What’s new in food: Water Street launches on N. Lexington

PAST MEETS PRESENT: Rosetta Star, co-owner of the newly opened Water Street, has a long history with the building she now leases. In her youth, she was a regular patron of Vincent’s Ear, a coffee shop that operated out of the space for over a decade. Photo by Leonard James

The most repeated request Rosetta Star has received since signing the lease in early 2021 for her new restaurant, Water Street, 68 N. Lexington Ave., has nothing to do with the menu.

“Our back prep kitchen and storage room were once a coffee shop called Vincent’s Ear,” she explains. Both during renovations and since the restaurant’s Sept. 3 launch, “I bet I’ve taken at least 100 people back there who remember it,” she says of the former venue, which closed in 2004.
As a youth, Star regularly frequented Vincent’s Ear, which she remembers fondly for its experimental music, cavernous feel and clove cigarette smell. But at 16, she was barred from the business after it received its beer and wine permit and raised its entry age to 18. “I was so mad I boycotted it until I was in my mid-20s,” she says with a laugh. “Now as a business owner I get it.”

Along with Star’s personal history with the building, the name of her new restaurant harkens back more than a century to when Lexington Avenue was called Water Street due to an underground spring that ran from the intersection of Walnut and Water.

“It’s just a really sweet location,” continues Star, noting the venue’s proximity to several shops and restaurants, including her other business, Rosetta’s Kitchen and Buchi Bar.

Though she and co-owner Jack Buan expected to launch in early spring, multiple delays in hiring contractors, receiving permits, getting inspected and staffing resulted in several delays.

“It did give our green wall on the patio time to really grow out,” Star says of the wait. “People have taken photos of it every day since it was just terra cotta pots in macrame hangers to now when it’s supergreen.”

She also had ample time to work on the menu. Beckoning longtime Rosetta’s chef Thunder Van Riper out of semiretirement in Bristol, Tenn., to help work out the flavors and refine recipes, Star describes the food options as an Asheville potluck of  “informed Americana” with global influence.

The foundation is flame-cooked skewers of meat, poultry and vegetables partly because the kitchen (which last housed AUX Bar) was already equipped with an open grill, but also because Star loves food grilled on skewers. Her three teenagers also had a hand in the menu’s development, insisting that tater tots be featured. As a result, Star created the Tot Mess, a pileup of tots, white cheddar sauce, pico de gallo, jalapeño cream and bacon.

“That went over really well opening weekend,” she happily reports.

Meanwhile, veteran Rosetta’s Kitchen baker Joseph Kerber is heading up desserts alongside his son Thamon Kerber.

As they are able to hire more staff, Water Street will add more days and hours, Star notes. As of Oct. 1, it will be open Friday-Monday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Water Street is at 68 N. Lexington Ave. To learn more, visit  avl.mx/afw.

Bold goes big

Not far from Water Street, the owners of Bold Rock Hard Cider, which began brewing operations in Mills River in October 2015, have answered the siren call of downtown Asheville with the Sept. 11 opening of an 8,000-square-foot taproom on North Lexington.

Senior brand manager Lindsay Dorrier III recalls that shortly after he was hired six years ago, the management team drove into the city for dinner and ruminated on the future possibility of an Asheville location. When the short-lived Collaboratory brewery closed in 2020, Bold Rock saw an opening.

“We’ve been thinking about Asheville a long time, so it’s exciting to see it come together and grow our presence in Western North Carolina,” Dorrier says. “Or, as our founder John Washburn says, ‘We’re ex-cidered.’”

Bold Rock Hard Cider Asheville can seat 200 at tables, banquettes and the bar in its newly refreshed interior. Meanwhile, 30 taps will pull 12-16 cider varieties (including a nonalcoholic sparkling), with the rest reserved for craft beer from partners in Artisanal Brewing Ventures.

In addition to Bold Rock’s core ciders, Dorrier says the latest location will introduce experimental small batches and bring back some retired seasonals.

