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.
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.”
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.