What’s new in food: Food trucks debut with Native American, Middle Eastern fare

GETTING ROLLING: New mobile concepts Native Nummies, left, and Yalla are partnering with local breweries to offer their unique flavors — Native American fry bread and Middle Eastern street food, respectively — to Asheville. Photos courtesy of Native Nummies and Yalla

In Jennifer King’s home state of Oklahoma, Native American fry bread and the “Indian tacos” made from it are common dishes. But after she and her husband, Terry, moved to the Asheville area two years ago, they quickly realized that not only are such staples hard to find in Western North Carolina, but many people they met had never even heard of them. 

As a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, King felt inspired to share those food traditions with her new community, and Native Nummies food truck was born. Fully permitted in late March, the mobile kitchen is collaborating with woman- and Native American-owned 7 Clans Brewing and will be on regular rotation in its parking lot on Sweeten Creek Road starting in late April. 

“[7 Clans] believed that since they served Native American beers and we served Native American cuisine, our partnership would offer the Asheville community the opportunity to experience Native American culture in a way that could not be found anywhere else,” says Jennifer.

Fry bread, she explains, was created by the Navajo people after they were forcibly removed from their homelands in the 1860s by the federal government and provided only meager rations of flour, lard, salt and sugar. Native Nummies’ intentionally streamlined menu highlights this heritage of resilience and creativity, offering only fry bread tacos with seasoned ground beef, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, cheese and sour cream (vegan option also available), plus sweet fry bread options with sugar and cinnamon or honey. 

“Fry bread is so much more than just food but represents the strength, perseverance and ultimate survival of the Native American people,” says Jennifer. Guests interested in learning more about the history of fry bread can read about it on a plaque on the Native Nummies trailer. 

In addition to upcoming regular dates at 7 Clans, the Kings will serve fry bread on Saturday, May 11, at The Whole Bloomin’ Thing spring festival in Waynesville and at White Squirrel Weekend in Brevard, Friday, May 24-Sunday, May 26.

Also recently opened and anchored in partnership with a local brewery is Yalla, a food truck specializing in vegetarian Middle Eastern street food. Open Thursday-Sunday at Catawba Brewing Co. on the South Slope, Yalla is owned by Nathan Phillips and chef Nir Asaf, who is already known in Asheville for his catering.

One of the highlights of Yalla’s entirely vegetarian menu (dishes can be made vegan on request) is its hummus made with chickpeas and tahini from Israel. Yalla also offers Middle Eastern pita specialties, such as sabich — a pita filled with tahini, eggs, salad and caramelized eggplant — and Greek- and Turkish-style bourekas, which are savory, stuffed puff pastries. Sweet options include baklava and a pita stuffed with Nutella and caramelized banana.

Along with food, Yalla focuses on bringing people together by hosting Sunday brunch gatherings, known in Arabic as haflas, with DJ dance music and collaborations with local event producers, artists and musicians. “The excitement lies not only in creating nourishing food but also in fostering a sense of belonging,” says Phillips.

When not at Catawba, Yalla can also be found at occasional area events. Look for details to be announced on Instagram.

7 Clans Brewing is at 66 Sweeten Creek Road. For updates on Native Nummies, visit avl.mx/djo. Catawba Brewing Co. is at 32 Banks Ave. For updates on Yalla, find it on Instagram and at avl.mx/dji.

A food hall for Fletcher

Later this month, HenDough Chicken and Donuts and KO Restaurant Group owners Sarah and Paul Klaassen, along with business partner Michael Olbrantz, plan to open Auction House Food & Drink Hall in a historic building in Fletcher. They have completely renovated the two-story former auction house at 29 Fanning Bridge Road and added a large deck and an outdoor seating and recreation area with a stage.

Guests will be able to choose from five counter-service dining concepts, ranging from KO Burger, with retro smash burgers, soft-serve ice cream and fries, to tacos and tortas at Mercado Cantina. Fish Camp will feature lobster rolls, fried seafood and peel-and-eat shrimp, while Blue Collar Bourbon Social will offer bourbon and cocktails with a menu of Southern-inspired small plates, such as fried pimento cheese. Wine, frosé and mimosas will be available at the AH Wine Bar. The owners plan to schedule regular activities such as trivia nights, live music, holiday markets, kids events and more.

KO Restaurant Group, which owns four restaurants in Gather Greenville food hall in Greenville, S.C., has been working on this project for three years. “We really love the flexibility and variety that food halls offer. There’s something for everyone,” says Klaassen. “When we were approached about doing something in this building, we knew it would be the perfect place for a food hall. Fletcher is incredibly underserved and experiencing a lot of residential growth.”

Auction House Food & Drink Hall is slated to open in mid to late April and will be open daily for lunch and dinner. Look for updates at avl.mx/djl.

Showdown features WNC chefs

This year marks the eighth season for the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association Chef Showdown, the state’s largest culinary and cocktail competition, highlighting North Carolina agricultural products. The contest kicked off its first preliminary round on March 24 at A-B Tech with seven Asheville-area chefs among the 53 chefs and 11 pastry chefs participating.

Local participants are Cheyenne Cristina, Leo’s Italian Social in Asheville; Santiago Guzzetti, Ilda in Sylva; Paul Taylor,Jargon in Asheville; Terri Terrell, The Utopian Seed Project in Asheville; Whitney King, Restoration Hotel in Asheville; Santiago Vargas, Mikasa Criolla in Asheville and Jill Wasilewski, Ivory Road in Arden.