Guests can chow down on a full menu by executive chef Dave Dimock, with cider-flavored sauces, condiments and brines for appetizers, sandwiches and entrees. Dorrier expects to add brunch soon and is “ex-cidered” about the mural Scott Allred of Brushcan Custom Murals will be painting on the exterior wall.

“Scott is creating a landscape scene paying tribute to the Blue Ridge Mountains and a cornucopia of the fruits that go into our ciders,” Dorrier says.

Bold Rock Hard Cider Asheville is at 39 N. Lexington Ave. For more, visit avl.mx/afz.

Plant-based comfort food

Chef Parker Schultz denies his parents were conducting some type of food and beverage academy in the family home, but the fact is Parker is the third Schultz brother to dive into Asheville’s deep pool of culinary entrepreneurs. Oldest brother Travis Schultz co-owns New Stock Pantry, offering weekly artisanal meal boxes and a la carte options. Meanwhile, Parker’s twin brother, Spencer Schultz, is a co-founder of Bad Art Beverage Co., which creates and produces scratch draft sodas and cocktail mixers.

On Sept. 11, Parker joined the ranks, after he and his wife Kiimia Schultz  parked their new Smokin’ Onion food truck in The Brew Pump’s parking lot in West Asheville and took their first orders. The mobile eatery offers vegan and vegetarian dishes.

No stranger to the industry, Parker’s new venture comes after 11 years at Laughing Seed Café, five of which he served as head chef. “I’ve had a lot of prep time for this,” he says. “Owning a business was always the goal.”

Though Smokin’ Onion focuses exclusively on vegetarian and vegan entrees, Parker aspires to make meals that appeal to both omnivores and carnivores. “I want to keep it all approachable, fun and recognizable,” he explains. “It’s plant-based comfort food.”

The menu includes starters like onion fries and fried pickles, salads, sandwiches, sweets and sodas by Bad Art. First-day reviews gave multiple thumbs up to the buffalo cauliflower bites, cheese steak and fungi bahn mi. Gluten-free options are also  available for many of the dishes.

“Our plan is to build a schedule that lets people know where to reliably find us on the same day every week and have a couple days for family time.”

Hungry diners can find the food truck at  Wedge Brewery Co. at Wedge Studios on Mondays; Verde Vista apartments in Oakley on Wednesdays; Ginger’s Revenge brewery on Riverside Drive on Fridays; and The Brew Pump on Haywood Road on Saturdays, when Parker hopes to pick up some of the former vegan traffic that patronized the now-closed Sunflower Diner.

“Our plan is to build a schedule that lets people know where to reliably find us on the same day every week and have a couple days for family time.”

For more information, visit avl.mx/ag6.

Veg-o-cratic

Vegetables for the people! Vegan people will find their happy place at Asheville VeganFest 2021 in Pack Square Park on Sunday, Oct. 3, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Presented by the Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge, the event will include food, clothing and artisans celebrating all things vegan, plus a DJ and live music. The event is free to attend, but organizers are asking attendees to purchase tickets to help offset the costs of the festival. A $5-$10 ticket comes with a VeganFest 2021 sticker/magnet; a $25 VIP ticket provides a reusable bag, T-shirt, samples and coupons from sponsors. Each $5 increment is also good for one raffle ticket and the chance to win prizes from sponsors, including Rebel Cheese, Revolution Gelato and Hodo Foods.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit avl.mx/ah0.

Brunch bunch

Guests at Noble Cider’s relaunched downtown tap room and restaurant were clamoring for bennies and biscuits, so on Sept. 10, executive chef Cindy Normand rolled out a new brunch menu for people just rolling out of bed midmorning. Highlights include potato pancakes, chicken and waffles, steak and eggs and eggs benedict Southern style (that means pimento cheese hollandaise, y’all). Step out of the conventional mimosa zone with a flight of cider mimosas, all accompanied by a live jazzy soundtrack from pianist Patrick Lochridge.

Noble Cider Downtown Taproom’s Sunday brunch runs 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. 49 Rankin Ave. Visit  avl.mx/a48 to learn more.

