What’s new in food: Regina’s kicks off sophomore year with big changes

FRESH TAKE: Regina's co-owner Lisa Wagner, left, brought executive chef Kat Fitzgerald, right, on board as a business partner in late June. Pictures of the women's mothers are prominently displayed inside the West Asheville restaurant. Photo by Caleb Johnson

On June 15, Regina’s restaurant celebrated its one-year anniversary with a pop-up dinner. But the party really started the last week of June when co-founder Lisa Wagner bought out one of the West Asheville restaurant’s three other co-owners, Mike Piroli, and brought chef Kat Fitzgerald on as a partner. (Taylor Godleski remains on the ownership team and Carolyn Roy, co-owner of Biscuit Head, came on as an investor in 2023.) 

“The sisters are doing it for themselves,” says Wagner. “We are in the house every day, making all the decisions and putting that female energy to work, totally on brand for Regina’s. The ladies get things done.”

Along with the new leadership, the kitschy-swanky restaurant, subtitled “Comfort Classics,” is also making changes to its operating hours and service plus adding a new dinner menu.

Since opening June 1, 2023, then experiencing kitchen and ownership upheaval just three weeks later with the abrupt departure of co-founder and then-executive chef Elliott Moss, Regina’s has been serving seven days a week, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., with occasional dinner pop-ups last fall and winter. The dog-friendly patio — which Wagner describes as “your Florida grandma’s pool patio minus the pool” — opened this spring.

At the end of June, Wagner announced that Regina’s is now open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and closed Monday and Tuesday. “We did a test run with dinner in November and December to see what our regulars wanted and would pay for,” Wagner explains. “We decided the time for change was when change was happening.”

What hasn’t altered is Fitzgerald’s occupancy of the kitchen; she has been on board since opening and took the reins after Moss’ exit. Before moving to Asheville last year, she was co-owner of Rising Son in Atlanta, a popular Avondale Estates neighborhood breakfast spot. She got her start in the food and beverage industry making all-natural craft sodas.

In creating Regina’s all-day breakfast and lunch menus last summer, Fitzgerald says she dug into personal memories, such as going to Waffle House for breakfast with her grandfather on Sundays after church. “We always had the Scattered, Smothered and Covered [hash browns], and our pork loin hash is kind of my tribute to that,” she says.

The shakshuka, on the other hand, incorporates one of her favorite vegetables. “I love eating sweet potatoes with anything with a Mediterranean or Turkish influence, so my shakshuka builds on a roasted sweet potato covered with a red pepper-tomato sauce, zhug [Middle Eastern hot sauce], feta and eggs to order,” says Fitzgerald.

The new dinner menu is a work in progress, but a few things guests can expect to find are North Carolina trout, local Black Trumpet Farm mushrooms, a triple-stack Bordelaise burger, aji verde chicken thighs with purple potato bravas and a bounty of summer produce from Fitzgerald’s garden. “I have 25 tomato plants starting to pop,” she says happily.

“It has not been the most straightforward path to get here, but like anything in life, you learn from the stumbles,” Wagner observes. “Kat and I have fought hard for Regina’s, to make it a happy place, and we are really proud of what our team has accomplished.”

Regina’s is at 1400 Patton Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/drm. Local chefs who would like to do evening pop-ups at Regina’s can contact Wagner at info@reginaswestside.com.  

Tour focuses on urban gardens

With its third annual Urban Garden Tour & Tasting on Sunday, July 14, local urban agriculture nonprofit Bountiful Cities invites the public to explore 10 thriving community gardens hiding in plain sight. “The biggest feedback we got from people who attended the first Urban Garden Tour in 2022 was, ‘I’ve been walking by this place for years and had no idea what it was or that it was here,’” says Cathy Cleary, outreach coordinator for Bountiful Cities.

The tour’s primary goal is to highlight how much fresh food production can happen in an urban setting. “The gardens on the tour have an incredible and significant impact on the community,” she explains. “Since our founding in 2000, Bountiful Cities has been in relationship with them.”

Through Bountiful Cities’ FEAST program, the organization keeps its hands in the dirt at local elementary school gardens, including the ones at Lucy S. Herring and Hall Fletcher schools, featured on the tour. Other gardens on the tour are tended by neighborhood residents, nonprofits and businesses. “Some of the most marginalized communities among us have some of the most vibrant and productive community gardens,” Cleary notes, citing Southside Community Farm, Shiloh Community Garden and the Burton Street Peace Gardens.

