What’s New in Food: Luminosa opens in Flat Iron Hotel

FEEL THE HEAT: Luminosa chefs Graham House and Sean McMullen have fired up the Italy-meets-Appalachia dinner menu at the newly opened Flat Iron Hotel restaurant. Photo by Andrew Cebulka

Tall white toques are headwear of the past in most professional kitchens, but hard hats were an unexpected requirement when Luminosa executive chef Graham House and chef de cuisine Sean McMullen would visit the construction site during the renovation of Asheville’s historic 98-year-old Flat Iron Building. On May 15, the flagship restaurant in the six-story, 71-room Flat Iron Hotel served its first diners.

Among them was Steve Palmer, founder of Indigo Road Hospitality Group, owners and developers of restaurants and properties in six states. “He was confused by the lemon pizza but ended up ordering it two nights in a row and says it’s the best pizza he’s ever had,” McMullen says.

The lemon pizza — thin slices of lemon on top of smoked mozzarella, ricotta, fennel and arugula — is one of five on Luminosa’s opening menu, which weaves local ingredients with Italian influences throughout dedicated sections of antipasti, pasta, protein mains and sides. Though the two chefs were not able to even bring food into the prep kitchen until March and didn’t get into the main kitchen until May 2, they’ve been working on the menu since being hired by Indigo Road a year ago. “There’s been a lot of thinking about things in the middle of sleepless nights,” House says with a laugh. “A lot of internal R&D.”

House and McMullen met in high school in Henderson County, and both followed culinary careers that took them far and near: Most recently, House was at Sovereign Remedies and Chop Shop Butchery and McMullen at Avenue M with chef Andrew McLeod. For much of the time the Flat Iron property was under construction, the chefs were stationed at other Indigo Road restaurants that needed help.

While they were on the road, the Luminosa kitchen was equipped with two of the best big-boy toys two chefs could ever dream of — a pizza oven and a live-fire grill. “Cooking over live fire is in our wheelhouse,” House says. “You can cook on the grill plate, put things in the embers, hang things over the fire to get that smoky flavor.”

“It’s the most fun piece to work with,” McMullen adds. “It’s big, it’s right there, and people can see it from the dining room.”

All pastas are made in house by Cara Petrullo, who arrives every morning at 6 to start mixing, rolling and choosing shapes for the extruder. One of House’s favorite pastas is pizzoccheri alla valtellinese, a dish made with cabbage and potatoes that he learned while working in a 19th-century osteria in Lake Como, Italy. “Traditionally it’s a short noodle, but we do it here as a stuffed pasta using rye flour from Farm & Sparrow,” he explains. “The potato is in the filling and also a crispy element outside, and we use Napa cabbage from New Roots [Market Garden in Marshall].”

On the dessert menu, if diners can look past executive pastry chef Mattie Grey‘s soft-serve ice cream, they might indulge in panna cotta, tiramisu with chicory and espresso sponge or chocolate semifreddo.

Though the chefs say the structure of Luminosa’s menu will remain the same throughout the year, with seasonality and local sourcing steering their creativity, fans shouldn’t get too attached to any one dish — even the lemon pizza.

Luminosa is at 20 Battery Park Ave. For more details, visit avl.mx/dq1.

Back in business

On Nov. 7, Christian Watts received an alert from his security company that his 10th Muse Comfort Food building alarm was triggered. A minute later, things got weird when someone from neighboring Sky Lanes called to tell him there was a car in his building.

“My first thought was, ‘Well, that’s not where a car belongs,’” he recalls. “I’m grateful we weren’t open, no one was walking by on the sidewalk and no one was hurt,” including the driver, who had swerved to avoid another vehicle, sending his car plowing into the front right corner of 10th Muse. 

The driver was not injured, but the building — which retains the retro aesthetic of Frostbite Ice Cream, the previous occupant of the space — was very damaged, and Watts was out of business for six months while repairs were made.

Happily for everyone who has been craving 10th Muse’s over-the-top tasty treats, the shop reopened on May 10. Watts reports that the most popular menu items among the steady stream of customers that first weekend back were funnel cakes, deep-fried Oreos and The Force and The Miklo milkshakes. “Asheville coming to support us got me in all my feels,” Watts says. “It was so good to be back.”

For now, the indoor seating area is still closed — the patio is open — and service is drive-thru only. Hours are 3-9 p,.m. Thursday-Sunday.

10th Muse Comfort Food is at 1475 Patton Ave. For more information and online ordering, visit avl.mx/dq3.

