In early 2020, chef and restaurateur Kyle McKnight signed a 60-day consulting agreement with Casey McKissick, owner of Foothills Meats and two Butcher Bar restaurants in Black Mountain and West Asheville, to implement some changes to the business. But as with almost every plan in 2020, COVID-19 imposed its own agenda, and the two men did not renew the agreement.
Near the end of 2020, McKnight and chef Stewart Lyon approached McKissick with a fresh idea: They would take over the Butcher Bar West space with a new concept designed to accommodate pandemic restrictions in style.
McKnight and Lyon got the keys Dec. 31 and immediately began reconfiguring the room to suit their new concept, Your Place at Foothills West, which is projected to open Thursday, Feb. 4. Your Place will offer a reserved, private dining experience for a single party of up to 10 people per seating at a 10-foot-long table built by the multitalented Lyon. The prix fixe, four-course meal begins with chef snacks at 6 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Weekly menus for the $55-per-person dinner — exclusive of tax, gratuity and beverages — will be posted on Mondays.
Your Place is a two-man show, with both chefs planning menus, cooking and serving. Lyon will oversee the beverage program of cocktails and wines from Rise Over Run.
“Both Stewart and I have run big operations and cooked for lots of people, but recently we have been doing private chef service, and we like the small, intimate nature of that,” McKnight says. “We are both rooted in French cuisine, but we’re also Southern chefs. We’re about showcasing fresh, local and high-quality ingredients in every dish.”
Your Place at Foothills West, 697 Haywood Road. avl.mx/8×4
Jamie Womack says she often called her love of baking “a problem,” but her former colleagues in the medical field might disagree. “I would bring desserts into the office two and three times a week,” she says.
Traveling with her husband in Europe in November 2019, she saw a way she might turn her “problem” into something profitable. “We were in Madrid, and I had an empanada for the first time,” she recalls. “I thought they were amazing. You could fill them with anything and eat them with your hands. I loved them.”
Back home in Weaverville, she began experimenting with recipes, researching the signature dishes of various countries and figuring out ways to fill her empanadas with those flavors. Determined to make a career change and start her own business, she looked for a kitchen, a search greatly hindered by COVID-19.
She found a shared space in late fall and started slow, taking orders from friends and associates. The response was so positive she created an Instagram account in December followed by an online ordering site. “I really had to step it up to be official in 2021.”
Officially, Mucha Empanadas takes orders online through Fridays, Womack bakes over the weekend and delivers on Mondays within the 28804 ZIP code, though she will drive farther for larger orders and seeks to expand as business demands. Orders can also be picked up at 207 Weaverville Road on Wednesday afternoons.
Currently, she offers six empanadas at $4 each, including a dessert option. The most popular is the beef and cheese, but her favorite is the sausage and blueberry. “I eat them for breakfast,” she says. To order, visit avl.mx/8×0.
Marketing professional Benji Boessel and chef Alex Tinsley (The Gateway Club and Balsam Mountain Preserve) grew up best of friends in Waynesville. Aside from a hometown, they shared a love for pizza that bordered on fanatical. “We travel together, and sometimes we plan trips based on pizza places we’ve heard of and want to try,” says Boessel. “We are definitely pizza snobs, always looking for the best pizza.”
Their search has ended right in their own backyard. After using some pandemic downtime to perfect their pie-making skills in a brick oven built by Tinsley, the pair and a silent partner recently soft-launched an artisanal pizzeria inside Mad Anthony’s Taproom on Legion Drive in Waynesville. With the installation of a large, natural-gas oven and the addition of wings to the menu at the request of taproom owner David Young, Dough Boys Pizza & Wings had its grand opening in January.
Dough Boys offers 16-inch New York-style, thin-crust pies with scratch-made sauce, buffalo mozzarella and fresh toppings, and the early reaction has been positive. “We were expecting to do a little takeout business, and if it didn’t cost us money or too much time, we’d get to eat the pizza we love and break even,” says Boessel. “We’ve been slammed since we opened, and we’re all working about 70 hours a week.”
Dough Boys Pizza & Wings, 180 Legion Drive, Waynesville avl.mx/8×1
Since its founding by four chefs in 2003, the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, helmed by Executive Director Jane Anderson since 2008, has advocated for and represented its membership, which totaled 125 before COVID-19, with local and state government. It’s also maintained an active website, communicated with members and the public through e-newsletters, offered regular educational programming to hospitality professionals and published an annual dining guide. But in 2020, the organization’s two largest fundraisers, the Taste of Asheville event and the AIR Passport, were both suspended due to the pandemic.
In response, AIR has launched the AIR Friends giving campaign. “AIR is committed to supporting the independent restaurants that are the culinary culture of Asheville,” says Anderson. For more information and to donate, visit avl.mx/8×5.
Coming on strong
Since its creation in March as a central website for buying gift cards from local independent businesses, Asheville Strong has continued to expand. All within the last 11 months, it’s released an online and print cookbook, Asheville at Home; developed a microgrant relief fund for local small businesses (Asheville Strong Fund); and, in November, launched Feed Our City, a program modeled after chef and global humanitarian Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen and Restaurants for the People.
Feed Our City began by paying partner restaurants to prepare and package meals for organizations serving residents in need; Cúrate, Twisted Laurel, Sunny Point Café and Biscuit Head provide a total of 1,350 meals weekly. To kick off 2021, Feed Our City added weekly free, drive-thru and walk-up hot meal pop-ups for the public — no questions asked — 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays in the parking lot next to the Masonic Temple.
In January, Gypsy Queen Cuisine provided 300 individually packaged, ready-to-eat meals each Saturday. This month, Pacha Mama 5 takes over. Blue Moon Water provides water to accompany the meals.
10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, 80 Broadway avl.mx/8×3
Day in, day out
Zadie’s Market, the online grocery store founded last year in response to COVID-19 by Emily Copus, owner of Carolina Flowers, now offers same-day delivery of its local produce and other products from area makers and small businesses. Orders placed by 7:30 a.m. will be delivered that day. Free delivery is available to eight zones in and around Asheville. A brick-and-mortar location in downtown Marshall’s historic jail is planned for later this year. For more, visit avl.mx/8jh.
21 and up
The town of Black Mountain wants residents to order up and take out in support of the hard-hit local food and beverage industry. Launched Jan. 27, Take Out 21 encourages people to pledge to spend a minimum of $21 every week for takeout meals during the winter of 2021. As part of the initiative, curbside parking spaces have been designated on Cherry Street. A list of Swannanoa Valley restaurant and brewery options and links to menus are available via the Black Mountain Chamber of Commerce’s mobile-friendly website. For more, visit avl.mx/8xh.