Emilios Papanastasiou says he cut his finger slicing a lemon when he was about 7 and never did it again. That’s a pretty good track record for someone who’s been working in his family’s restaurant business since he can remember. The general manager at South Asheville’s Post 25 Kitchen and Lounge, Papanastasiou first started at East Asheville’s East Village Grille, then went on to help open Filo/Post 70 (bakery by day and craft cocktail bar night). Post 25 celebrates its first anniversary in December.
Mountain Xpress: What was this place before it was Post 25?
Emilios Papanastasiou: It was a German restaurant — Black Forest. It had been here for more than 25 years and was kind of a South Asheville staple. We’ve been lucky to inherit many of those customers. Many years ago, way before I was around, the building was a private home — likely built in the ’20s. They don’t engineer buildings like this anymore.
How does this place fit into the scheme of East Village Grille and Post 25?
This place is huge. We have about 8,000 square feet and can seat 300. Our other two places have more limited space, so there are many ways we’re using Post 25. In addition to being a restaurant, the kitchen also serves as a commissary kitchen for our other places — we can make things like salad dressings and sauces. Finding Post 25 was very fortuitous. Now we can also do off-site catering, banquets and private events.
Do you still work at the other locations?
Yes. I go back and forth between all three places, but I’m the general manager here. East Village Grille is a well-oiled machine, so most of my focus is here. My dad and uncle started East Village Grille in 1991, and my aunt manages Filo/Post 70.
How would you describe this place to others?
We provide that “Cheers” bar family atmosphere. We want to be seen as a community center of sorts — “bring the family over for a bite to eat after a football game” kind of place. But we also want people to come in for a craft cocktail and small plate. The outdoor patio space has been a blessing. We’re set back off the road, and there aren’t many outdoor patios in South Asheville.
Do you do special events?
We have a wine dinner once a quarter. People can follow us on Facebook or sign up for email alerts to get dates and information on those. We also do oyster roasts, in season, and have a monthly dance party at the end of every month where we stay open till 2 a.m. We don’t want people to have to go downtown for nightlife. In the colder weather, people can hang out by the fire pit — it’s cozy. We give people a reason to get out of their houses and face the chilly weather. We give them a reason to come hang out with us.
Why do you play tropical fish videos in the dining room?
Ha. That’s my dad’s thing. He’s kind of quirky like that. You’ll find Star Wars figures here and there, too. We’ll play major events like the Super Bowl or election coverage on those TVs, but other than that, when people are in the dining room, we want them to talk and to pay attention to each other. If they want to watch TV, there’s one in the bar area. We’re big believers in family time.
Did you attend culinary school?
No. I grew up through the ranks of apprenticeship. I was going to school for medicine and have a degree in chemistry, which has come in handy for making craft cocktails. Some days I work in the kitchen, others behind the bar, and then there’s administrative stuff, too.
You say you work all over. What do you enjoy most?
I like to interact with people, so I really enjoy working the bar. You’ll find me back there a few nights a week. It’s good to know how to do lots of things.
You have an interesting selection of liquors. Tell me about some of them.
We have a big selection of aperitifs and digestifs — amaro [Italian herbal liqueur], one made from artichokes, another tastes like saffron, and some have cola flavors. They’re fun to play with. We also have a slushy machine that’s really cool — we use it for craft cocktails. It allows us to showcase something you’re not going to see all the time and makes the drink a bit more approachable. The one in there now is a New York whiskey sour, which is made with red wine. It’s a pretty color and delicious. I enjoy introducing new drinks to people. For example, if they ask for a gin and tonic, I say, ‘Hey, about trying this instead?’ If they like it, great. If they don’t, I’ll make them a gin and tonic.
Were you born here?
I’m second-generation. My grandparents were from Cyprus, Greece. I was born in Asheville.
Any challenges working with family?
What can I say? We’re Greek. We have it out and five minutes later we turn around, and it’s all fine. It’s all about mutual respect and understanding each other’s roles and assets. That brings you together.
Do you have any family recipes on the menu?
We run them as specials — for instance, my grandmother’s meatballs. She won’t let me give the recipe away. It’s good old country cooking. Most of the menu is Greek-influenced.
What’s with the name Post 25?
It started with Post 70. That place used to be American Legion Post 70 and is on Highway 70. This one is on Highway 25. The names kind of bring back that era of Prohibition, adds a little mystique. We have a good luck pickle jar. The idea came over from East Village Grille. They’ve had theirs since 1991. We started our own. It’s kind of like our pot of gold for good luck. So far, so good.