Grape expectations

Congratulations to Avenue M co-owner and sommelier Ralph Lonow for the restaurant’s first Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, announced in the oenophile bible’s Aug. 31 issue. “I’m thrilled to win this on our first submission,” says Lonow. “I literally picked every wine myself on our list.”

According to the publication’s criteria, the Award of Excellence is given to restaurants with “thoughtfully chosen selections appropriate for the cuisine and representative of a range of regions and styles” and typically offer 90 or more options. Avenue M is one of eight Asheville restaurants receiving the recognition. The other seven are Bargello, District 42, Chestnut, The Blackbird, The Dining Room on the Biltmore Estate and Omni Grove Park Inn’s Vue 1913 and Sunset Terrace.

Two additional restaurants — Posana and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse — earned the Best of Award of Excellence, which goes to establishments with  lists of 300 or more selections.

Glass class

The N.C. Wine Academy on Wall Street offers an extensive program of courses and certifications for industry professionals and aspiring sommeliers and cicerones. Participants can now avail themselves of the extensive knowledge and experience of the staff educators through a series of consumer classes kicking off this fall. Upcoming courses include: The Art of Wine & Cheese Pairing; The Basics of Wine: Understanding Red, White and Rosé; Champagne Weekends; and Wine & Chocolate Pairing.

For more information on consumer classes and to reserve your place, visit avl.mx/ag7.

Market report

The S&W Market, Asheville’s downtown food hall, is now open seven days a week: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

To thank locals for their support, Market vendors have designated Tuesdays as We Love Locals Day with all-day specials including $5 classic pints from Highland Brewing Co.; Buxton Chicken Palace fried pickles for $2.99; a $5 Hickory Nut Gap grass-fed all beef hot dog with with Korean-style slaw dressed in a sweet chili garlic dressing, sriracha ketchup and ginger spiced mustard from Farm Dogs; $1 off all tacos from Peace Love Tacos; fried salapao from Bun Intended (available only on Tuesdays) and ice cream flights from The Hop (only available on Tuesdays, as well).

S&W Market is at 56 Patton Ave. For more, visit avl.mx/9hl.

Ale yeah!

Speaking of Highland Brewing Co., in September the brewery kicked off its annual Give Back with Gaelic, a giving campaign to support hospitality workers across the company’s entire Southeast distribution footprint. The program donates a portion of proceeds from the sale of Highland’s flagship Gaelic Ale to seven local nonprofits that support the hospitality community.

The inaugural campaign in 2020 raised more than $25,000. With matching contributions from the brewery’s distribution partners, Highland owner and President Leah Ashburn expects to top that figure in this second round. Customers who wish to support the program, which runs through the end of the year, should look for Gaelic Ale packaged with the Give Back with Gaelic banner.

To learn more, visit avl.mx/agq

Thirty for 30

Loving Food Resources recently kicked off its 30-year anniversary food drive, inviting people to fill boxes at home with 30 items that will be distributed to their clients. LFR was founded in 1991 and serves as a pantry providing food, health and personal care items to people in 18 WNC counties living with HIV/AIDS or in home hospice care, regardless of their diagnosis. Currently, the program serves 225 individuals.

Filled boxes should be taken to LFR at 123 Kenilworth Road on Saturday, Oct. 23, between 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Donors will receive a 30th-anniversary cupcake to go.

For more information contact Brent Wyatt with LFR at bwyatt@lovingfood.org 828-255-9282. The food drive shopping list can be found at avl.mx/agk .

Brew who?

Brew you, that’s who. Just Brew It, the tasting and homebrew competition produced by and benefitting Just Economics will take place at Pisgah Brewing Co. in Black Mountain on Saturday, Oct. 2. The event features more than 40 homebrewers submitting close to 100 different beers.

Just Brew It attendees must be an individual member of Just Economics to attend. Tickets are $30 for general admission, 2-5 p.m. and $50 for VIP tickets, which adds a one-hour preview beginning at noon and souvenir tasting glass.

Pisgah Brewing Co. is at 2948 U.S. Highway 70, Black Mountain. For more information, visit avl.mx/aak.

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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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