King Daddy’s Chicken & Waffle to close, making way for new Early Girl Eatery

HEADING WEST: West Asheville will get its own Early Girl Eatery. King Daddy's Chicken & Waffles will close on Thursday, Sept. 20, to make way for the new location, which will open on Wednesday, Sept. 26. Photo courtesy of Early Girl Eatery

Starting Wednesday, Sept. 26, West Asheville will have its own Early Girl Eatery location, but it will bid farewell to King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffle. Early Girl owners Jesson and Cristina Gil, who bought the landmark Wall Street restaurant in March from founders Julie and John Stehling, recently purchased King Daddy’s — also owned by the Stehlings — with plans to open a Haywood Road version of the original downtown eatery.

Jesson Gil says King Daddy’s, which is at 444 Haywood Road, will remain open through Thursday, Sept. 20, then will close Friday-Tuesday, Sept. 21-25, as the space is transitioned. The restaurant will reopen as Early Girl Eatery on Wednesday, Sept. 26, with limited hours of 8-11 a.m. through Tuesday, Oct. 2. Expanded hours will follow later in October to eventually include breakfast, lunch and dinner service.

Early Girl Eatery owners Jesson and Cristina Gil also own The Blackbird restaurant downtown. Photo courtesy of the Gils

Current Early Girl chef Mike Lamb will take over the West Asheville kitchen, while his colleague, fellow Early Girl chef Josh Graywood, will lead the downtown location. The Haywood Road eatery will feature the same Southern-inspired menu as the flagship restaurant, offering breakfast all day along with sandwiches and salads, all with a focus on fresh, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

“Preserving and continuing Early Girl’s legacy is extremely important to me,” says Gil. “When the opportunity presented itself to expand to West Asheville, I knew we had to do it. West Asheville has such a unique and fun vibe. We look forward to serving the community and becoming good neighbors.”

Regarding projected changes to the King Daddy’s location and staff, Gil says,”The bones of the space will stay the same. We will incorporate the elements that make Early Girl unique. We are hoping to keep all the staff. In a perfect world, everyone will come on over to our family business.”

Julie and John Stehling are pictured with Southern Living food critic Morgan Murphy, center, during Murphy’s 2014 visit to the Early Girl Eatery. Xpress file photo

Gil says he and his wife had been diligently looking for a place to open a second location and considered many sites before deciding on West Asheville and the King Daddy’s spot. “We really love Early Girl and think it is so special,” he says. “I work at the restaurant almost daily, and I’ve had so many people ask for us to open elsewhere. We love West Asheville, and we are excited to bring the restaurant there.”

Julie Stehling says the transaction happened swiftly. “Honestly, this is difficult to comment on as it’s happening,” she says. “John still loves cooking, and I still love the service industry. We have been restaurant owners for 17 years, and life is short, and it feels right to take the opportunity to make a change.”

She takes care to mention that those who hold King Daddy’s gift cards should redeem them promptly — they are only good through 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20. “We don’t want anyone to miss out on redeeming what they have already paid for,” she says.

The Stehlings opened the Early Girl Eatery at 8 Wall St. in 2001, joining the handful of restaurateurs who ushered in Western North Carolina’s farm-to-table movement and helped kickstart Asheville’s restaurant scene. In recent years, the Early Girl has received regional and national attention from publications including National Geographic Traveler, Southern Living, Bon Appétit, The Wall Street Journal and more.

The Gils, who are originally from Texas, also own The Blackbird restaurant at 47 Biltmore Ave., having purchased it from Roz Taubman when she retired in 2016.




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23 thoughts on “King Daddy’s Chicken & Waffle to close, making way for new Early Girl Eatery

  1. sally oakley

    This is a huge loss, i was never a fan of Early Girl. but, hey, commercialism wins out. now we’ll have no place as unique as king daddy’s was, just another hipster breakfast place.

    • Big Al

      I thought being “just another hipster breakfast place” WAS what (supposedly) made King Daddy’s so “unique”.

