If you’re eager to travel but not quite ready to jump on a plane, a good daytrip might fix your summertime itch. And with several new restaurants featuring international fare in neighboring counties and towns, your taste buds might even think they’ve roamed well beyond the mountains of Western North Carolina.
Growing up in South Africa, Mark Henegan was immersed in food. His father owned a restaurant, his grandmother also loved to cook, and when the family traveled, it was often in the name of food.
“My parents were always like, ‘All right, on the weekend we are going to go up into the bush,’” remembers Henegan, referring to the country’s wild, open areas. “We’d have major dinners and go and drink some beautiful wines.”
Henegan is hoping to re-create these memories in Black Mountain, both in name and spirit, with the recent opening of The Bush Farmhouse at 151 S. Ridgeway Ave. The restaurant’s rotating menu serves South African-inspired flavors using local ingredients. Popular dishes include the country pâté, Bunny Chow (hollowed-out bread filled with veggie, chicken or seafood curry) and the Bushman roasted legumes and veggie platter.
“It’s a melting pot,” Henegan says of South African cooking. “[It] is a country full of variety and diversity, and it kind of comes together in what one would call a rainbow cuisine.”
Equipped with its own garden, which provides the restaurant with some of its produce, The Bush Farmhouse is home to a small menagerie of ducks, chickens, miniature donkeys and a teacup pig. Additionally, diners can expect live music and a rotation of local artists’ works on exhibit.
Like many in the industry, Henegan is experiencing staffing challenges, but he says he hopes the restaurant’s ambiance will continue to draw in talent. “You put an ad on Craigslist or Indeed, and you don’t get any response at all, but then somebody walks by and says, ‘Hey, I love this place, I love your work here,’” Henegan explains. “So, I’m not really worried.”
Nor is he concerned about finding diners. Henegan, who previously operated Madiba in Brooklyn, N.Y., relocated to WNC in 2018. Since his arrival, he says, “I’ve kind of found that Black Mountain is becoming like the chic place to live, and Asheville is Asheville,” he says. “[Black Mountain] is a destination, a mini-vacation to get away from the hustle and bustle.”
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Bring on the kebabs
In Sylva, expansion is the name of the game for husband-and-wife team Don Panicko and Cecelia White. Along with welcoming their son, Dante, earlier this year, the couple recently opened Jame, a full-service restaurant focused on Mediterranean cuisine.
No strangers to the town’s culinary scene, Jame marks the couple’s third business launched in Sylva’s downtown within the last three years. They also operate White Moon, a café that doubles at night as Dark Moon bar, as well as The Market at Jame, a specialty grocery store adjacent to the new restaurant.
The concept for Jame, Panicko explains, began at home. “A lot of Cecelia’s influences and the way that she likes to cook is very Mediterranean-inspired,” he explains. “So, we took that concept of how we like to eat and just decided Sylva could use some lighter, satisfying, unique healthy items.”
Before its opening, the couple tested several of the restaurant’s dishes at White Moon just a few blocks away. Using locally sourced produce, menu highlights include muhammara (a dip of roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses served with pita), Arab chicken kebabs and braised Gulf shrimp.
Panicko points out that Jame’s offerings are noticeably different from those at other eateries on the town’s main thoroughfare. “A lot of Sylva’s food is pretty heavy,” he explains. “A lot of barbecue and heavy Mexican food. There aren’t many places to go to get something light and satisfying.”
Jame is at 646 W. Main St. To learn more, follow the restaurant on Instagram at @jame_restaurant.
Edward Hill, co-owner of the Flat Rock breakfast spot Honey and Salt, was biking with friends in DuPont State Recreational Forest earlier this year when one of the fellow cyclists, a real estate agent, pitched him on opening a restaurant in Brevard. Interested in scaling up Honey and Salt, Hill told the agent to schedule site visits.
In March, Hill and his wife and business partner, Erin, signed a lease at 170 King St., Unit C. The couple’s new venue, Morning Social, will serve all the Honey and Salt staples in a larger, airier setting. Menu highlights include omelets, granola bowls and French toast, as well as biscuits and pastries baked in house. Beer and wine will also be served.
Eager day-trippers might want to pause, however, before heading south to Brevard for a morning meal. The Hills have not yet announced an opening date.
“We want to get it right and break the tape when everything is done at the finish line,” says Hill. “We are taking our time and being thoughtful about what we use inside from a material standpoint.”
Additionally, he says, staffing remains a concern. “We are struggling like everybody else in the country with finding help.”
But once these issues are settled — bon appétit. For updates, follow Morning Social on Instagram at @morningsocialbrevard.