Restaurants reopen after winter sabbaticals

AT YOUR SERVICE: Chef Luis Martinez is ready to welcome taco lovers back to El Gallo when it reopens for pickup and inside dining. Photo by Chris Talbot

Whether wary of the weather or weary of the worry of keeping up with pingponging pandemic response phases, several restaurants opted to take a bit of a winter nap. With spring around the corner, it’s time to rise and shine again.


Ralph Lonow, sommelier and co-owner with Tony Creed of Avenue M, spent January and February when the restaurant was closed playing with his 3-year-old daughter. But now he’s ready to get back to work. On March 9, Avenue M will reopen for the fourth time since the partners signed the lease in June 2019.

“When Tony and I bought it in 2019, we had the first reopening. Then we closed in January 2020 for a remodel and to get our new chef, Andrew McLeod, on board, so we re-re-opened after that,” Lonow explains. “We closed for COVID in March, and re-re-re-opened in May, and then we closed this January and February, so this is our re-re-re-re-opening.”

Avenue M will roll out new operating days and hours — Tuesday through Saturday, 5-9 p.m. — and some menu tweaks, including what Lonow calls a “chef cooks for you button,” — also known as a moderately priced tasting menu — from newly married chef McLeod. Mazel tov!

Avenue M, 791 Merrimon Ave.

Tacos and cocktails

In 2020, restaurateur Jacob Sessoms (Table, Imperial Life, Cultura, All Day Darling) flipped the table on Table, closing the acclaimed Asheville eatery and installing popular taco pop-up El Gallo as a permanent resident at 48 College St., operating under pandemic protocols via a streetside order window and sidewalk tables. He and chef Luis Martinez kicked off the new year with a two-month winter sabbatical and will reopen El Gallo on March 11 with new menu items; safely distanced, indoor, table-service dining on both floors and a cocktail menu from Imperial Life.

El Gallo, 48 College St.

Parking lot dining

Zia Taqueria took a few weeks off in November then brought back to-go orders with curbside pickup or delivery through Kickback AVL. On Feb. 12, operating partner Robert Tipsword reopened Zia’s brightly painted and tented al fresco dining room on the site formerly known as the parking lot. “Opening before spring will help us shake the rust off from being closed and get our systems in place,” he says. “Last year was so wishy-washy — open, close, open, close — I just wanted to make a decision and stick to it.” And the decision is: Zia Taqueria will be open seven days a week, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Zia Taqueria 521 Haywood Road.

Wine and dine

Feeling parched? Leo’s House of Thirst is there for you after a two-week break in February. The wine shop, wine bar and restaurant offers limited indoor seating and tables under heaters on the deck and yard. Chef Austin Inselmann’s full dinner menu is also available for online orders and curbside pickup.

Leo’s House of Thirst, 1055 Haywood Road.

Sunny days ahead

Sunny Point Café pulled the shade shut on service Jan. 19 through Feb. 3, reopened for counter-service breakfast and lunch and table-service dinner on Feb. 4, closed again Feb. 22-27 for repairs and renovation, then opened again Feb. 28. “We are anticipating spring,” says Alice Oglesby, garden manager and marketing. Aren’t we all?

Sunny Point Café, 626 Haywood Road.


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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