Small bites: A Turkish twist at the Asheville Mall

TURKISH DELIGHT: Mitchell Marecki and Rebecca Hanser, owners of The Döner, have crafted a simple menu of Turkish-inspired dishes for their Asheville Mall Food Court eatery. Pictured are a döner kebab, sweet potato and shoestring fries, garlic sauce and a couple of the locally brewed beers the couple serve. Photo by Cindy Kunst

There’s a shared response among many first-time diners at The Döner — a Turkish-inspired eatery that opened last month inside the Asheville Mall Food Court. “They’re all a little hesitant,” says co-owner, Mitchell Marecki. He and his wife, Rebecca Hanser, embrace the reluctance as a welcome challenge. “We’re serving something that most of the Asheville market doesn’t know,” Marecki says. “We have to encourage people to try it. But once they do, the food speaks for itself.”

A döner is a Turkish kebab sandwich that was popularized by Turkish immigrants to Germany in the 1970s. Hanser is originally from Berlin, and she and Marecki lived in the city for two years before relocating to Asheville.

Marecki says The Döner menu reflects the type of food they came to know and love while overseas. “It is the most common fast-food option available in the Middle Eastern part of Europe,” he says. “It’s reasonably priced, healthier and a fresher take on fast food.”

In addition to its namesake döner kebab, another popular item at The Döner is the dürüm wrap. While the former involves wedge-style bread filled with rotisserie-roasted lamb and beef topped with one of six yogurt-based sauces and vegetables, Marecki compares the latter to a burrito both in size and design. It, too, is stuffed with rotisserie lamb and beef. The restaurant offers vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options as well.

Main menu items are priced between $4.49 and $6.49. Side items will set you back anywhere from $1.79 for a regular order of fries to $3.99 for a dish of three sweet-potato falafels. All breads and pastries at The Döner are made at West End Bakery, and produce is sourced from Mountain Food Products at the WNC Farmers Market on Brevard Road. Other items, including sauces and falafel, are prepared in-house.

Unlike other vendors in the Asheville Mall Food Court, The Döner’s drink menu includes beer — Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller Lite are available in addition to a rotating list of local brews. Products from New Belgium Brewing Co., Hi-Wire Brewing Co., Highland Brewing Co. and Oskar Blues are currently among the options. Beer, Marecki notes, must be consumed on-site.

“We are promoting a fresh and local change to the Asheville Mall Food Court,” Marecki says. “Not only are we trying to support other local businesses, but we are also trying to bring the standard of the food at the Asheville Mall up a little bit, and, really, just create something tasty.”

The Döner is in the Asheville Mall Food Court, 3 S. Tunnel Road. Its hours are 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. For details, visit thedoneronline.com

Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council potluck

On Thursday, Dec. 8, the Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council will host a community potluck at Toy Boat Community Art Space. The organization is a community-based coalition that works to achieve policy improvements that create healthier food environments and improve access to healthy food for all Asheville and Buncombe County residents. The gathering will offer locals a chance to celebrate the holiday season, learn about the council’s recent work and offer input on revisions to the city of Asheville’s Food Action Plan.

The potluck runs 6:30-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8, at Toy Boat Community Art Space, 101 Fairview Road. The event is free and open to the public. A cash bar will be available. For more information, visit abfoodpolicy.org.

WNC Young Farmers Coalition fundraiser

WNC Young Farmers Coalition’s mission is to connect and empower young farmers in Western North Carolina. On Saturday, Dec. 10, the group will hold its annual winter fundraiser at New Belgium Brewing Co. Pork donated by Balsam Gardens and vegetables donated by Second Spring Market will be prepared by local chefs, and, of course, New Belgium beer will be on tap. Admission is free, but cash and check donations will be accepted for food and drink items. Proceeds will go toward the coalition’s outreach, awareness and policy efforts. Distributors, grocers and other regional buyers will also participate in the event.

The fundraiser runs 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at New Belgium Brewing Co., 21 Craven St. The event is free and open to all ages. Guests are encouraged to RSVP to secure a spot at the gathering. For more information visit, avl.mx/36t.

Tea Time with Ivory Road and Asheville Tea Co.

Ivory Road Café & Kitchen and Asheville Tea Co. are coming together for Afternoon Tea Talks. The monthly event will include tastings, talks and homemade pastries. “I am superexcited to be able to bring the Asheville Tea Co. line of teas to life at a proper high tea service and to be collaborating with another amazing local small business owner,” says its owner Jessica Dean in a press release. “Ivory Road shares our passion for local ingredients and flavorful, unique, delicious foods and drinks.” Tea enthusiasts can expect a variety of blends at the inaugural event, including jasmine-green with local flowers, Earl Grey with local flowers and zests, elderberry-yaupon with local blackberry leaf, elderberry and roselle, and echinacea-elderflower herbal tea with local echinacea, elderflower, oatstraw and spearmint. Ivory Road will provide scones, shortbreads, local jams, Devonshire cream, traditional finger sandwiches and handcrafted petit-fours-style desserts will also be served.

Afternoon Tea Talks will take place monthly, with the inaugural event featuring seatings at 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at Ivory Road Café & Kitchen, 1854 Brevard Road, Arden. Tickets are $25. Reservations are required. For details and to make reservations, email jill@ivoryroadavl.com or call 676-3870.

Holiday dinner benefit for The POP Project

“The opportunity to partner with our friends at Catawba Brewing and Gaining Ground Farm for a good cause is yet another demonstration of the power of collaboration in the Asheville food and beverage community,” says Rhubarb chef John Fleer in a press release about an upcoming holiday dinner that will benefit The POP Project. POP is an Asheville-based nonprofit that works to encourage literacy by bringing books to those who do not have access to them otherwise. The dinner begins with a cocktail reception and appetizers followed by a four-course meal. Gaining Ground Farm will provide produce for the seasonal menu, and Catawba Brewing will pair beers with each course. The dinner will be served in convivial family style.

The POP Project benefit dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at Rhubarb, 7 S.W. Pack Square. Tickets are $79 and are available at avl.mx/36v

City Bakery opens new production facility

City Bakery’s new production facility is up and running at 85 Fletcher Commercial Drive. The 3,600-square-foot building will allow the company to expand its wholesale business to include additional Ingles Markets, restaurants and supermarkets plus other opportunities in Western North Carolina. In a press release, City Bakery notes that the facility will enable it to triple its current production.

For more information, visit citybakery.net

New board game café

Asheville’s first board game café, Well Played, is set to open on Wall Street in early February. Staff members, or “gamemasters,” will be on hand to help customers choose from over 500 games, teach them how to play unfamiliar ones and remind them of rules for old favorites. The café will also offer locally sourced snack foods, desserts and beverages, including craft beer, wine and a full coffee program.

Well Played will be at 58 Wall St. The launch is set for early February. More information to come.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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