What’s new in food: Cuban comfort food heading for the RAD

TASTE OF HOME: Guajiro Cuban Comfort Food owner Chris Barroso, left, and his cousin Yanolys Morejon Gonzalez unveil their new food truck. Gonzalez's husband, Joel, is head chef. Photo courtesy of Guajiro Cuban Comfort Food.

In Cuba, the word “guajiro” refers to a farmer, rural person or agricultural worker. Locally, thanks to the imminent debut of Guajiro Cuban Comfort Food outside the Asheville Cotton Mill Studios, the word might soon become synonymous with authentic Cuban sandwiches, breakfast dishes and other culinary delights.

The food trailer’s coming launch, says owner and chef Chris Barroso, has been a lifelong dream. A second-generation Cuban American, Barroso spent his youth cooking authentic Cuban meals with his grandmother Rosa Montenegro, whom he refers to as “Nana.”

“My Nana is the inspiration behind the menu,” Barroso continues. The smell of her food filling the house “and the large, satisfying plates of food made with love,” he adds, is what Barroso associates with Cuban comfort food.

Menu highlights will include medianoches, pan con lechon, sweet plantains and house-made pastelitos. Many of the recipes, Barroso points out, stem from dishes his Nana cooked while he was a child, growing up on a family farm in the Cuban city of Cienfugos, known at the time as La Puntilla. Her father, Serafin Morejón, was a guajiro, farming sugar cane and other crops.

Fresh-squeezed juices, Cuban coffees and milkshakes will also be available.

“I want people to enjoy a meal that makes them feel like they are part of our family. I want them to know that each plate served will be made with the same love that my great grandparents and Nana put into their dishes,” says Barroso.

Guajiro Cuban Comfort Food will be located at 122 Riverside Drive. Visit avl.mx/prwu for updates on opening date and hours of operation, as well as a full menu. 

Pass the pasta

Franny’s Pasta & Prana food truck rolled into town last month during the LoveShinePlay Festival in downtown Asheville.

The brainchild of Franny Tacy, owner and CEO of Franny’s Farmacy and Franny’s Farm, and Mike Ptaszek, local chef and yoga instructor, Franny’s Pasta & Prana offers small-batch, artisan-made pasta dishes derived from hemp for the health-conscious consumer on the go.

“Our goal is to highlight the hemp plant as a nutritious ingredient in everyday food and beverage options for health and wellness, so we can better feed and educate our community on nutrition and sustainability,” says Tacy.

Pastas such as Franny’s Fettuccine, Leaf Linguini and Gluten Free Hemp Gnocchi are available as hot, made-to-order plates, build-your-own-bowls or to-go pouches.

When not attending local events, Franny’s Pasta & Prana food truck is stationed at Franny Farmacy’s flagship location, 231 Biltmore Ave. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Soon to come, Tacy and Ptaszek plan to feature pop-ups with local chefs, roll out local online ordering and delivery via Mother Earth Food and offer catering services.

Visit avl.mx/bxj for additional information.

A bite and a pint

Green Man Brewery, Asheville’s second-oldest brewery, recently unveiled a new kitchen offering beer-friendly foods for its hungry (and thirsty) patrons.

“One out of three parties that come to Green Man ask us if we have food,” says Dennis Thies, who owns Green Man with his wife, Wendy. “You have to listen to your customer.”

Utilizing an innovative scan, order and pay QR system, Green Man’s guests can now order a variety of pub grub from the 15-item menu and have the food brought to their table or seat at the bar. Green Man’s “delivery area” covers both its original Dirty Jack’s and newer Green Mansion locations on Buxton Avenue.

Dennis refers to this new venture as a “ghost kitchen,” operating from the space directly next door to Dirty Jack’s. The building was formerly occupied by French Broad Chocolates.

Experienced restaurateur and chef Larry Dunn will head the kitchen. Po’ boys, “Ashevilly” cheesesteaks, burgers, salads and even jumbo chocolate chip cookies are available with the tap of a button.

Dennis is most excited about what he calls a “proper fish and chips” made from cod flown fresh from Massachusetts and fresh-cut fries. “We have a french fry cutter that you’ve never seen before,” exclaims Dennis.

Green Man’s kitchen operates noon-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon-7 p.m. on Sunday. Green Mansion is at 27 Buxton Ave. Dirty Jack’s is at 23 Buxton Ave. Visit avl.mx/b8k for more information.

Reel deal fish fry

Asheville Parks and Recreation’s Senior Opportunity Community Center will host a $2 fish fry on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2-5 p.m. Price of entry grants a fresh fried fish (tilapia and whiting) sandwich with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce, as well as a side of chips and a drink.

“The ultimate goal of this event is to expand our outreach in the community while giving our current participants a fun, new event to be a part of,” says Christin King, recreation program leader for the city of Asheville’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The Senior Opportunity Community Center is at 36 Grove St. Visit avl.mx/bxh for more information and to purchase tickets.

The fruits of our Labor Day

The city of Hendersonville has announced the N.C. Apple Festival will return Friday, Sept. 2, through Monday, Sept. 5, Labor Day.  This year will mark the annual event’s 76th celebration.

A proverbial bushel full of apple-themed events and activities will mark the occasion, including street fairs, carnival attractions and live musical performances, all culminating in the grand finale of the King Apple Parade on Labor Day from 2:30-5 p.m. Street closures can be expected to begin Thursday, Sept. 1, at 2 p.m.

For more information on the N.C. Apple Festival, including a full list of events and accompanying street closures, visit avl.mx/aau.

Paying it forward

Western Carolina Rescue Ministries, an organization helping those experiencing homelessness, financial strain and addiction, recently received a donation of $2,200 from the Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation. These funds will help feed struggling communities and allow the organization’s head chef to purchase food items rarely donated but often requested.

“With a corporate partner like Food Lion, we are able to do more than provide a meal,” says Executive Director Micheal Woods in a press release announcing the donation. “We are also able to dispense love. This is what restores hope to a hurting world.”

Food services play a vital role in WCRM’s central mission of rescue and recovery through physical and mental restoration. Members of long-term food service programs will partner with volunteers to help feed those experiencing food insecurity on the street and foster healing relationships through local community.

Visit avl.mx/bxi for more information on Western Carolina Rescue Ministries.

Vinnie’s says ‘arrivederci’ to pizza

The owner and chef of Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, Eric Scheffer, recently announced that the restaurant will no longer be serving pizza at either of its locations.

“We have found at both of our locations that, unfortunately, serving pizza consistently makes it more difficult to provide the level of service you — and we — expect,” says Scheffer in a press release. “I would rather sacrifice a small, although beloved, part of our menu, rather than making a concession on the experience of our guests.”

Scheffer assures fans of the Italian eatery that there are no plans to sell the pizza ovens, so the possibility remains that pizza could one day return. He also noted that the restaurant’s locally revered garlic knots will not be affected by this decision.

The Original Vinnie’s is at 641 Merrimon Ave. Vinnie’s South is at 1981 Hendersonville Road. Visit avl.mx/aeg for more information.


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