Representatives from local nonprofits, such as RiverLink and Food Connection, will be on hand at the gardens. And for those who buy tasting tickets, each garden will feature a station offering bites and sips from local businesses, including Sunny Point Café, The Hop Handcrafted Ice Cream, Cúrate, Cucina 24, Contrada, Sugar & Snow Gelato, Devil’s Foot Beverage Co. and more.

The tour runs 1-6 p.m. and is free to attend. Tasting tickets are $40 per person and include drinks and food at each garden stop plus a free drink and snack at the after-party, which starts at 6 p.m. at The Odd at 1045 Haywood Road, featuring live music and door prizes. Tasting ticket pickup is at West Asheville Park, 198 Vermont Ave.

For more information, to register and to buy tasting tickets, visit avl.mx/duu.

Ultimate Ice Cream becomes The Mad Dipper

Longtime locals driving past or parking at 1070 Tunnel Road in East Asheville or 195 Charlotte St. in North Asheville may do a double take when they see signs for The Mad Dipper in place of the ones that marked Ultimate Ice Cream’s two locations since 2005 and 2009, respectively.

Last November, Lucia and Kevin Barnes sold the two shops to Deanna and Bob Williamson, who kept the Ultimate name until their signage arrived and was installed in May. The Barneses still make Ultimate Ice Cream in their East Asheville production kitchen and maintain a local and regional wholesale clientele, including restaurants such as Bouchon, RendezVous, Modesto and Creekside Taphouse.

“Lucia and I felt like it was time for a change,” Kevin says. They initially put the business on the market in January 2020, then took it off when the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Last fall, they again listed Ultimate on an online sales platform, and Bob Williamson, a Fairview accounting firm owner, saw the ad. Prompted by memories of his college job at a scratch-made ice cream and candy shop in Cherokee, he jumped at the opportunity.

“Looking back, that was probably the best job I ever had,” he says. “It was fun, creative and made people happy.”

The Williamsons took possession of the business on Nov. 15 and started dipping Nov. 16. They have kept Ultimate’s flavors and added some of their own — all made in the Tunnel Road store. The shop always has salted caramel and Belgian dark chocolate  in the case and offers house-made waffle cones.

Ultimate’s commercial kitchen operation, Kevin says, has gone from 32 employees to just him and his oldest son, Gabe Barnes. The memories, he says, are sweet.

“I still have lunch with kids who worked for us when they were 16 and are adults now, with careers,” he says. “I was in the grocery store the other day, and a woman came up and told me Ultimate did the ice cream for her daughter’s wedding years before and thanked me for all the times their family went to our shops. Ultimate Ice Cream created relationships, and we are so grateful for that.”

The Mad Dipper is at 1070 Tunnel Road and 195 Charlotte St. For more information, visit avl.mx/duy.   

Bastille Day event at new wine bistro

The annual celebration of Bastille Day — or Fête Nationale, as it is known in France — hosted by Asheville Sister Cities Saumur Committee and Metro Wines will take place 2-4 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at Quench!, the new Woodfin wine bistro from MetroWines and chef Sam Etheridge. In addition to hors d’oeuvres from Etheridge, there will be pours of wines from Saumur in France’s Loire Valley plus an auction of original ceramics and other objets d’art and a raffle of a Saumur-themed prize donated by local artist Adrien Meierovitch.

Quench! is at 60 N. Merrimon Ave. in Reynolds Village. For more information and tickets, visit avl.mx/duv.

Local chefs cook at Heritage Fire Tour 

Getting fired isn’t the ideal outcome for most workers, but it’s the goal of the 20 local chefs participating in the annual nationwide Heritage Fire Tour, which lands and lights up at The Horse Shoe Farm in Hendersonville on Sunday, July 14. Among the flame throwers are Jargon’s Ryan Kline, Bun Intended’s Erica Glaubitz, Asheville Proper’s Jason Sweeney, Chestnut’s Ashley Helms, Bargello’s Tyler Slade and Hey Chickadee’s Meagan Hayes. The event showcases meat from heritage-breed livestock and heirloom produce cooked over a live fire of the chef’s choice.

General admission tickets are $125 and grant access from 4:15-7 p.m. with unlimited food, spirits, wine, beer and live entertainment; VIP tickets are $175 and allow admission at 3:30 p.m. The event is for ages 21 and older.

The Horse Shoe Farm is at 155 Horse Shoe Farm Drive, Hendersonville. For more information and tickets, visit avl.mx/dux.

Editor’s note: The story was updated on July 9 to correct Kat Fitzgerald’s role at Rising Son. She was the restaurant’s co-owner.


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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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