      I have eaten at both, and while neither disappointed me, neither overwhelmed me. Six of one, Half-dozen of the other…

      • steve

        Being out of Destin,fl my daughter live there. We been there 5 or six times becasue my daughter & Son-in-law thinks it was a cool place. The food did not realy empress me enough for the price. I all ways leave a good tip for its not the server. Every time we have been in there they have allways had plenty of customers it seemed. But cool or chic or the in place to go plays out after a while. I assume it ran its coarse


  2. Shaun Moore

    Congratulations go to the Stehling’s. It was a good run! Now I’ll go cry over no more gluten-free chicken and waffles. :(

  3. Jason

    Clearly they need to work something out to keep King daddy open… King daddy is a Super busy and successful restaurant…. early girl seems to do ok based on location…. it won’t do nearly as well in West Asheville ….

    • jason

      Early Girl will kill it in West Asheville just like any other place that sells eggs.

      • Jason

        It won’t do as well as king daddy’s has…. lots of locals unimpressed with Early girl … it will get tourists, but tourist population in West Asheville is not nearly the tourist population in downtown…
        Hence why I made my comment in the first place…

        Sub grasso
        Pineapple jacks
        Buffalo nickel
        Anchor bar
        Just to name a few places that haven’t made it in west asheville over the past few years …. I’m sure they all made eggs

    • luther blissett

      According to the C-T, they signed a three-year noncompete with the Early Girl owners.

      Like I said, I don’t begrudge the Stehlings or any long-time restaurant owner stepping off the treadmill, and I don’t mind downtown places opening up satellite locations elsewhere in town, but this feels more like a corporate buyout. King Daddy’s has been especially good for people with dietary restrictions and food allergies, and while Early Girl isn’t bad in that regard, its menu is a lot more limited.

  4. Misty

    NO don’t take King daddy’s away:( 😩😢😭
    My family ❤️ King daddy’s

  5. Kelli Rowe

    I’m so disheartened by this. Yayyy for another Farmer to Fork overpriced hipster hangout!!!! I just want mimosas and my chicken and waffles. Have to come by and see then before we go. Early Girl is just another cookie cutter restaurant with the same menu as everywhere else.

  6. Curious

    Do any born-and-bred southerners consider chicken and waffles a southern culinary tradition? Or is it an import from the north, masquerading as southern comfort food?
    Will born-and-raised-in-the-south southerners who ate this dish growing up raise their hands? Please cite your childhood origin.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      I, like you, Curious, was never aware of a chicken and waffle southern derived histoire …It is NOT a ‘southeren’ dish that I know of , but Gladys Knight thought so ;) …

    • John the Conqueror

      Chicken and waffles appears to have started with Roscoe’s in Los Angeles. Which I guess is “up north” to many of you.

  7. Tim Moser

    Very disappointed! The staff, the early morning cocktails, the chicken…I know I am not the only hospital worker that consistently relied upon King Daddy’s to bring a happy end to a very long overnight shift.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      hopefully the early morning cocktails will still flow with the early gurl…

  8. jason

    This is great news! Kind Daddy’s sucked. Early Girl has much better options. Congratulations and great decision! Don’t worry about what all these curmudgeons say on here. You can’t please them anyways. They’re always upset at something.

  9. luther blissett

    Noooooo. I don’t begrudge the Stehlings the opportunity to take a break, but King Daddy’s will be very much missed, and this feels like the beginning of a process to turn Early Girl into a Tupelo Honey-style regional operation.

  10. Pat

    I’ve eaten at both establishments several times and never have been impressed with Early Girl. No offense to the owners but the line in the sand for me was when I ordered a meatloaf plate and a drink and it came to $19. For meatloaf.. are you kidding me? Call it what you want, but I really hope they keep some of the same menu from King Daddy’s and lower your prices for christ sake. If La Bomba can get away charging < 10 for lunch, I don't see why you can't either, especially in the west side. Don't be greedy!

  11. mishi

    I will miss King Daddy’s. I enjoyed being part of a more racially diverse dining crowd there than at any other “hipster” restaurant around town. Also, those gluten free corn waffles are the sha-zizzle. I really don’t get the motivation to make another early girl eatery . . .

    • JPB

      Who the hell cares or thinks about ‘diversity’ when they think of eating? Very strange.

      • J. S.

        Open your mind. Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, but obviously, it matters to some people. Different strokes for different folks. For some people eating out is a social experience and dining among people who look like them or present a diverse mix adds some sense of community. Who knows? Everyone has their reasons for what they like . . .

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