- OPENING IN JUNE: A food hall with history opens in Asheville’s iconic Art Deco masterpiece S&W Building, considered one of architect Douglas Ellington’s most refined projects. Chef Meherwan Irani (Chai Pani Restaurant Group and James Beard-nominated chef) and Highland Brewing Company (Asheville’s oldest brewery run by Leah Wong Ashburn, a James Beard nominee) open S&W Market in June. Highland will offer bars on both levels among the building’s Art Deco details while Irani serves as the project’s culinary consultant. The who’s who list of vendors includes Bun Intended (Thai street food), Buxton Chicken Palace (anchored around Buxton Hall and Chef Elliott Moss’ highly regarded Fried Chicken Sandwich), Farm Dogs (think Farm Burger but with local Hickory Nut Gap Farm hot dogs), The Hop Ice Cream Cafe (locally beloved ice cream shop that includes ingredients from kale to CBD) and Peace Love Tacos (a new sister restaurant to Asheville’s Mountain Madre).
- NEW AND COMING SOON: Chef Jacob Sessoms, Asheville’s original James Beard semifinalist (2010) and an innovator of Asheville’s modern take on Appalachian cuisine, has moved his restaurant Table to make way for El Gallo AVL, with tacos and sandwiches by day and market-driven Mexican plates at night by Chef Luis Martinez. Sessoms will soon open Table Right Here nearby with Right There Bar, a burger bar, opening in the same building.
- COMING SOON: Chef Silver Cousler plans to open Asheville’s first Filipinx restaurant, Neng Jr.'s, named after an affectionate nickname for Cousler. Cousler, a creative force in Asheville’s food scene for many years (Buxton Hall and numerous pop-ups), pulls inspiration from their travels and cooking with their mother. Look for a Filipino-style hot dog, trout roe served with pork rinds and traditional dishes served with sides like collard greens with coconut milk.
- JUST OPENED: Baby Bull, a spinoff from Asheville’s iconic Bull & Beggar restaurant (known for fine dining hidden on a loading dock in the River Arts District), is now open (also in the RAD) with sandwiches, sides and the much-loved double patty Bull & Beggar burger.
- NEW AND COMING SOON: Asheville’s historic Grove Arcade – a retail, dining and architectural landmark – has recently welcomed a boom of new food concepts. Asheville Proper is a take on the classic steakhouse, centered around live-fire cooking and a locally sourced seasonal menu. Restaurateur and modern-day spice trader, Chef Meherwan Irani, has opened a grab-and-go eatery, Nani’s Rotisserie Chicken, in the building, and the new Bebette’s New Orleans Coffee House serves up a French Creole-style breakfast and lunch. Coming soon are Huli Sue’s (Texas-style barbecue with Hawaiian flavors) and Well-Bred Bakery and Café (the fourth Asheville-area location for the bakery known for its mountain-sized eclairs.)
- COMING LATE 2021: A historic Black-owned tourist court and dining room from the segregation-era South is getting new life as a musician rehearsal space and soul food kitchen, Soundspace@ Rabbit’s. Nationally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, recording artist Claude Coleman Jr. (30-year drummer for the alternative rock band Ween) and lifelong musician and producer Brett Spivey are behind the effort to restore this landmark, honoring the Black community of Southside in Asheville and the history of the motel, including famous guests like Richard Pryor and R&B legend Jackie Wilson. Practice rooms in the venue are open and a soul food kitchen/cafe named Areta’s will open in late 2021, plus mixed-medium artist amenities, fully realizing this important Asheville landmark. Chef Clarence Robinson, an Asheville native with community ties to Rabbit’s Motel’s original owner, will pay homage to the establishment’s original operators while informing a new vision for this addition to Asheville’s rich food scene.
What is Appalachian food?
When people talk about Southern Appalachian food there are many layers at play, including heirloom ingredients and a collective pantry that chefs and producers pull from in one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, the Blue Ridge Mountains. The influences are broad, incorporating traditions of the Cherokee, enslaved African Americans, Scots-Irish and German people. Honed by remote mountain living, Appalachian cooking techniques required an intense focus on seasonal strategy, ingenuity and creativity, using every edible (or wild) thing and making it last through hard times and cold winters.
Cradled by a million acres of pristine forests, the highest peaks in the eastern U.S. and hundreds of family farms – including the agricultural legacy of George Vanderbilt at Biltmore – food culture in Asheville, North Carolina is a small but mighty hub for culinary creativity where Appalachian food traditions, global perspectives and artisan goods go together like a picnic and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Asheville’s collaborative food community has a rich legacy of living off the land. Chefs work directly with regional cheese makers, bakers, apiaries, flower farms, foragers, potters, dairies and family farms in a melting-pot food scene that is innovating cuisine, unearthing traditions and exploring our humanity through food.