A-B Tech chef instructors Chris Bugher and Stephen Hertz helped facilitate the preliminary round, with members of the A-B Tech student culinary team assisting with setup. 

The 26 chefs and eight pastry chefs selected to move ahead to the regional semifinals will be announced after the completion of the last state preliminary culinary round on Monday, June 10, at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh. 

Meanwhile, Asheville bar professional Jon Burritt of Chemist Spirits will be among the competitors on Friday, April 19, in Winston-Salem in one of two statewide preliminary mixology rounds. Organizer Heidi Billotto notes that Burritt previously competed in the 2019 event, earning the title NCRLA Mixologist of the Year with Chemist receiving the Distillery of the Year title.

The NCRLA Grand Finale will take place Monday, Aug. 26, at Bay 7 at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham. Winners will join the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s 2024-25 Got to Be NC team of culinary and beverage ambassadors.

For more on the 2024 NCRLA Chef Showdown, visit avl.mx/djj.

A long-awaited cookbook release

Seven years ago, Asheville chef William Dissen, 2024 James Beard Awards Outstanding Restaurant semifinalist and owner of landmark downtown farm-to-table eatery The Market Place, started working on his first cookbook. This spring, the chef is finally able to savor the completion of his passion project with the publication of Thoughtful Cooking: Recipes Rooted in the New South.

“It’s organized by the seasons and is an authentic showcase of modern Appalachian recipes, global flavors and fresh local ingredients,” says Dissen in a press release. “To celebrate the book launch the same year we’ve been nominated for a James Beard Award and in The Market Place’s 45th year in business is like a dream come true.”

Thoughtful Cooking was named by Food & Wine magazine as one of the Best Food and Drink Books of Spring 2024 and is on Amazon’s list of Editor’s Picks: Best Cookbooks, Food & Wine.

Signed copies of Thoughtful Cooking are available at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., and at Barnes & Noble at the Asheville Mall, 3 S. Tunnel Road. For more information about The Market Place, visit avl.mx/dbu.

Tailgate markets and food access programs

As local farmers markets reopen after winter or transition to spring and summer hours, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project has announced that nine Buncombe County markets will participate this season in the organization’s Double SNAP for Fruits and Vegetables and Farm Fresh Produce Prescription programs for increasing access to healthy, local foods.

Both programs expand access to fresh produce to more people in the community who might not otherwise be able to afford them. Opening dates and locations for the participating markets are:

  • Asheville City Market: 9 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, North Market Street (between Woodfin and Walnut streets).
  • Black Mountain Tailgate Market: 9 a.m.-noon, Saturdays starting May 4, 130 Montreat Road.
  • East Asheville Tailgate Market: 3-6 p.m., Fridays, 954 Tunnel Road.
  • Enka-Candler Farmer’s Market: 3:30-6:30 p.m., Thursdays starting April 18, 1465 Sand Hill Road, Candler.
  • North Asheville Tailgate Market: 8 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, UNC Asheville, Lot P34.
  • River Arts District Farmers Market: 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays, 350 Riverside Drive.
  • Southside Community Farmers Market: Noon-3 p.m., first Sundays of the month starting May 5, 133 Livingston St.
  • Weaverville Tailgate Market: 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays, 60 Lakeshore Drive.
  • West Asheville Tailgate Market: 3:30-6:30 p.m., Tuesdays, 718 Haywood Road.

Learn more about these programs at avl.mx/5uh.

Comedy, cuisine and cannabis 

Saturday, April 20 — aka 420, the unofficial cannabis holiday — is quickly approaching, and local artist Kitty Savage and Slice of Life Comedy plan to celebrate with Canna Comic Cuisine dinner and dessert comedy shows at The Green Room downtown. The two separate events will be hosted by Hilliary Begley and will feature local comedians Cayla Clark, Miranda Allison and Cody HughesKatherine and Griffin Riffe, a local married pastry chef and chef team, will serve vegetarian and vegan hemp-infused dishes. 

“[I]wanted to introduce a new concept for cannabis lovers to try infused recipes, make new friends and have experiences that uplift our local culture and economy,” says Savage.

The dinner menu will feature gluten-free fettuccine Alfredo with black truffle or vegan bucatini and cashew milk cream sauce. Dessert will be a choice of hemp-infused Stay Glazed doughnut or flourless chocolate mini-torte with fresh berries and infused Madagascar vanilla. 

The dinner show will be 7:30-9 p.m., and the dessert show will be 9:30-11 p.m. Tickets are $42 and include a canned, nonalcoholic, cannabis-infused drink along with the show and food.

The Green Room is at 51 College St. 1A. For additional details and tickets, visit avl.mx/djk.

Farewell to Melting Pot Social

The Asheville outpost of Florida-based fondue restaurant Melting Pot Social permanently closed on March 31. Launched in July 2021 at 74 Patton Ave. in the heart of downtown, the restaurant announced on its website: “The first-of-its-kind location opened in the height of the pandemic and has closed indefinitely due to economic market conditions not returning to pre-pandemic levels.” 

Along with thanking the Asheville community, the message notes that the space is available for lease.

For more information, visit avl.mx/djm.


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2 thoughts on “What’s new in food: Food trucks debut with Native American, Middle Eastern fare

  1. Chip Kaufmann

    Speaking of Native American cuisine, does anyone remember SPIRITS ON THE RIVER? It was a restaurant located on Swannanoa River Rd across from the golf course and near the turnoff for Highland Brewing. They had Fry Bread and several other Native American dishes and exotic dishes like alligator and rattlesnake. They closed in 2009 and the building was torn down shortly thereafter.

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