Small Bites: New restaurant on TAP in the RAD

Going public: The Asheville Public is open in the River Arts District. The four owners from left: Jenny and Mark Henegan, Dara DeBoer-Schwalje, Danny Schwalje. Photo by Halima Flynt

The Asheville Public (or TAP) recently opened in the River Arts District in the former location of the Silver Dollar Restaurant, an Asheville mainstay for quick-and-hot breakfast that opened in the ‘40s and closed earlier this year. 

The restaurant has undergone quite a transformation from the beloved-by-many greasy spoon that preceded it. Chrome and metal accents add a crisp modernity, while a breezy palette of whites and blues in the main dining area give the building a light and clean feel. Reclaimed wood and old-fashioned furniture, from mid-century modern touches toward the rear of the restaurant and cupboards and sideboards near the front, add a homey touch and keep the renovation from tipping toward the sterile. New windows in the wall facing Clingman Avenue let plenty of natural light into the dining room. The old Silver Dollar chairs have been reclaimed, painted silver and reupholstered by two of the four owners, Jenny Henegan and Dara DeBoer-Schwalje. "Luckily, all four of us seem to be, aesthetically, on the same page," says Henegan. "I think that it could be challenging if you're not. But we were all excited about bringing in elements of chrome and newness and a touch of shine, while keeping that whole juxtaposition between the old and the new. I think people want to walk into a place that feels homey, and I think that old things that are given a new life make you feel that way."

Though TAP’s ownership quartet originally planned to serve a light breakfast of pastries and coffee daily, the neighborhood has (politely) demanded the real deal, and a more substantial breakfast it will get. An early-morning menu includes pancakes with fresh or stewed fruit, yogurt and homemade granola and omelets.

Danny Schwalje, another one of the owners and also TAP’s executive chef, is an A-B Tech culinary program graduate and a fan of the art of charcuterie. Schwalje features an array of handmade sausages on the menu, a selection that includes a vegetarian version that eschews tofu in favor of mushrooms. Various other handmade sausages run the gamut from merguez (Spanish in style, frequently made with lamb) and boerewors, a South African-style farmers' sausage usually made with beef and herbs). Condiments like chow-chow, sauerkraut and chutney are made in-house. The rest of the menu has a farm-to-table bent and features a handful of bistro comfort-food items like steak-frites, soups and salads, with plenty of options for vegetarians. Prices range from $5-$11 for sausages, with mid-range prices for entrees. The most expensive item, a high-quality rib-eye, comes in at $24.

Though some of the meats, eggs and dairy on the menu are local, not everything can be — at least not yet, says Henegan. "We're going to do the best we can to keep it as local as we can — we love to support local and we'll be clear about what is and what isn't on the menu," she says. "But the longer we're open, the more we'll get there.

Behind the comfortable-looking bar is a row of taps that holds both local and imported beers. The tap lines run through the kitchen into a cooler near the rear of the building where the kegs are held, a kind of "stoop-in" refrigerator fashioned out of the sliced-off rear end of a milk truck that's permanently affixed to the building. The milk-truck rear is a holdover from the Silver Dollar, although the artifact has been scrubbed, painted and re-floored. The back of the truck, lights and all, is visible on the side of the building where the patio will go.

That terrace area will sprout green when the weather warms, Henegan says. The four partners will plant salad greens, herbs, tomatoes and berries there — some of what they’ll use in the kitchen. The side terrace may, in the future, accommodate outdoor movies and weekend warm-weather outdoor markets.

The Asheville Public is located at 175 Clingman Ave. in the River Arts District. The restaurant is open seven days a week. Breakfast is served from Monday through Friday from 8 until 11 a.m., with brunch on weekends from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Dinner is served until 11 p.m. daily, with a late-night menu served until midnight on weekdays, later on weekends. For more information, visit http://www.theashevillepublic.com or The Asheville Public Facebook page.

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