Small Bites

Pho is coming

The long-awaited Pho Fusion is finally opening at the Downtown Market on Saturday, Nov. 20. Owner and manager Jesse Lirette and chef Tru Phan promise the pho is really here this time.

The opening of the eatery will mark the first Vietnamese restaurant in Asheville to date.

"I did a little bit of homework and found out that there was nothing like this being offered to the people living in Asheville," says Lirette. That's for sure. Voters in the Xpress' yearly Best of WNC poll have repeatedly cited Vietnamese, along with Ethiopian, as the food most needed in Asheville.

What’s more, it looks like the chef behind the venture knows what he's doing.

According to a press release from the restaurant, "Phan learned traditional Vietnamese cooking through his mother, before completing a formal culinary education after arriving in the United States. He was a prisoner of war in a North Vietnamese hard labor camp, and after his escape and asylum, worked his way through higher education and learned classical cooking techniques alongside pedigreed French chefs." Phan has worked in Hyatt Hotels and, notably, at the Ritz-Carlton.

"We want to serve healthy food for the people that live in Asheville," says Phan. "My Vietnamese food will use bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro, scallion, everything fresh."

"In the future, hopefully we'll be able to bring out some specialty dishes, not just on the pho side, but because of Tru's background, he's able to offer different cultural cuisines," says Lirette.

"When I lived in Tokyo for three years helping to develop some restaurants there, they were pushing the health ticket,” says Lirette. “Vietnamese food was one of the major things entering the Japanese market because of the health part of it. (Pho is) a soup stock; it's a broth, and then you get a lot of vegetables. You get everything in one bowl," he says.

"I want to support the community here, and I also want to keep the menu simple," he adds. "I don't want you to come in and look at 50 items, I want you to look at six or seven."

Those signature items include pho, the traditional Northern Vietnamese soup dish, several ways. Typically, pho consists primarily of broth, beef and noodles. Pho Fusion's version will also be available vegetarian, with tofu and seasonal vegetables, or with chicken. The most expensive soup bowl will cost $7.50.

Pho Fusion will offer condiments on the bar so that people can customize their food with herbs, chilies and hot sauce.

The restaurant will also serve Vietnamese spring rolls for $3.50. Lovers of the Vietnamese hoagie, the bahn mi, from the now-defunct late-night menu at the Admiral will be happy to note that it can now be had at Pho Fusion. The $5 sandwiches will be made in the traditional fashion with pork, daikon, carrot and cilantro, or vegetarian-style with tofu.

Hours will mirror the Downtown Market’s: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, closing at 5 p.m. on Sundays, with hopes of extending business hours to five days per week, and possibly later, in the near future.

The Downtown Market is located at 45 S. French Broad Ave. in downtown Asheville. For more information, visit

Local loaves

Already locally focused City Bakery is taking things a step further. Head baker Jesse Bardyn is now making a NC sourdough boule, for sale every Thursday at either City Bakery. It’s made with 100-percent organic N.C. wheat, and is now available for as long as the flour lasts. 

“The naturally leavened boule is different from our regular sourdough, and has a more intense sour flavor and a delicious crispy crust,” says City Bakery general manager Brian Dennehy.

The City Bakery has two locations: 60 Biltmore Ave. and 88 Charlotte St. in downtown Asheville. For more information, visit

Turkey day options

Don’t feel like working too hard this season? Opting to just kick it with one significant other? There are plenty of dining options available this year in the independent restaurant community.
•  Bistro 1896 will be open for both lunch and dinner on Thanksgiving Day. and 251-1300.
•  Mother and son Bistro and Bakery will be open from noon until 5 p.m. for a traditional Thanksgiving spread, buffet style. Reservations are required. and 505-3510
•  All of the Grove Park Inn restaurants will be open. Visit or call 252-2711 for reservations or more information.
•  Fiore’s Ristorante Toscana will be serving an a la carte Thanksgiving menu, which can be viewed by visiting, or call 281-0710 for reservations or more information.
•  The Moose Café by the WNC Farmers Market will also be open. and 255-0920.
•  Both the Kessler Ballroom and the Red Stag Grill at the Grand Bohemian in Biltmore Village will feature a special menu. For more information, visit
•  Frankie Bones will feature a special Thanksgiving menu of traditional as well as not-so-typical fare. The full menu is displayed on the restaurant’s Facebook page. For more information, visit or call 274-7111.
•  Pack’s Tavern will be open for Thanksgiving. Visit or call 225-6944 for more information.

•  The Grovewood Café will also be open, featuring a special menu. The restaurant’s Facebook page has details. or 258-8956.

For an extended list of restaurants, visit Know one that’s not listed here? Add it at

— Send your food news to Mackensy Lunsford at


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