What’s new in food: A mix of good news and uncertainty kicks off 2021

ORDER UP: Smoke Black Mountain general manager Brian Hough fired up the smoker of the new food trailer behind Black Mountain Brewing on Jan. 1. Photo by John Richardson

Smoke signals

Brian Hough, chef and general manager of Smoke Black Mountain, wants to clear the air about what’s cooking in his kitchen. “The main idea of the menu is smoked meat,” he says of the newly opened concession trailer parked behind Black Mountain Brewing and across the street from Black Mountain Kitchen + Ale House, all owned by John Richardson. “I don’t want to engage in that endless debate about which barbecue is best. There are a lot of people around here doing barbecue; that’s not what we’re doing.”

What Smoke Black Mountain is doing in its custom-built black metal smoker is smoking everything within reach — from olives to mushrooms, lobster to rabbit, as well as usual suspects like pork, sausage and brisket. “John always wanted to add food options to the brewery, so I suggested getting a truck or a trailer,” Hough explains. “He did that part, then handed it off to me.”

Hough worked with his culinary team — Phil Guyer, Greg Buchanan and Patrick Manley — on the menu and fired up the smoker on Jan. 1. Besides the mains, sides will include mac and cheese, curly fries and slaw. Order pads accessible by smartphone are on tables inside Black Mountain Brewing and online with pickup at the trailer.

Smoke Black Mountain, 131 Broadway Ave., Black Mountain. avl.mx/8ue

Fish out of water

Tommy Quartararo and his wife, Kristen Onderdonk, have two busy seafood restaurants in Key West — the Thirsty Mermaid and Little Pearl. About three years ago, they bought a getaway home in Fairview, where they were spending spring break with their two children last March when the pandemic hit.  Ten months later, Onderdonk and kids are still stationed in Fairview while Quartararo travels back and forth to Key West to tend to the restaurants. During the first week of January, the couple partnered with chef John Inglesby to expand their business with the launch of Little Pearl Asheville in the space that formerly housed Rise Southern Biscuits in Peaks Center across from the Asheville Mall.

“Kristen and I walked in, and she said, ‘Absolutely not. We do not need another restaurant!’” Quartararo says with a laugh, recalling a visit to the location last summer. “But the space had a hood and tons of equipment, and I felt like the area needed more options than fast foods and chains.”

The team knocked down walls and redesigned the space to add a bar and an open kitchen. Little Pearl Asheville will be more casual than the dinner-only Key West location and will be open all day, but its menu will be similar. Highlights include East and West Coast oysters, littleneck clams, ceviche, shrimp, lobster, crab and fish (including Sunburst Farms rainbow trout) as well as burgers and wings for nonpescatarians.

Little Pearl Asheville, 15 Peaks Center Lane. avl.mx/8uf

Mad platter

When mom is craving sushi, dad wants wings and the only thing your picky teens will eat are burgers and fries, The Madness Asheville Sushi, Burgers & Bar serves family harmony. Aaron Cheng, who also owns Yum Poke locations in Asheville and Arden, was intrigued by a similar concept in Charlotte and decided the new West Park Center on Smokey Park Highway was the perfect place to launch. “Aaron’s thinking was that there are not a lot of sit-down, full-service restaurants in that part of town,” says Nick Levine, who does marketing and social media for Yum and Madness. “He didn’t think people who live there should have to go downtown for a great dining experience.”

The Madness menu is extensive, covering small bites, soups and salads, bento boxes, nigiri and sashimi, classic sushi rolls, chef’s specialty rolls and burgers. The burger lineup leads with The Madness, which is topped with a spicy crab roll. And for those morning-into-afternoon-afters, there’s The Hangover with cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg.

The Madness Sushi, Burgers & Bar, 275 Smokey Park Highway. avl.mx/8ug

Sandwich board

Avenue M executive chef Andrew McLeod recalls that he was chewing the fat one day with chef Graham House of Session at Citizen Vinyl about their mutual passion for the juxtaposition of high-brow and low-brow cuisines when the notion to one day do a Sunday supper on the theme segued to a more immediate plan for a sandwich pop-up. McLeod mentioned the idea to Chop Shop owner P.J. Jackson, who noted that COVID-19 had caused him to suspend his once-robust sandwich business. Before you could say pastrami on rye with spicy mustard, the three had teamed up to plan the delivery-only sandwich pop-up, Trashalachia. Launched Jan. 4 exclusively through KickbackAVL, the menu offers six sandwiches, from a double cheeseburger to the aforementioned pastrami on rye, on Geraldine’s Bakery bread. Trashalachia will initially operate Mondays and Tuesdays when many restaurants are closed; preorders are accepted and encouraged. For details and to order, visit avl.mx/8uh.

Break-ing news

Facing cold weather, limited daylight and the traditionally slow winter season, Smoky Park Supper Club, Avenue M and El Gallo revealed plans in early December to take a winter hiatus.

A Dec. 23 announcement from city and county officials that indoor dining capacity would be reduced from 50% to 30% from Jan. 2 through at least the end of the month precipitated more hard decisions. As of Jan. 4, Blackbird, Cucina 24, Jargon and Zambra are among the local independent restaurants that have placed a “closed for now” sign on their doors.  Jane Anderson, executive director of AIR, says she expects the 30% capacity policy will cause others to join the list of the organization’s members taking an unplanned winter break.

On Jan. 1, Cristina and Jesson Gil, owners of the three Early Girl Eatery locations, announced on Facebook that the North Asheville location on Merrimon Avenue will permanently close.


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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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