Leaps and bounds

The newly renovated Flying Frog at 1 Battery Park in downtown Asheville has already had its “soft opening,” premiering a new look and accentuated menu. However, owner Vijay Shastri says the event was anything but soft. “We about got killed” by all the work that night, he recalls, smiling.

Another look: With a substantial revamp, Flying Frog owner Vijay Shastri is trying to bridge the gap between his upstairs bar and fine dining downstairs. Photo By Jonathan Welch

The restaurant, which resides beneath the street-level bar and café, has recently undergone significant renovation, opening up the old bar as a tapas-tasting table and putting in new floors and woodwork. Even the upstairs bar got new liquor-bottle racks. Now, Shastri is looking forward to everything getting back to normal.

But the real story, Shastri says, is the speed and skill of the revamp. “We did a 90 to 100-day project in about a month,” he exclaims. The credit there goes to a group of local contractors and craftspeople, the presence of which Shastri hails as a real turning point for skilled work in Asheville.

Asheville native and contractor, Billy McClain, who managed the project, agrees. “It was amazing because of all of the local [subcontractors],” he says. Asheville, he continues, is getting to the point where almost anything you need done can be handled by a local craftsman, meaning less time waiting around for out-of-towners. McClain theorizes that many in the trade community followed steps similar to his—leaving town to develop their skills then returning to find plenty of work as Asheville continues to develop.

“We have all come home a little better honed and skilled,” said the owner of McClain Construction.

In the past, he said, most of the work was seasonal, but today the local building community is finding year-round opportunities. “It’s time to start utilizing our local folks,” Shastri urges.

Meanwhile, the renovation continues through its final steps, and Shastri hopes to hold a true grand opening in the next few weeks. Despite the sometimes-tumultuous atmosphere that comes with the opening and closing of downtown eateries, Shastri says he has no doubts about the new investment in his popular restaurant and bar. The design and menu changes, he says, are an attempt to bridge the two floors together, offering more of the downstairs fare upstairs and providing a smoke-free bar in the fine-dining area.

“We have such an incredible base of loyalty,” Shastri says, adding, “We have the perfect corner.”

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