Asheville Eats Map: What's open and what's coming, including Baby Bull, Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse, Melting Pot Social, The Bush Farmhouse and more
Also, the S&W Market food hall officially opens this week
Note: This story is sponsored by Citizens Fuel Co., a family-owned Asheville company.
Introducing the Asheville Eats Map, an occasional look around the Asheville restaurant landscape. Despite all the obstacles that restaurant owners and workers faced last year (and continue to face) due to the novel coronavirus, there’s a wave of new restaurant openings around town. And they’re sure looking good. Here we go:
S&W Market: Finally. Asheville’s first food hall, located in the beautiful S&W building on Patton Avenue downtown, officially opens Wednesday (June 16). This concept brings together a handful of local culinary all-stars, as curated by Meherwan Irani, the chef/restauranteur of Chai Pani Restaurant Group, and Ellington Realty Group. Here’s who you’ll find inside: A Highland Brewing Company bar on the ground floor and mezzanine level; Buxton Chicken Palace, spotlighting the awesome chicken sandwich by chef and pitmaster Elliott Moss (Irani is a partner with Moss in Buxton Hall BBQ); Bun Intended, the popular Thai street food truck now with a brick-and-mortar spot; Farm Dogs, offering grass-fed hot dogs, handcrafted sausages, and locally-made pretzels, by the folks at Farm Burger; Peace Love Tacos, serving a variety of tacos and a-la-carte favorites, by the Mountain Madre restaurant folks; and The Hop Ice Cream S&W, featuring locally-made ice cream by The Hop team. (The Times Bar, a cocktail bar adjacent to the food hall, remains.) Another notable addition: a recently widened sidewalk that will allow room for about 40 seats outside. Downstairs, visitors will find the S&W Market’s event space, Circa 29, styled as a speakeasy. It has its own bar and will be available for private events for up to 150 guests. The space will be managed by SBE Management Group, a private venue management company founded by Asheville wedding and event planner Shay Brown.
Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse: Opening in the next few weeks in the former Bartaco spot on Biltmore Avenue, Ukiah will showcase popular Japanese street food items, such as ramen, grilled yakatori and house-made gyoza. Lighter vegetable dishes, a raw bar and signature smoked meats will complement those offerings. Ukiah will stock an extensive sake selection, cocktails, and a Japanese whisky collection. There will be a mix of indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a walkup “grab-and-go" area straight from the restaurant’s big smoker. Look for Ukiah to be open for lunch, dinner, weekend brunch and late night.
Melting Pot Social: This new concept by the Melting Pot fondue chain is coming together along Patton Avenue. The “flex-casual” model blends elements of full-service and fast-casual restaurant approaches. Menu items will include customizable chocolate and cheese fondues, as well as melt-style sandwiches, flatbreads and salads. Patrons will find a cocktail bar and brunch service, as well.
Vinnie’s South: Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, the beloved North Asheville restaurant, will soon have a South Asheville sister. The second Vinnie’s, scheduled to open this summer, will be located in the former Iannucci’s Pizzeria space at 1981 Hendersonville Road. It’s the work of restauranteur Eric Scheffer, a founding member of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association. Look for the pastas, pizzas, cannoli and so much more that have made Vinnie’s on Merrimon Avenue a favorite for the past decade.
Water Street: Rosetta Buan, owner of Rosetta’s Kitchen and Buchi Bar on North Lexington Avenue, will bring new versions of her healthy comfort food to the Water Street (once the name of Lexington Avenue, because of the streams and springs beneath it). It’s located just uphill along North Lex, in the former AUX Bar location. Look for conscious, locally sourced food items and a new open-air grill on Water Street’s roomy patio.
Holeman & Finch: This is a rebranding of H&F Burger restaurant on Biltmore Avenue, which opened in 2019. James Beard Award-winning Chef Linton Hopkins and his wife, Gina Hopkins are based in Atlanta, as is their renowned Holeman and Finch Public House. The Asheville outpost will be the first Holeman and Finch outside of Atlanta, and it will put forward a few more vegetables and a little less meat, but it will remain, according to the restaurant’s website, “Always home to the H&F Burger, whiskey, oysters and boozy shakes.”
The Bush Farmhouse: Over in Black Mountain, buzz is building for the South African-inspired bar and restaurant slated to open in the next two weeks. Asheville foodies may remember Chef Mark Henegan, who opened The Asheville Public in the former Silver Dollar Cafe space with his wife, Jenny Henegan, back in 2012. The restaurant closed after about a year. Now Mark Henegan is back with another try at his unique mash-up of South African and Southern Appalachian flavors. He’s planning on serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch at 151 S. Ridgeway Ave., a former market.
Hola: Hola is the new Spanish restaurant in the works at the corner of Battery Park and Page avenues, on the ground floor of the Cambria Hotel. It will be the second eatery in the hotel honoring Cuban cuisine, the other being Hemingway's Cuba, the fourth-floor restaurant/bar/terrace at Cambria with killer mountain views. Hotelier Tony Fraga, whose FIRC Group owns a number of hotel properties around town, is a native of Havana.
