernihurst offer a choice of three appetizers, six entrées and three desserts representing the weekly themed cuisine, plus coffee or tea. Prices are based on the entrée of choice and include all three courses. Prices range from approximately $13.95 to $14.95, plus tax. See sidebar for further details.

— Send your food news to food@mountainx.com.

what: Oddity Faire tour
where: Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
when: Wednesday, Oct. 6 (8 p.m. $47.25. ticketmaster.com)

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