Asheville Restaurant Week, the annual celebration of local cuisine organized by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, kicks off its 11th year on Tuesday, Jan. 17. For its 2023 iteration, nearly 40 restaurants will join in on the festivities by offering unique menu specials through Monday, Jan. 23.
“When Asheville Restaurant Week started, we had prix fixe menus at specific prices. A few years back, we broadened it so that each restaurant can set its specials to best fit its menu,” says Erin Leonard, vice president of communications for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. “This could be tried and true dishes at special prices, or it could be a dish offered just for Asheville Restaurant Week. It’s really up to the creativity of each restaurant.”
This year’s celebration will mark one of the highest numbers of participating restaurants, following two years of COVID-19 related restrictions.
“We continue to tweak Asheville Restaurant Week based on feedback from participating restaurants, and we’re always looking to expand on the number and type of restaurants participating,” explains Leonard.
Returning restaurants such as Chestnut, Corner Kitchen, Cúrate and Ruth’s Chris Steak House have participated in Asheville Restaurant Week since the beginning. Meanwhile, a number of newcomers, including Bhramari Brewing Co., Farm Dogs, Gemelli, Huli Sue’s BBQ & Grill, Old School Subs, Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse and Rye Knot, will all be making their Asheville Restaurant Week debuts.
Some restaurants, such as Buxton Hall BBQ, will use the week to spotlight new concepts, including its Patty & Pearl pop-up. Throughout the week, Buxton will offer a special themed menu featuring burgers and sliders as well as raw and fried oysters, in addition to various appetizers, sides and drinks matching the theme; Buxton’s regular menus will also be available.
“The range of casual to fine dining means there’s something for everyone, with a handful of participating restaurants offering breakfast, more than half open for lunch and a majority open for dinner,” says Leonard.
“Locals get to show their love for local restaurants by dining at one of their favorites or venturing out to a restaurant they’ve never been to,” Leonard continues. “As a result, participating restaurants have reported boosts in revenue during what is often a shoulder-season timeframe taking place after the holidays.”
For a full list of participating restaurants, visit avl.mx/cat.
Lucky Lunar New Year
According to the Chinese zodiac, or shēngxiào, 2023 is the Year of the Water Rabbit, signifying longevity, peace and a prediction of hope for the year to come. To help embody the dawning of the Lunar New Year, Highland Brewing Co. and Gan Shan West are collaborating on a special dining experience on Saturday, Jan. 21, from 6-9 p.m.
Gan Shan West’s chef de cuisine, Raymond Hui, has curated a menu that will include small plates featuring spring rolls, sticky rice and Singapore mie fun. Main dishes will include twice-cooked pork, General Tso chicken and three cup tofu. The evening’s meal will conclude on a sweet note with options that include Malaysian pineapple tarts and tang yuan sweet rice dumplings.
“The main inspiration for this menu came from all the fond memories of friends and family reuniting from far and wide at my grandparents’ house,” explains Hui. “The home was filled with familiar aromas that I had waited all year for. These dishes were special occasion delicacies that welcomed good fortune and happiness into the new year.”
To mark the special occasion, Highland Brewing Co. will tap its Water Rabbit Yuzu Pilsner, a collaboration with Seattle’s Lucky Envelope Brewing that, like Highland, is Chinese American-owned. Local band Pleasure Chest will provide live music, and Dragon Phoenix will perform a ceremonial lion dance to open the event. Guests are encouraged to dress in their best red attire.
“I’m rediscovering Chinese New Year through beer,” says Leah Wong Ashburn, president of Highland Brewing Co.“Our Lunar New Year events highlight the best parts of the company and the industry with a creative and inspired beer, collaboration, cultural diversity and celebration, all tying back to my father’s side of the family.”
Tickets cost $55 per person and include event access, a 4-ounce welcome pour of Water Rabbit Yuzu Pilsner, one drink token and station-style dining. An optional $20 add-on grants access to a brewery tour and tasting plus a meet-and-greet with Highland founder Oscar Wong. Visit avl.mx/cav for tickets and information.
Outsider Brewing Co. will host chef Chuck Cutler-Gutiérrez’s Ayni51 vegan Peruvian pop-up on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Cutler-Gutiérrez, who uses the pronoun they/them, seeks to introduce the culinary curious to an authentic, yet experimental, five-course Peruvian meal that provides new tastes, education and appreciation for South America’s diverse cuisine. Optional beer pairings from Outsider Brewing Co. will also be available.
“The way Outsider uses hops in beer connects back to the way fermentation is utilized in many different types of traditional Peruvian foods,” explains Cutler-Gutiérrez.
This is the last pop-up Cutler-Gutiérrez will host under the Ayni51 name, as they begin work on launching their new restaurant, LIMAQ in Mars Hill. The restaurant will pay homage to the chef’s home city of Lima, Peru. It is tentatively set to open later this year.
Naughty New Year
Take a walk on the wild side with The Naughty New Year Showcase, the latest event in Rhubarb’s new Local Showcase series, taking place Thursday, Jan. 26, 6-9 p.m.
Food and beverage will be paired with a number of seductive experiences in this 21-and-up event, including a product display from VaVaVooom, sensual burlesque performances by Enter the Garden dancers and live caricature drawings from Paul Choi of Bad Drawings.
“This month’s Showcase event was inspired by a desire to celebrate nonrestrictive New Year’s resolutions and let go of all that extra pressure and stress that a lot of us feel around the holidays,” explains Katie Page, Rhubarb’s event coordinator. “After the past couple of years, I think we can all stand to have a bit more fun this year!”
Exclusive discounts to Divination Tattoo and relaxing take-home offerings from Asheville Dispensary will also be provided during the evening’s events.
The showcase will take place at Rhubarb’s event space at 7 SW Pack Square. Limited tickets are available for $35 per person. Visit avl.mx/caw for additional information.
Old Europe, new location
After nearly three years of patient development and perseverance through construction delays, Old Europe Pastries has opened its new location at 18 Broadway.
Located, quite literally, across the street from its previous space, the new venue is nearly three times the size of its previous location.
“We are most excited about the opportunities that the new space provides,” says General Manager Abby Schrupp. “Being in 13 Broadway was extremely limiting in what we were able to do.”
Lines out the door were a common sight for those passing by Old Europe’s old digs. “During our busy season in October, we were doing about five to eight wedding orders on top of the full leaf season business out of just 800 square feet,” Schrupp explains. “We really want to push the envelope of what we can do as a team and as a business within this new space.”
Old Europe has further plans to roll out two additional phases in the next year or two, which will include an upstairs event space and downstairs overflow seating that will bring its total square footage to nearly 6,000.
For more information, visit avl.mx/8jn.
On the right track
Asheville’s Evergreen Community Charter School has been announced as one of 18 North Carolina school projects benefiting from the Jimmie Johnson Foundation’s annual Champions Grants program. These grants are awarded to K-12 public and charter schools to help address critical needs. This latest round will benefit more than 11,000 North Carolina students through over $468,000 in total grants.
Evergreen Community Charter School is set to receive $13,042, which will be used to expand its breakfast program to include a grab-and-go kiosk. The new addition will help eliminate barriers to access and provide meals to more of the school’s student population.
“A more accessible and robust breakfast program is exactly what our students need, and we are more than grateful to the Jimmie Johnson Foundation for making that happen,” says Evergreen Community Charter School’s Executive Director Susan Mertz in a news release.
For more information, visit avl.mx/xmasjbm.