Hulie Sue’s BBQ: This restaurant plans to connect Hawaiian and Southern flavors by celebrating “Hawai'i’s affinity for all things Southern, and the mainland’s love of Hawai'i, through their respective cultures and blending of cuisines,” according to a press release from co-owners and partners Lisa Vann and Ben Krueger. I interviewed Vann and Krueger earlier this year and I’ll have much more on their big plans. They’ve really got a vision for their restaurant, and they’ve got the experience and expertise to pull it off. Hulie Sue’s, which is planned to open later this year, will be another great addition to “Restaurant Row” at The Grove Arcade. Stay tuned for updates.
Neng Jr.s: This much-anticipated restaurant will be Asheville’s first Filipinx restaurant. Chef Silver Cousler has been cooking in Asheville’s best restaurants for about a decade. Read the story of their passion on their website, and stay tuned for details as the restaurant comes together in Different WRLD Headquarters space, the location along Haywood Road in West Asheville that was the former Mothlight music venue.
Areta’s: That’s the name of the much-anticipated soul food cafe planned for the former Rabbit’s Motel location along Biltmore Avenue, which has already been partially renovated into a music rehearsal space known as Soundspace at Rabbit’s. Chef Clarence Robinson will lead the way, with an assist by Lou Ella Byrd, the legend who cooked at the original Rabbit’s for more than 30 years. It’s scheduled to open by the end of the year. The original Rabbit’s Tourist Court motel opened in 1943 in Asheville’s African-American neighborhood of Southside.
Harvest Pizza: Here’s one in the works that I know little about beyond the name on city construction permits. It’s being built out at 39 Banks Ave. (across the street from Buxton Hall) in a vacant building that suffered damage from a fire a few years ago. By the looks of it, the renovation and remodeling is going to be fantastic. That’s all I know. If you have intel, lemme know.
What just opened
Baby Bull: This restaurant, a spinoff of Bull & Beggar just down the railroad tracks a piece, is the work of Drew Wallace, the genius behind Leo’s House of Thirst on Haywood Road and Bull & Beggar co-owner. The mouthwatering double cheeseburger that gained such a following at Bull & Begger (and can still be found there) is a featured item at Baby Bull, alongside lobster rolls, hushpuppies, fried fish, pork rinds and vada pav. It’s located at 1 Roberts St. in the former Broth Lab (and once the original location of White Duck Taco).
Table: The restaurant just celebrated its grand reopening after being closed for about a year and moving from its original College Street spot to its new home on North Lexington Avenue (in the former Calypso restaurant space.) Chef/owner Jacob Sessoms continues his track record of serving up some of Asheville’s most flavorful American food. Table first opened in 2005. Since then, it has grown into an Asheville dining institution, a must for anyone interested in the potential of “farm-to-table.” Also, if you’re just looking for a snack and a cocktail, don’t miss the Right There Bar (and its outdoor deck) directly adjacent (and almost a part) of the restaurant.
Punk Rock Hot Dogs
Stu Helm, the one and only Asheville Food Fan, is bringing back his Punk Rock Hot Dogs food fight concept, so save the date: July 31, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Asheville Masonic Temple. Tickets go on sale this week. A group of celebrity judges will be tasting and ranking dogs from the following competitors: Will Twerk 4 Food, Cultura, Bun It LLC, The Malvern Asheville, Storm Rhum Bar and Bistro, Pupuseria Paty Asheville, Zack of All Trades, Baba Nahm, Bear's Smokehouse BBQ, and The Odditorium!
Stu thanks the following for sponsoring the event: Shay Brown Events; The Asheville Masonic Temple; Zambra; Brasstown Beef; Kickbackavl; Paul Taylor Sandals, Belts and Vintage Buckles; Urban Combat Wrestling; Fermenti; Asheville Spice Company; and his good friends at Puke.
The short-order ticket
Just some odds and ends: First, what’s in store for Buxton Hall Barbecue? The restaurant announced at the beginning of the month that it would be closing for a few weeks and reopening with a brand new menu and other “exciting things.” Inquiring minds… .
I recently met Donnie Hutchins, who lives in Asheville and recently launched his Subculture Supper Club. His food was delicious. Keep a look out for upcoming events, or reach out to him at email@example.com.
On the celebrity chef front, the downtown venue Rabbit Rabbit last month hosted a food truck competition in which Chef Robert Irvine of Food Network fame took on the the Bun Intended, Root Down, and Asheville Tacos & Taps food trucks on a competition that will be aired on national television. There’s no word on when we’ll see it.
Restauranteur/chef William Dissen of The Market Place in Asheville and Haymaker in Charlotte, announced last month that he worked with Chef Gordon Ramsay last year on an episode of his new hit “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted,” which airs on National Geographic TV. Ramsay, as you likely know, is the British television star known for his fiery temper in shows like “Hells Kitchen.” Ramsay explored Western North Carolina, then went on an adventure with Dissen to learn about the region’s wild foods, the Cherokee Native American food heritage and more. Dissen says his episode airs July 4 as part of season 3 of “Uncharted,” which began May 31.
Remember Native Kitchen + Social Pub out in Swannanoa? The restaurant, owned by Sarah and Casey Watkins and Meredith and Brandon Ellison, had become a go-to valley favorite over eight years before the weight of the pandemic became too much to bear. Now that things are easing up, the owners are considering the possibility of leasing the restaurant out to someone who’s interested in doing something there. If you have any ideas, message me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll put you in touch.
Thanks for reading!