Rare is the diner who doesn’t relish indulging in an easy, breezy weekend brunch. Bloody marys and mimosas, decadent French toast, crispy hash browns, eggs Benedict with creamy hollandaise, big fat cheesy omelets — who doesn’t love brunch?
According to local chef Terri Terrell, many in the industry — that’s who. Generally speaking, cooking brunch is considered boring, pedestrian and predictable. But for Terrell, along with fellow chefs Beth Kellerhals and Michele Gentille, the meal remains a source of pleasure. On Jan. 1, the three female chefs hosted their inaugural pop-up, Ladies Who Brunch. The sold-out success inspired the trio to make a series of it, staging recurring events on Saturdays at Smoky Park Supper Club and Sundays at Bottle Riot.
All three women have long and successful careers in the industry. Terrell, originally from Clarksdale, Miss., has a background in catering, owning restaurants, running Asheville’s HomeGrown restaurant and serving as culinary director for the Chow Chow Festival. She is currently launching her own catering and consulting business, The Clarksdale.
Gentille attended culinary school in France and has worked as a pastry chef, private chef and caterer in Europe, California, New York, Alaska and for several seasons at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica, before relocating to Asheville. Currently, she is a commercial food stylist, collaborates on pop-ups, works as a private chef and baker and writes her own blog called “Harriett’s Tomato.”
Kellerhals grew up in the Midwest, went to the French Pastry School in Chicago and spent time baking and cooking in Los Angeles. More recently she was pastry chef for French Broad Chocolates. Last year, she began devoting her time solely to her independent venture Good Gravy Bakes, supplying local restaurants and coffee shops with goods, while also selling pies, scones, cinnamon rolls and her popular Buttah Biscuit directly to her fans through Instagram and Saturday mornings at the ASAP City Market.
When the three stirred their skills and influences together to create Ladies Who Brunch, they reached out to chef Michelle Bailey and Kristie Quinn, co-owners of Smoky Park Supper Club, as well as Lauri Nichols, co-owner of Bottle Riot. “We were blessed that Michelle, Kristi and Lauri were into opening their doors and encouraging us to take flight and see what happens,” Terrell says. She notes that Bottle Riot has recently added spirits to its bar, good news for those who think brunch without a bloody mary is just, well, breakfast.
Among the menu items that veer off the tried and true (and a wee bit tired) brunch path are Beth’s Mini Buttah Biscuits with chocolate gravy; miso caramel sticky buns with spiced candied pecans; scratch-made English muffin breakfast sandwich with collards, fried egg, Ashe County cheddar and Mississippi Delta tomato gravy; crawfish chowder with deep fried saltines; a vegan tartine with OWL boule, smashed avocado, lemon pickled radish and herb drizzle; hot catfish tamales; and rabbit ‘n’ hash with fried potatoes and hot pepper relish.
Ladies Who Brunch will be at Smoky Park Supper Club, 350 Riverside Drive, Saturday, Feb. 19, serving from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Reservations are encouraged at 828-350-0315. The pop-up will be at Bottle Riot, 37 Paynes Way, Sunday, Feb. 20, and Sunday, Feb. 27, with service beginning at 11:30 a.m. until food runs out. Both restaurants now require memberships (guests can pay the nominal fee and sign up on-site), and Bottle Riot requires proof of vaccination. For future dates, follow Ladies Who Brunch on Instagram at avl.mx/b6r.
On Friday, Feb. 18, former El Gallo chef and food justice activist Luis Martinez debuts Oaxapunk at The Odditorium, 1045 Haywood Road. He’ll be cooking tacos, molotes, tostadas and pozole from 5 p.m. until items sell out. For more information, follow Martinez on Instagram at avl.mx/b7a.
Flown the coop
El Gallo — Spanish for rooster — has closed at 48 College St., but John Tessler and Mike Reppert, who purchased the restaurant in October, say stay tuned. The partners, who also own Blackbird restaurant on Biltmore Avenue and plan to open Shiloh & Gaines in South Asheville later this year, are working on a new concept for the downtown space.
“When we purchased El Gallo, we had every intention of keeping it afloat,” says Tessler. “We made as many changes as we could, but we just didn’t get the increased business we had hoped for, and unfortunately we don’t have the resources to continue that particular concept.”
Tessler adds that he and Reppert are very excited about the future plans, though they are not ready to reveal the details. “We can say that it is something that is desperately needed in Asheville, especially downtown. Our goal is to be fully open by mid-March.”
Imperial, the Mexican-inspired cocktail bar located directly above the former El Gallo, remains open. Tessler says beverage director Drew Hendrickson has created new cocktails and a new food menu will soon be released.
Imperial is at 48 College St. For more information, visit avl.mx/xmasjba.
Cleophus Hethington, executive chef of Benne on Eagle, has for years been immersed in a deep dive researching and cooking the foodways of the African diaspora. In observance of Black History Month, he is presenting two dinners of four courses through some of that history and culture. On Sunday, Feb. 20, the menu will focus on African and Latin American dishes, including carapulcra from Peru and egusi stew with rabbit agnolotti from Nigeria. On Sunday, Feb. 27, popular African American and Caribbean dishes will be served, with highlights that include fufu de platano from Cuba and catfish espuma with tomato gravy. There will be local artwork, entertainers and guest speakers at both dinners, which are $70 per person. Seating begins at 5:30 p.m. for each event.
Benne is at 35 Eagle St. Choose your date and reserve at avl.mx/wordcap8.
Living local has its challenges, so Bargello and District 42 — the restaurants on the first floor of Hotel Arras at the convergence of Broadway and Biltmore Avenue — have introduced Here’s to Locals: three-course prix fixe meals served Wednesday-Sunday, 5-10 p.m. Just show your proof of address and for $35 per person, enjoy one of two starters, one of three entrees and one of two dessert selections. Two bottles of wine from the Arras cellar have been paired for an additional fee.
To see the menu and make reservations, visit avl.mx/b6u.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on Feb. 23.