Small bites: Mama’s Fast Food closes after 25 years

THE LAST SUPPER: Nancy Cunningham, also known as Mama, sits (center) while hosting the last meal of her decades-old restaurant, Mama's Fast Food. Photo by Steve Mann

License plates, endless Mickey Mouse memorabilia and other eccentric decor lined nearly every surface but the seats at old-school West Asheville diner Mama’s Fast Food. But the many locals who regularly went to Mama’s for the Southern-style home cooking at rock-bottom prices will have to venture elsewhere now. After 25 years, owner Nancy Cunningham closed the eatery in late February.

“It was one of the few places left where you could get breakfast for $3 and see working-class West Asheville residents,” says Steve Mann, who owns neighboring business The Double Crown. He also calls Mama’s one of the last haunts for natives. “The food was unpretentious but made with love, and you didn’t have to wait in line.”

A lone sheet of paper posted on the door brought patrons news of the closure. The memo opens with gratitude toward customers before Cunningham cites “unforeseen things happening” as the impetus for shutting down. She writes that the building housing Mama’s is under contract to sell, but the Buncombe County’s Register of Deeds does not yet reflect a transfer.

Online reviews mirror the diner’s infinitely informal vibe. Asheville musician Jeff Thompson called the spot wonderfully quirky, concluding: “I will be a regular, I feel sure.”

Meanwhile, reviewer Steven Doherty credited Mama’s with disproving his personally held stereotype that double burgers always have thin patties.  “I was sitting face to face with what looked to be two half-pound patties dripping with ketchup and cheese, making an obvious mockery of the modest buns which held them,” he wrote. “I eventually realized it would be easier to just rotate bites between the lower and upper patties. … The crinkle-cut fries allowed me to hide the fact that I needed a break between bites from the behemoth laying before me, and to that end, I thank them. It took awhile, but I finally slayed the beast.”

Although Xpress wasn’t able to reach Cunningham for comment, her typewritten message to the community is clear: “I will miss each and every one of you that patronized my restaurant to enjoy the food, Mickeys and fun. We will be family forever.”

Mama’s Fast Food was at 327 Haywood Road. For information on Cunningham’s event catering services, call 423-1128.

Thirsty Monk’s Sour Fest

In celebration of sour beers and wild ales, multiple Thirsty Monk locations will host the sixth annual Sour Fest over the course of a full workweek. Curated by beer buyer Joanna Postlethwaite, the mouth-puckering lineup includes Allagash’s Avancé, The Bruery’s Oude Tart and Gypsy Tart, Avery Brewing Co.’s Twenty-Two and Raspberry Sour, Bell’s Brewery’s L’Appel Du Vide, New Belgium Brewing Co.’s La Folie and Transatlantique Kriek, Anderson Valley Brewing Co.’s Horse Tongue Thribble Currant, Moylan’s Brewery’s Lonely Tarts Club, Grimm Artisinal Ales’ Purple Prose, Sam Adams Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru, Rodenbach’s Vintage 2013 and many more. Small pours, flights and pints will be individually priced.

Thirsty Monk’s flagship location at 92 Patton Ave. hosts the event Monday-Friday, March 7-11; Biltmore Park and Woodfin Thirsty Monk locations, at 2 Town Square Blvd., Suite 170, and 51 N. Merrimon Ave., Suite 113, respectively, will tap their sour offerings on Thursday, March 10. Visit for more information. 

Community Supported Agriculture Fair

Whether you’re looking for a year-round kale source or a provider who offers soaps and scrubs with their produce, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s CSA fair showcases the options. During the event, participating farmers — all of whom have CSA pickup locations in Buncombe County — set up booths and share information about their unique offerings through photos, print materials and face-to-face time with potential customers. Shoppers can either sign up for further communication or enroll in any number of flexible CSA options on the spot.

The free annual event is 3-6 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at Jubilee Community Church, 46 Wall St. Visit for further information. 

Riceville Volunteer Fire Department Firefighters Chili Cook-off

As if firefighters’ work isn’t challenging enough, the Riceville Volunteer Fire Department dares all of its firefighters to try their hand behind a pot of chili. Awards will be given for the best dishes at the department’s upcoming sixth annual Firefighters Chili Cook-off, which doubles as a community outreach opportunity. Kids and adults are invited to participate in a 50/50 raffle and meet the firefighters, who will speak about safety tips and their work at the station. Aside from chili, the meal includes salad, dessert and a drink. Proceeds benefit the Riceville Volunteer Fire Department.

The cook-off takes place 5-7 p.m. Friday, March 5, at the Riceville Fire Department, 2251 Riceville Road. Tickets are $15 per family (two adults and two kids), $6 for adults, $3 for ages 5-12, and free for ages 4 and younger. For more information, contact Sherry Watson at 299-8726 or


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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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