Don’t let the location fool you. While it’s set at the rear of a gas station off Charlotte Highway in Fairview, the décor and food at this hip diner, the Local Joint, are sure to get your wheels spinning and your taste buds, too.
Xpress recently talked with The Local Joint’s co-owner, Chris Sizemore, about the eatery’s beginnings, what it’s doing now and what it plans for the future.
Mountain Xpress: Tell me about this space? What was here before?
It was a Huddle House. I think the building is about 13 years old. When the space became available, we jumped at the chance. This area really needed a good place to eat that was a little different.
What’s your professional background?
I’ve been in the food business for 35 years — it’s pretty much all I know. My wife, Stephanie, and I moved here from Georgia, where I was working as a corporate chef at a restaurant chain. When we arrived in Asheville, I took a job as general manager at Bistro 1896 [no longer open] and was there for five years. Over the years, I’ve worked front- and back-of-the-house positions and learned about it all. I’ve apprenticed under some very talented chefs and worked everywhere from Hilton Head, S.C., and Vail, Colo., to Bellingham, Wash., and Antarctica. I’m originally from Knoxville, Tenn., but have lived all over.
Does your wife, Stephanie, work with you?
Yes. She’s pretty much responsible for everything you see visually. She has an unbelievable knack for looking at spaces and pulling it all together. She also has a background in the restaurant business.
I love the signage here. Was it done locally?
Stephanie designed the signs. She found the letters one by one on eBay and from all over the country and just pieced them together with a friend who is a welder. It’s difficult to change the bulbs because they’re outdoor Christmas tree-type lights, but we deal with it.
I like the garden containers by the patio tables. What are they?
Again, that’s Stephanie. She found some old file cabinets and repurposed them into planters.
What’s the Joint Next Door?
We recently opened that. It’s a local bar that serves beer and wine, and it’s right next door — well, there’s a convenience store in-between. It’s kind of like the Cheers of Boston, where everyone knows your name. Business is good, and that’s where the growth really is now. People like a local watering hole. They don’t have to go into Asheville.
Do you do any of the cooking?
Occasionally. There are some months when you’re completely staffed and others when everything is running smoothly. Staffing is always a challenge. That’s just the nature of the beast. It’s like that everywhere.
Do you work with local farmers?
We work with as many local farmers as we can. There’s a sign inside on a chalkboard that lists everyone we work with. People like to see that.
What are some of your big sellers?
The Big Bear breakfast. It’s a biscuit with Cajun-fried chicken, Applewood bacon and cheddar cheese, and it’s smothered in our homemade sausage gravy. You eat one of those, and you’re good for the better part of the day. Our shrimp and grits is also a big seller. Asheville used to host the Bele Chere festival, and in its last year, which was our first year, we won Best in Taste for the shrimp and grits. I use a blend of white and yellow stone-ground grits and cook them nice and slow and put some fat in there.
What are three must-have ingredients?
Butter, olive oil and mushrooms — I’m a mushroom nut. Butter and olive play very different roles; both are important.
Last meal request?
Cutlets. We make these at home. Basically, they’re just thinly pounded-out turkey breasts with garlic, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.We sauté them in olive oil and give them a little squeeze of lemon. My wife also makes these unbelievable potato latkes that go great with them.
Plans for the future?
Maintaining what we have and growing the concept. I’d like to open up some other locations in areas such as Candler, Canton and Weaverville. This concept is all about community.
So, you’re here for a while?
Yes. We love Fairview. We’ve had unbelievable support from the community since day one. We’ll get busy, and we’re small, and if we get backed up, our customers are great. They even go so far as to eat quickly so we can turn the table. It’s an extremely gracious community.