Downtown Asheville will soon boast another restaurant and bar as Mountain Madre Mexican Kitchen & Agave Bar gets set to open at 13 Walnut St. Located in the space that previously housed Scully’s Bar and Grille, the new venture will feature craft tequila and traditional Mexican food with an Appalachian twist.
The restaurant is the passion project of North Asheville residents Paige and Danny Scully, the husband-and-wife team who owned and operated Scully’s for nearly a decade before shutting it down on July 31. Since Scully’s closed, the pair have worked feverishly on an aggressive construction timeline to completely renovate the space while also assembling a crack team to bring their vision to life.
“Mountain Madre had been kicked around as a concept for about six years,” Paige Scully says, but it wasn’t until early this year that the couple made the decision to officially move forward with it. The name originates from her days as a student at West Virginia University, where the school’s theme song, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” has been performed at every home football pregame show since 1972. For years, Scully says, she thought the words “mountain mama” from the song’s chorus would make for a great restaurant name. With a switch to the Spanish word “madre,” Mountain Madre was born.
Heading the kitchen crew will be chef Kyle Allen, a graduate of the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago and an Illinois native who’s been cooking since he started making his own pizzas at age 14. The decision to bring Allen on board grew from a casual conversation between Danny Scully and Allen at CrossFit Pisgah, where the two had come to know each other from regular workout sessions over the years. When Scully mentioned his need for a chef to lead the new operation, Allen, who’d taken a few years off from professional cooking to work at Real Recovery, an adventure-based sober living and extended care program for young men in Asheville, told Scully how eager he was to get back in the kitchen.
Conversations progressed from there, and the rest is history. “We didn’t think we’d know the chef coming in, which was scary,” says Paige Scully. “There was a personality gel from the very beginning, and it’s really comforting having a built-in trust when you’re bringing someone into your little family.”
Allen had previously worked under chef Jordan Arace at Posana and, before that, spent years working at a wide variety of restaurants in Chicago. The chef doesn’t lack energy or excitement when he talks about cooking. “It’s almost like playing a sport,” he says. “It’s challenging. … You can leave an amazing shift and feel like you just won a game. … It’s kind of how I’ve looked at being in the kitchen since I started.”
Allen says restaurant customers can expect traditional Mexican dishes with a slightly modern spin that include locally sourced, seasonal ingredients from places like Hickory Nut Gap Farm, the Brevard Farmers Market and North Carolina seafood distributor 3Fish. The appetizer menu will feature an empanada filled Hickory Nut Gap Farm ground beef, cheese and bell peppers served with salsa verde and Mexican crema. Entrées will include roasted poblano peppers stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese then lightly fried and served with a red chili sauce, queso blanco and cilantro and lime rice, plus a dish of pan-seared salmon with seasonal vegetables and a creamy, fire-roasted tomato sauce. A caramelized banana and ice cream topped with hot-chocolate drizzle will be on the dessert menu along with a refreshing mango and lime mousse.
The bar at Mountain Madre will include “craft tequila flights, mescal flights, traditional sangrita palate cleansers, margaritas and palomas for days,” says bar manager Tim Walker, who joins the Mountain Madre team after working over nine years at Scully’s. Walker is excited about transitioning from Scully’s more general, wide-ranging bar menu to the more focused approach of Mountain Madre. “It’s been really creatively inspiring to keep agave as the focus and to put more attention to plating and presentation,” he says, noting that patrons can also expect unique local beer and wine options.
Mountain Madre Mexican Kitchen & Agave Bar will open in the coming weeks at 13 W. Walnut St. Hours will be 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. For updates on the launch, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page at avl.mx/33y.