When chef Linton Hopkins opened H&F Burger on Biltmore Avenue in December 2019, it was in part a reference to the cheeseburger made famous as a late-night-only special at Holeman and Finch Public House, which he and his wife, Gina Hopkins, opened in Atlanta in 2008.
While the burger may have been the calling card to the Asheville restaurant, the menu went far beyond a double-beef patty, drawing dishes from Holeman and Finch’s concept while reaching deep into local sources. “When we opened H&F here in Asheville, it was essentially a smaller Holeman and Finch menu with the burger always available,” he explains. “The first months were great, and we were selling across the menu. Then COVID hit.”
H&F Burger, like all North Carolina restaurants, closed to indoor dining; like many, it pivoted a short time later to delivery and takeout. Through their Atlanta-based hospitality group, the Hopkinses also created the nonprofit, Good Food Works, which locally began collaborating with Food Connection and MANNA FoodBank to provide 600 meals per week.
In June 2021, weary of the COVID Coaster, Linton decided a reset was in order and closed the restaurant entirely to focus on that goal.
“We want to be robustly who we are — whole animal, whole vegetable, chef-driven, craft-driven cooking,” he explains. “By resetting H&F Burger Asheville as Holeman and Finch, we are rebuilding, reclaiming and reinvesting in that ethos.”
Among the investments in the Asheville Holeman and Finch Public House, which opens Thursday, Dec. 2 is a dedicated oyster bar and a cured meats and cheeses station, as well as a robust menu of snacks, large plates, vegetables and parts that includes skillet sweetbreads, blackened chicken liver and veal brains.
“My father is a neurologist and will not order the brains,” Hopkins says with a laugh.
While the Asheville and Atlanta locations will have similar menu options, local produce, proteins and product will provide diners at each restaurant a unique experience. “I spend 75% of my time sourcing,” says Hopkins. “To me, being a chef is understanding the terroir of the food you’re cooking. We may have mushrooms on both menus, but the dish will be different in Asheville based on farmers and foragers.”
Asheville diners can expect to see Linton in the restaurant on a regular basis, particularly since the Atlanta Holeman and Finch will not reopen until March. “Gina and I leased a house here,” he says. “We knew we had to be in Asheville to bring what Holeman and Finch is about here. I can’t cook unless I understand and know my sources and farmers. We want to be the local’s local place.”
Holeman and Finch Public House is at 77 Biltmore Ave. For more information, including hours and menu, visit avl.mx/aup.
December brings the latest round of Mikasa Nikkei pop-up dinners, created by Ana Austin and chef Santiago Vargas. First launched in September, the culinary event features six courses of the Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine known as Nikkei; during the pop-up, diners will also learn about the multicultural history and multiple microclimates of Peru, Austin’s and Vargas’ native country.
“Peru has three ecosystems,” Austin explains. “The Andean mountains have crops specific to high altitude, the Pacific Ocean is very rich in seafood, and the Amazon Forest a completely different climate. The different microclimates and different soils give us a large variety of crops, produce and product.”
Meanwhile, she continues, the history of Nikkei came about when a large migration of Japanese arrived in Peru in the late 1800s and early 1900s lured by the promise of jobs. Austin says the new arrivals began cooking their traditional Japanese foods using Peruvian products, resulting in Nikkei cuisine.
The pop-ups began in Austin’s home but have since expanded to venues including Botanist & Barrel, Chestnut Ridge event center and Franny’s Farm. December pop-ups run 6:30-9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7; Wednesday, Dec. 8; Wednesday, Dec. 15; and Thursday, Dec. 16. Menus will not be released in advance. Tickets are $110 per person.
For more details, including locations, visit avl.mx/auo.
Bear of a brunch
Sunday brunch can be so predictable: French toast, omelets, eggs Benedict — yawn. Leave it to the wholly unpredictable chef A.J. Gregson of Black Bear BBQ to add a smoky spin to the repast and make Saturday the new Sunday.
In November, he kicked off Saturday brunch at his East Asheville restaurant. Gregson says, “We want to expand the view of what barbecue or smoked meats have to offer in a brunch setting.”
Among the menu items are red eye gravy and fried ribs, smoked turkey leg gumbo with cheese grits and smoked rockfish fritters. Plus, says Gregson, “If you need a reason to eat funnel cake for breakfast, I got you. We have mini-funnel cakes, slathered in our house made banana pudding, in-house smoked bacon chips, dulce de leche drizzle, fresh whipped cream and banana slices.”
Black Bear BBQ is at 800 Fairview Road. Saturday brunch runs 11 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information, visit avl.mx/aub.
Pitch in with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville on Sunday, Dec. 5, to stock its new free-standing food pantry with canned goods and personal care items. The pantry is a joint venture with BeLoved Asheville to provide items at no cost to people in need.
The food pantry will be across from City Bakery, 88 Charlotte St.; donations can be left anytime in the bin on the rear porch of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville is at 1 Edwin Place. For more information on how to volunteer, donate and what items are most needed for the winter, visit avl.mx/aue.
Worm baby worm
Watch worms work with your own eyes when Bountiful Cities hosts a free vermiculture, worm composting workshop Sunday, Dec. 5, 2-3:30 p.m. at its Pearson Garden. The opportunity to build small worm compost systems and a demonstration of a worm tower make this an especially kid-friendly event, according to outreach coordinator Cathy Cleary. Chocolate “soil” cake with gummy worms and hot beverages will be served.
Pearson Garden is at 408 Pearson Drive. RSVP at Cathy@bountifulcities.org.
Don’t toss those scraps. On Thursday, Dec. 2, WNC Food Waste Solutions is hosting a demonstration by cookbook author Ashley English on how to turn food scraps into a couple of tasty dishes. The drop-in event will take place at Bottle Riot from 4:30-6:30 p.m., with the demo starting at 5:30. RSVP at avl.mx/av0.
Bottle Riot 37 Paynes Way Suite 9
Yule be back
The Hop Ice Cream’s wildly popular Ice Cream Yule Logs with a new and improved chocolate cake recipe are being rolled out in both dairy and vegan options, multiple flavors and two sizes. Dairy ice cream choices are vanilla bean, salted caramel or peppermint stick; vegan logs are made with oat milk ice cream.
Orders are live at avl.mx/auf and will be taken through Monday, Dec. 20. Curbside pickup is at The Creamery, 167 Haywood Road.
Provisions Mercantile is staging two holiday events for elves of all ages. On Saturday, Dec. 4, kids can decorate sugar cookies and have a cup of hot cocoa from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the flagship store in West Asheville. On Thursday, Dec. 16 from 5-7 p.m. the Men’s Panic Party pairs live music and bourbon cocktails with professional guidance from staff and gift wrapping at both locations.
Provisions Mercantile is at 728 Haywood Road and 14 Lodge St. in Biltmore Village.
Just in time for the release of seasonal flavors Reindeer Crunch, Chocolate Peppermint and Gingerbread, Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn has popped up a pop-up on Tunnel Road. The holiday store — with a full inventory of flavors, prepacked gift baskets and ornaments — will be open Wednesday-Friday, noon-7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
Poppy Holiday Pop-up is at 4 S. Tunnel Road. For more information, visit avl.mx/auq.