In January 2023, Xpress visited with chef Steven Goff shortly after he purchased West Asheville’s Tastee Diner. At the time, Goff had recently renovated the space and updated its menu, which includes classic comfort food as well as upscale dishes. More recently, Goff extended Tastee Diner’s hours. The restaurant is now open until 3 a.m. five days a week, filling a void in the city’s late-night eats offerings.
A year later, Xpress caught back up with Goff to discuss gas-station charcuterie, radishes and great food destinations outside of Western North Carolina.
Xpress: What is a dish on Tastee Diner’s menu that you feel is not getting the attention that it deserves?
Well, I’ve been surprised a lot lately. We’ve moved a lot of the dinner stuff around, got rid of charcuterie and cheese and some of the more upscale stuff, and played around more with pastas. So now, everything’s kind of all getting ordered [laughs].
Do you still have the Slim Jim Dip?
We don’t! That was one that didn’t sell for sh*t. I loved that dish because it reminds me of my childhood. I’ve always loved gas-station charcuterie. And so that was kind of an homage to that. It was Slim Jim, cream cheese, a little barbecue rub and seasonings, served with pork rinds.
But it was too far out, I guess; people just didn’t get it. I understand. It’s different. It’s a little weird. And I think maybe it was too much of a mix, an upscale pate with gas-station ingredients. But the high-low is my favorite thing. I love going somewhere where I can get a pate or a tartare and then a cheeseburger.
I think also it’s just a huge menu, so we’re going to whittle it down and make it a little easier and more approachable when you sit down and decide what the hell you want to eat. Obviously, we’ll still put in all the love and care, and it’ll all be handmade.
Outside of your own, what’s a local dish that you’ve tried in the last month that left a big impression?
I rarely get to go out. But Baby Bull is by my house, so anything from them. But their fried fish sandwich is so good. They get the crisp just right, and they usually put the right amount of sauce on it. It’s also the right ratio of fish to bun. People don’t think about that with casual restaurants, but every bit of food is thought out.
What’s a good seasonal ingredient underrepresented in home cooking?
I don’t feel like people at home use enough radishes. I love radishes. Sometimes I’ll just slice them in half and sear them on one side until they’re almost black and real crispy. And then just toss them in butter, herbs and lemon juice. That’s it. Any root vegetable is great for that.
I love whole, raw radishes from the farmers market with butter and sea salt. It’s a classic French way to eat them. I’ve tried to put that on a menu a thousand times, and that’s something that would never get ordered — ever.
I also use radishes a lot of times as hors d’oeuvres. I’ll cut a little hole in half a radish and fill that with whipped nduja, which is a spreadable salami. Maybe top it with some crispy garlic from the Asian store or with chervil.
Shaving them raw is a really nice way to go, too. I’ll shave radishes in my salads, on my tacos; they also go great in soups. And you can use the greens, too. They have a little spice. I cook them down like collards. You can make chimichurri or pesto with the greens as well. There are so many good uses for them.
What kind of cuisine do you think we need more of in Asheville?
I feel like we don’t have enough Turkish or Middle Eastern cuisines. The ones we have are great, but we only have a very few. It’s such a cool region of the world, and their techniques and dishes are varied and different. Kibbeh is one of the coolest things in the world to me. You make a dough out of the meat; how cool is that?
Suzy [Phillips, owner of Gypsy Queen Cuisine] kills it. She’s an amazing chef and does such a good job. We just need more.
What’s a favorite food destination within driving distance of Asheville that readers should add to their list?
I love going to the Triangle because it’s so much stuff in one little spot. There’s this pupuseria on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh that has no visible name; I have no idea what it’s called. It has some of the best pupusas I’ve ever had … besides Pupuseria Patty.
There’s a pho place I like to go to called Soo Cafe that also has Korean fried chicken. There’s Pho & Crawfish 79, a Vietnam and Cajun-style restaurant with crawfish and pho in the same spot. There’s also tons of awesome grocery store-sized international markets.
My friend Preeti [Waas] has a place called Cheeni Indian Food Emporium in Raleigh. She just opened her Durham location. Also in Durham, there’s Mother & Sons Trattoria and Mateo Bar de Tapas, right on the main street. Queeny’s in Durham has these amazing burgers. Anything Scott Crawford does is awesome; he has Jolie and Crawford and Son in Raleigh, which I love. He’s opening up a Croatian Mediterranean restaurant called Brodeto soon, too.
The main thing I miss from living in the Triangle is having almost any nationality’s cuisine represented. That’s the thing that I feel like Asheville is missing in general.
Who would you like to see us dish with next month?
My friend Mike McCarty at The Lobster Trap. Mike’s been here a long time, since we were in culinary school in 2006. He’s the owner now. He really loves that space, and it’s such a huge part of downtown and Asheville’s growth and history.