10/9/2012 - West Asheville's Isis theater back as restaurant
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times
WEST ASHEVILLE -- The old Isis Theater, a landmark location at 743 Haywood Road, is getting another act as it reopens as a "fine casual" restaurant complete with a music hall.
The Isis, which screened its last movie in 1957, has undergone a dramatic renovation by longtime property owner Scott Woody and his family.
Now called the Iris Restaurant and Music Hall, the eatery has indoor and outdoor dining, a bar and a stage for "eclectic" music from bluegrass to indie rock. It's the latest player on busy and constantly evolving Haywood Road strip.
The Woodys did most of the renovation themselves, starting last year.
"I've had a great time," said Scott Woody, who worked for about 30 years as a veterinarian in Atlanta. "We weren't in a big hurry. That may sound strange, but it was a matter of enjoying the experience."
After a handful of soft openings last week, the Isis reopened to the public Monday. With just under 8,000 square feet of space, the Isis can handle a crowd of 494, he said. He has hired about two dozen employees.
"It's going to be another week or so before we start offering music," he said. "I'm traditionally more of an acoustic type." For now, the Isis will start with dinner beginning at 5 p.m. daily.
Through the years, the Isis has seen its share of popcorn, pictures and even pizza. It first opened Dec. 27, 1937, as a then-modern movie house that included such perks as air conditioning, high-tech sound and a carpeted auditorium.
The first features was "Varsity Show" starring Dick Powell.
The Isis continued showing films until 1957, when the new popularity of television crushed many hometown cinemas. Later, the Isis had another chapter as the home of Pastabilities pizza restaurant, which had a 13-year run before closing in 2010.
From the outside, the Isis looks today much as it did in 1937, with a big new movie-style marquee and the remnants of the old box office jutting out.
Inside, there have been many changes. Very little of the original theater remained when Woody bought the place.
A dining room filled with tables and chairs sits in the front of the house, offering a view of Haywood Road. A bar stretches into the back room, which was once the the theater auditorium.
The menu includes such appetizers as seared crab cakes ($9) and hoppin' john ($8), and entrees including grilled chicken breast with white bean mushroom cassloulet ($15) and grilled pork tenderloin stuffed with gouda, chorizo andspinach ($18). There's also a late-night menu.
In the back room, the old movie screen has been replaced with a big performance stage. Woody has installed a new balcony that runs from the back of the hall and along one side wall.
The Isis joins a strong lineup of restaurants and entertainment venues on Haywood Road, soon to be joined by Oysterhouse Brewing.
The Isis "has the potential to bring a different crowd over to the west side," said Westville Pub owner and founder Lu Young. "That would be good. It's such a vibrant scene and so homegrown and less touristy than downtown. People appreciate that."