Though Iris Rodriguez, her husband, Jose Busto, and their business partner Luis Betances had been toiling inside the compact cinderblock building at 134 Coxe Ave. since they signed the lease in March, it wasn’t until they painted it bright mustard yellow in early October that it really caught the attention of neighbors and downtown workers. “We were being called ‘the yellow building people,’” Rodriguez says with a laugh.
Since their soft opening earlier this month, Little Chango Hispanic Craft Kitchen can still be identified by its eye-catching hue, but the trio intends to be known for Rodriguez’s food. “My heritage is Puerto Rico, so the menu will be mainly Caribbean-inspired dishes I grew up with — tostones [fried plantains], ropa vieja [shredded beef served on tortillas], pork, rice and beans,” Rodriguez explains.
Since coming to Asheville six years ago, Rodriguez has worked in several restaurants, including Cúrate and Hole Doughnuts; meanwhile, Busto previously held a position at Twin Leaf Brewery, next door to the couple’s new restaurant.
“We wanted our own place and had our eye on that building for a while,” says Rodriguez. “When the lease came open, we jumped on it.”
Little Chango Hispanic Craft Kitchen’s Instagram account teases photos of menu items such as pepiada chicken salad; an adobo pork arepa with escabeche salad; and a shimmering come-hither round of flan made with coconut milk and cardamom.
“The most well-known arepas are Venezuelan and made with corn maize,” says Rodriguez. “In Puerto Rico, we also make a version with wheat flour, but we are doing the Venezuelan arepa at Little Chango.” The ground maize dough is shaped into a disc, cooked in a skillet or flat grill, split open to make a pocket to fill with shredded meats and vegetables, then topped with fresh herbs and typically a squeeze of lime.
As for the restaurant’s name, Rodriguez explains, “We call grackles changos in Latin American countries. They are very gregarious little birds with very voracious appetites. We identify! We are very gregarious people, and we love to eat.”
Little Chango Hispanic Craft Kitchen is at 134 Coxe Ave. For hours and a complete menu, visit avl.mx/asd.
Blackbird spreads wings
On Oct. 18, Michael Reppert and John Tressler, owners of Blackbird restaurant on Biltmore Avenue, purchased their second downtown eatery, El Gallo, from restaurateur Jacob Sessoms. “We always loved that location and space, and we wanted something else downtown,” Reppert says. The restaurant’s menu, he adds, will remain the same.
In addition to the recent purchase, Reppert and Tressler have plans to launch Shiloh & Gaines, a coffee shop/bar that will open in a former mattress store on Hendersonville Road in Shiloh, where Reppert has lived since 2017. “I just want a place nearby to get coffee, and a dive place you can have a beer, hear live music, play pool and throw some darts.” Reppert says they are not installing a full kitchen but will have basic food, what he calls “hotties and coldies.” They expect to open in early 2022.
El Gallo is at 48 College St. For more information, visit avl.mx/9r7.
If you lack the time or talent to roll up your sleeves and roll out some dough for this year’s Thanksgiving pie, Buxton Hall BBQ has you covered. But act now. The deadline to order pie a la go is Thursday, Nov. 18. The tasty trio of choices includes sweet potato, caramel and spice banana pudding (made with Spicewalla spices) and chocolate and orange pecan. All whole pies are $40 and can be picked up at Buxton Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 23, and Wednesday, Nov. 24.
Buxton Hall BBQ is at 32 Banks Ave. To place a pie order, visit avl.mx/asf.
Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack likes to say it’s been giving Asheville the bird since 2009, but its Thanksgiving takeaway menu is all about sides and desserts to accompany your own bird — or whatever the centerpiece of your celebratory meal is. Among the items to stuff yourselves silly with are deviled eggs with candied bacon, collard greens, corn budding, mashed potatoes and gravy, casseroles, mac and cheese, three kinds of pudding and Coca-Cola cake. Several sizes are offered, and everything will be packaged cold to reheat at home and place in your own serving dishes (no one will be the wiser). Online orders are being accepted through Sunday, Nov. 21, and pickups will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 24, at both locations.
Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack is at 1455 Patton Ave. and 3749 Sweeten Creek Road, Arden. For more information, visit avl.mx/asg.
Focused on food relief
Focal Point Coworking is collecting canned and dry goods through the end of November for MANNA FoodBank. Focal Point founder Alison Page is encouraging people to focus on healthy fare such as peanut butter, canned tuna, applesauce, fruit cups, low-sodium soups and stocks. According to MANNA, for every 1.2 pounds of food collected, the nonprofit can provide one meal, and for every $1 donated, the organization helps provide four meals to WNC residents facing food insecurity.
Collections will be received Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., at 125 S. Lexington Ave. For more information on the foods most needed, visit avl.mx/ash.
On the AIR
If you’d rather leave the holiday meal cooking and cleanup to the professionals, Asheville Independent Restaurant Association is here to help with the online publication of members’ holiday hours, which covers the Big Three — Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. The site will be updated frequently. avl.mx/8pf.
Also, after a COVID hiatus, AIR is bringing back its popular AIR Passport, which provides carriers with tickets to buy-one-get-one meals at over 50 member restaurants. Passports make great stocking stuffers and proceeds go to support AIR efforts on behalf of Asheville’s independent restaurant community. Check the AIR website for the release date in December. avl.mx/asi.
Worries over disrupted supply chains and backed-up shipping channels are adding to the normal holiday stress load. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project suggests dialing back the noise by shopping local, where all the goods and goodies are at the tip of your fingers, ready to put in your reusable bag and take home. Though the 2021 season is winding down for most weekly tailgate markets, until they bid adieu to you, several are offering holiday markets, featuring local artists and adding handcrafted items like wreaths, pottery and jewelry to the menu of vegetables, fruits, baked good, cheese, meats and specialty items.
For a list of those, along with dates, hours and locations in Buncombe County and beyond, visit avl.mx/5uh.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The article was updated on Nov. 17. The individuals in the featured image were misidentified in the original version.