Sunday morning coming down: Springtime is brunch time in Asheville

GOOD EGGS: Salmon eggs Benedict is new on the brunch menu at Fig this spring. Tucked away on the outskirts of Biltmore Village, the little bistro also features brunch dishes such as house-made doughnuts with lemon curd and Chilean salmon with fingerling potato home fries, all of which can be served outdoors in its courtyard patio.
GOOD EGGS: Salmon eggs Benedict is new on the brunch menu at Fig this spring. Tucked away on the outskirts of Biltmore Village, the little bistro also features brunch dishes such as house-made doughnuts with lemon curd and Chilean salmon with fingerling potato home fries, all of which can be served outdoors in its courtyard patio. Photo by Cindy Kunst

It’s spring, and that means it’s finally time to drag yourself out from under the blankets, cast off that seasonal depression and find a patio that’s open for brunch. Because what better way is there to welcome the warm weather than with the spritz of a mimosa or the crunch of crispy bacon?

Unsurprisingly, a town as leisurely as Asheville has a good number of breakfast joints, so it can be easy to forget about some of the outliers and dinner hotspots that also dish up a great Sunday brunch. But never fear, there are plenty to suit any palate here in the mountains, where brunch is regarded as a verb.

Sovereign Remedies welcomes back the songbirds this season with some rather decadent brunch offerings from new chef Graham House, who took over the kitchen at the end of 2016. If you’re lucky enough to snag a coveted patio seat, you might want to pair that sunshine with the carnitas fry, a dish of pork shank, avocado, sour cream, cotija and cilantro topped with a sunny-side-up egg. Or if you have a hangover too severe to cope with such complicated combinations, try the pastry basket, which includes orange-ginger muffins, chocolate scones and crumpets with house-made butter and apple butter.

“The same farm-focused, thoughtful style of cuisine we are offering for dinner has been translated into elegant, fresh brunch fare,” says House. After some recent renovations to the mezzanine level, Sovereign’s indoor seating options have expanded significantly, and the small cocktail bar has begun accepting reservations online.

Back to her roots

“I just wanted to have a unique brunch, different from anything that is being served in town. And I really wanted to touch base with my roots again,” says chef Suzy Phillips of Gypsy Queen Cuisine. Having started as a food truck several years ago, Phillips started testing her brunch menu at her West Asheville brick-and-mortar location this winter.

“We eat a lot of little things for brunch,” she says, pointing to an Egyptian dish of mashed fava beans with lemon, cumin and cayenne that is commonly known throughout the Mediterranean as fool. It functions like something between a dip and a stew and is usually served with warm pita.

Or, for something a little more elegant, there are the lady purses. “They came about from back home. They are an egg with herbs nestled in a wonton wrapper and very carefully pan-fried,” Phillips explains. That base gets topped with peppery nasturtiums — one of Phillips’ favorite garnishes — and is served with Lebanese potatoes or a salad.

For those with a sweet tooth, there’s baklava French toast. Or there’s the opportunity to sample a fun Middle Eastern riff on traditional U.S. Southern cuisine. “I wanted to do a play on something traditional to the South for the people who are not as adventurous that still want to come in and eat,” says Phillips. “So we did biscuits and gravy. But instead of using regular sausage, we make our own lamb merguez to make the gravy.”

“Middle Eastern food is really trendy right now,” she notes. “Another [dish] that is really popular in the Middle East is shakshuka — it’s like eggs in purgatory, but it’s spicy.” The concoction of eggs poached in a peppery, tomato-based sauce is becoming a bit of a hot commodity in Asheville lately, popping up on menus across town.

Out and about

For those seeking the flavors of the Mediterranean, North Asheville’s Golden Fleece also serves up a pretty extensive brunch spread and has an expansive patio to boot. The choices range from flaky filo dough pastries and rotating crepe selections to coffee-rubbed steak and eggs with potatoes and a salad to eggs Benedict with 63-degree eggs, crispy Parma ham, heirloom tomatoes and house-made olive oil béarnaise.

Or for exotic flavors with a Latin flair, try South Asheville’s hidden gem, Abeja’s House Café. Owners Martha and Rafael Alejeo serve breakfast daily but also host Sunday brunch. The variety of omelets, breakfast burritos and biscuit sandwiches are sure to sop up the lingering effects of last night’s good time. And you’d be foolish to miss the huevos rancheros — made with crispy potato cakes, corn tostada and two any-style eggs served over tomatillo salsa with refried black beans, feta cheese, avocado crema and tortilla strips.

In Biltmore Village, tucked just on the outskirts of the tourist traffic, don’t forget about neighborhood fixture Fig. Long a favorite lunch and dinner spot among southside locals, the tiny kitchen serves up a killer brunch as well. There’s even a nice little patio in the building’s courtyard, sheltered from the hustle and bustle of town. Settle in and choose from items such as house-made doughnuts with lemon curd; duck confit hash with poached eggs, creamed kale and shiitake mushrooms; or Chilean salmon with fingerling potato home fries, parsnip purée, celery root and apple salad with a beet vinaigrette. Prices are in the $9-14 range, and the bistro’s location (complete with abundant parking) offers an easy way to avoid long lines at downtown eateries.

A little farther east in Black Mountain, one would be remiss to overlook Louise’s Kitchen. The quirky, quaint counter-service restaurant is in a massive old blue house in the middle of downtown, with tables and chairs spread throughout the yard. For a real-life When Harry Met Sally moment, try the black bean corn grit cakes topped with house-made sriracha sauce, pico de gallo and fresh greens. There’s also a monster breakfast burritos and even a killer serving of artery-clogging biscuits and sausage gravy for under $6.

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About Jonathan Ammons
Native Asheville writer, eater, drinker, bartender and musician. Proprietor of www.dirty-spoon.com

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