Brews and booze

With DSSOLVR brewery’s May 17 opening of Vowl wine and cocktail bar, that person in your party who doesn’t like beer can simply slip next door from the taproom and choose from a selection of classic and contemporary cocktails, boozy slushies, boilermakers, natural wines and ciders, mocktails and hop water.

Though connected to the taproom, Vowl is a separate, 2,000-square-foot space with about 100 seats that will also be available to rent for private parties and special events.  Vowl is open late — 5 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday and 3-10 p.m. Sundays.

Vowl is at 61 N. Lexington Ave. For more, visit avl.mx/dpz.

Last call, y’all

Things are not always as they seem in Asheville. There are no burgers at the Burger Bar and no cut ‘n’ curls at the Asheville Beauty Academy. With the sad announcement on May 8 that the quirky ABA venue has made its final last call, there are no more cocktails, themed karaoke nights, dance parties, live entertainment or drag brunches either.

Hospitality maestro Charlie Hodge (Sovereign Remedies, The Getaway River Bar) opened ABA in September 2019 on the Broadway end of downtown’s main artery. When COVID-19 shuttered restaurants and bars six months later, ABA was briefly reinvented as a bodega. But a full post-pandemic comeback was challenged by shifting late-night habits, so Hodge and his team have decided to focus on their other operations, according to a statement posted on the ABA website and Instagram. The farewell post notes that the lease for the two-story building at 28 Broadway is available.

Read the full statement at avl.mx/dpg.

Homebrew festival returns

Countless craft breweries in Asheville trace their roots back to a passionate amateur experimenting with used equipment and recruiting friends as taste-testers. On Saturday, June 1, at Pisgah Brewing Co. in Black Mountain, Just Economics hosts the 14th anniversary of its annual home brewers competition and fundraising event, Just Brew It.

Just Economics focuses on issues including living wages, affordable housing and public transit access.

On the event website, organizers note that homebrewers have the luxury of being able to be more experimental than commercial brewers, which will be evident among the event’s more than 50 unique beers — from classic IPAs to innovative concoctions featuring coffee, chocolate, spices and fruit — created by more than 20 individuals.

In addition to beer, nonalcoholic drinks will be available and food will be for sale. Rather than tickets, attendees buy a basic membership with Just Economic for $35, which grants access to the event from 2-5:30 p.m.; a $55 VIP membership provides a one-hour head start on the event and a swag bag with a souvenir glass; a nonalcoholic event pass is $15.

Pisgah Brewing Co. is at 2498 U.S. 70, Black Mountain. For more information and event access, visit avl.mx/aak.

Guide details local food producers

Chef William Dissen says a copy of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Local Food Guide that he picked up while visiting Asheville from Charleston about 15 years ago convinced him there were resources here that would support his quest to open a restaurant. In 2009, he bought The Market Place, reaching out to many of those resources to build his network.

The 2024-25 Local Food Guide is now available in print and online. The free, annual directory lists farms, farmers markets, producers, restaurants, groceries, artisan producers and more throughout Western North Carolina and surrounding counties in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.

The guide can be found at farmers markets, visitors centers, libraries, groceries, restaurants and other ASAP partner businesses throughout the region as well as in the lobby of ASAP’s office in Asheville.

ASAP’s office is at 306 W. Haywood St. It’s open Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For the online version of the Local Food Guide, visit avl.mx/81y.

Seed mixes offered

It doesn’t get much more local than your backyard. Utopian Seed Project is offering gardeners the opportunity to sow and grow some experimental seed mixes from its plant breeding projects. The following three seed packets can be ordered online through the Experimental Farm Network: Maggie Flowers x Provider Beans — avl.mx/dpw; Aunt Hettie’s Red x Puerto Rico Everblush okras — avl.mx/dpx; and Promiscuous Pea Mix — avl.mx/dpy.

For more on the Utopian Seed Project, visit avl.mx/dq8.

Wing ding

Hot wings and cool strings are on the menu 6:30-8:30 p.m. every Thursday this summer at Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack’s South Asheville location. Each week through August, guests can listen to live acoustic music from a rotating lineup of performers. Possum Royale is scheduled for May 30.

Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack South is at 3749 Sweeten Creek Road, Arden. For the full music schedule, visit avl.mx/dph.


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About Kay West
Kay West began her writing career in NYC, then was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, including contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. In 2019 she moved to Asheville and continued writing (minus Red Carpet coverage) with a focus on food, farming and hospitality. She is a die-hard NY Yankees fan.

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