Small Bites: Downton Abbey in downtown Asheville

AS SEEN ON TV: Lex 18's new "Downton Abbey" dinner events will allow diners to experience a vintage banquet complete with butlers, footmen and interactions with a few characters from the popular British television show. Photo by Hayley Benton

The new year will bring a fresh dinner theater experience to Asheville — one that will be of particular interest to fans of the British television series “Downton Abbey.” On Sunday evenings starting Jan. 4, downtown restaurant Lex 18 will offer live viewings of the popular BBC program while re-creating an aristocratic 1920s meal in its dining room, complete with butlers, footmen and a five-course dinner served on a 16-foot banquet table with period china and crystal.

Representatives from radio station WCQS, which is co-hosting the events, will highlight local history during the pre-dinner cocktail hour by providing a short talk comparing music, arts, fashion and culture in 1920s Asheville and England — especially appropriate considering the restaurant is housed in a historic building that served as a speakeasy during Prohibition. A cast of local actors will portray Asheville versions of “Downton Abbey” characters who will participate in the meal and interact with guests, says Lex 18 co-owner and general manager Georgia Malki.

Guests are encouraged to come in period costume. “The idea of going to a party and dressing up like Lady Cybill, being served a feast by footmen and catered to by butlers is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Malki said in a press release. “Our establishment attempts to curate this part of history by bringing Appalachian life of the 1920s alive.”

The menu was designed by Lex 18’s new chef, Daniel Kaufmann, formerly of the Woodfin restaurant Magnolia Ray, which closed several months ago. Courses for the Jan. 4 dinner will include watercress soup, lobster rissoles with mousseline sauce, beef bourguignon, and fennel and orange salad with toasted walnuts, golden raisins, endive and orange vinaigrette. Each course will be paired with historic cocktails, wines, Champagne and liqueurs appropriate to the era. Coffee, tea, sherry, port and cognac will be offered after dinner. The menu will change each week.

WCQS will enter all who contribute to its year-end pledge drive by Dec. 31 into a drawing to win a pair of VIP tickets to one of the banquets. Details are available at

Downton Abbey dinners will be held 6:30-10:30 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 4-March 1 at Lex 18, 18 Lexington Ave. Tickets that include dinner, cocktails, wine and liqueur are $83 each. Tickets for the dinner alone are $56 each. Seating is limited to 16 guests per dinner.

12 Days of Giving

Last December, downtown businesses Curate, Bouchon, Wicked Weed, 5 Walnut, Scully’s and Izzy’s Coffee Den joined forces with public relations firm Adapt to launch the 12 Days of Giving program in an effort to raise funds for local organizations that aid the homeless. This year’s effort, which runs Dec. 18-31, features more than 30 local restaurants, breweries, bars and food businesses offering 10 percent of the proceeds from sales of a designated item to benefit the Haywood Street Congregation, Western Carolina Rescue Ministries and Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministries. In addition, the program now has a 12 Days of Giving trail map, which will highlight individual participating businesses along with their chosen items.

High Five Coffee Bar plans second location

High Five Coffee Bar owner Jay Weatherly will open a second store this spring downtown at 13 Rankin St., the previous home of Duncan & York. Weatherly reports that he is still in the preliminary planning stages of the project but is looking at sticking with coffee and espresso service similar to what he already has at his current location on Broadway, just north of downtown. But there may be a few surprises. “We may bring in some new things,” Weatherly says. “At this point, we’re just seeing how it goes.” Work begins on the space in January, and Weatherly is shooting for an opening “sometime between April and July.”

Seven Sows hosts dinner and seed swap

Seven Sows Bourbon & Larder is hosting a holiday farm-to-table dinner with a nod to winter dreams of spring gardens: Guests are invited to bring heirloom seeds for swapping. The restaurant’s Facebook page says the event is an effort to “celebrate the holidays with a farm-to-table menu thanking our founding farmers for this year’s growing season.” The dinner is $65 and will feature a five-course menu with wine pairings.

6-9:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 22, Seven Sows Bourbon & Larder, 77 Biltmore Ave., Suite 111. Make reservations at or call 255-2592.


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