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New Asheville restaurants open on the outskirts



12/10/2012 - New Asheville restaurants open on the outskirts
by Mackensy Lunsford - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- The city's vibrant restaurant scene is set to get a slate of new additions -- most from familiar names but not necessarily in predictable places.

Asheville's River Arts District, the city's new frontier for redevelopment, will get at least two, and an area just south of the core downtown district will get another.

"Downtown, and even in West Asheville, there's not really a whole lot of places to open a new business now," said Elliot Moss, longtime chef of the Admiral in West Asheville. "That's one reason why we looked elsewhere."

Moss and Jonathan Robinson, one of the owners of Admiral, will open Buxton Hill next year on Banks Avenue in an area known as South Slope -- or So-Hi for south of Hilliard.

"I think that neighborhood has a lot of room for growth and there's a lot of interesting things going on down there," Moss said.

Buxton Hill is in its planning stages, so the menu is too far out for close scrutiny.

But Moss has an affinity for real Southern food. He learned to roast whole hogs in the backyard of his Florence, S.C., home. And Robinson is from South Carolina, too, and owned a bar called the Whig there before he opened the Admiral with Drew Wallace.

Other planned openings for next year include:

o Owners of Suwana's Thai Orchid will open a pho restaurant in Bobo Gallery on North Lexington Street.

o Wallace and Matt Dawes, formerly of Table, will open The Bull & Beggar in a former artist studio in the Wedge Building in the River Arts District.

o Also in the arts district, White Duck Taco Shop owners Ben Mixson and Laura Reuss will open a pizzeria called Pizza Pura in what's now a wood shop on Depot Street.

o Jacob Sessoms is expanding the popular downtown restaurant Table. His new bar, The Imperial Life, opens next week.

Plans for the new restaurants show Asheville's food scene is now active enough to offer options, opportunities for young entrepreneurs and even spruce up a couple of neglected neighborhoods and buildings.

In locating on Banks Av enue, Moss and Robinson in particular are making use of a building in need of a little love.

"I have a slight aversion to new construction," Robinson said. "I like something with character."

"The building is not a whole lot to look at from the outside," Moss agreed. "But we have a vision for what we want to do with it, and we think we can turn it into a pretty awesome place."

It's like the Admiral all over again, or 12 Bones Smokehouse, which led the restaurant charge in the still-rough River Arts District.

Robinson doesn't even want to see his own building become too polished.

"We're not trying to hide the cinder block," Robinson said. "We're not trying to change the look of the building; we're using what's there."

"Using what's there" is a driving force behind the locally driven menus in Asheville.

It's the cornerstone of a growing food scene that not only helps keep chefs like Moss around, but helps them thrive. And it continues to bring in new talent.

"I hope that it stays growing, just for people like myself who want to open a restaurant. I think that it can, and I think that it will," Moss said. "I think (these are) exciting times for Asheville in general ... I think it's only going to continue to change a lot for the better."


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