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FAVORITE SPOT: Judith Young and Art Kuchuck discovered the “hidden gem” of Cafe´Azalea in Haw Creek after moving to the area from Manhattan. Chef Kris Dietrick’s salads and desserts are among the menu items they enjoy.

Xpress invites readers to weigh in on their favorite local eateries. This week, Judith Young, who was joined by her husband, Art Kuchuk, shares her experiences at Haw Creek’s Café Azalea.

Until a few years ago, my husband and I lived in the center of the great melting pot of Manhattan. There were hundreds of restaurants, representing every ethnic group, within a short range of our apartment. We tried to enjoy them all, so it’s been with surprise and delight that we have “discovered” and participated in the outstanding Asheville restaurant scene.

Recently, some neighbors, knowing our foodie quest, insisted that we visit a local Haw Creek eatery, Café Azalea. They steered us to this hidden treasure, which is tucked away in a small shopping center on Tunnel Road. It’s owned and operated by Chef Kris Dietrick, who took it over a few months ago. We expected some food good enough for a quick bite but were surprised by the delicious meals served at this top-notch restaurant. Chef Kris says he’s starting out modestly and will be building up to bigger and better things as time progresses. What could he mean? We love it now!

I recently had a salmon dish in a savory sauce, which not only delighted my taste buds but contained ingredients melded in such an aromatic way as to send fragrance up through my head as well. My husband had a chicken dish that combined white and dark meat in some sort of reduced sauce that reminded him of heaven. There was some puffy dough wrapped around the dark meat in addition to vegetables that created a mysterious, magical taste experience. Friends who joined us for the meal had shrimp and grits, as well as a trout dish, which they kept raving about. They also were impressed with the quality and freshness of the food and the beautiful presentation of each plate.

Since our first visit, we’ve been back for several other lunches and dinners, each of which was outstanding. We’ve had a smoky tomato soup enriched with bacon, a mushroom soup that had actual mushrooms, generous salads perfectly dressed and various delicious desserts. And there is a fully stocked, comfortable bar.

Café Azalea is well worth the trip to Haw Creek. It has been a local secret but deserves to rank among all the highly touted newbies opening in Asheville. And please, once y’all discover this place for yourselves, make sure to save us a seat at the table. 

Café Azalea is at 1011 Tunnel Road, Suite 100.

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