When Adam Thome started working at what was then Laurey's Cafe more than 15 years ago, it was a tiny catering shop and lunch counter on the edge of downtown. Since that time, Asheville has grown around the restaurant, which is now called 67 Biltmore Downtown Eatery and Catering, providing it with a bustling sidewalk. Keeping pace, 67 Biltmore has expanded into an Asheville institution, as beloved for its large sunny dining room as its fresh, seasonal lunches.
Diners chat with staff and make their selection from a bright deli case, filled with sweet potato salad, stuffed mushrooms and roast chicken. "You see exactly what you're getting, and we love answering questions," Thome says. "The case is good for conversation — it gets people talking about food. I love seeing people's reactions to a dish they're excited about."
The heaping plate that results, accompanied, perhaps, by sweet tea and a triple chocolate cookie, feels like it was prepared by a friend. "It's very personal," Thome explains. "People have an opportunity to add on to what we've created, and it helps them feel like it's theirs. Customers come in and make suggestions, and we listen to that."
Thome has grown with the restaurant. He was hired to take orders at the front counter, and he learned owner Laurey Masterton's secret to customer service — a ready smile and an attentive ear. Today, he and his wife, Emily Thome, manage the restaurant and uphold Masterton's legacy. She passed away several years ago after a life of activism, athleticism and great cooking. To learn more about her, pick up a cookbook from the shop. Her most recent, The Fresh Honey Cookbook, provides recipes for 12 varietals of honey and includes notes from her observations as a beekeeper.