Asheville's first food hall, S&W Market, announces lineup, tentative opening date
Asheville's first food hall has announced its restaurant lineup, including some all-new concepts.
The S&W Market will be open daily in the historic S&W Building on Patton Avenue, with opening day slated for June.
Five-time James Beard Award nominee Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani Restaurant Group is the project's culinary consultant.
With The Ellington Realty Group, which developed and manages the property, Irani curated the food hall's culinary lineup.
But first, what's a food hall?
In the modern sense, a food hall is a collection of restaurant kiosks, all serving different food.
Unlike a mall food court, food halls often serve as business incubators for new concepts from established restaurateurs or relatively unknown culinary professionals looking to make a mark.
Why start your restaurant career in a food hall? Especially with big names on the marquee, a food hall can come with its own built-in audience as a destination in its own right.
"It lowers the risk," said Irani. "If it's a standalone location, someone might have to come out of the way to find you versus if you're in an area where there may be more opportunities for someone to discover you."
The investment is generally minimal, at least more so than trying to create a standalone brick and mortar restaurant.
"It's a lower cost of entry for an up-and-coming restaurant chef, an opportunity for a smaller footprint and shared costs," Irani said. "You don't have to manage your own bathroom and all this other infrastructure stuff."
Atlanta has Ponce City Market where Irani first opened Botiwalla, Brooklyn has Dekalb Market Hall, and now Asheville has the S&W Market, established in one of the most beautiful examples of art deco-era architecture in downtown Asheville.
Here's what to expect:
Kyle James, also the author of a best-selling book about an international road trip, is one of several partners behind Bun Intended, along with chef Erica “Shorty” Imhoff, who learned traditional Thai recipes from her restaurateur mother.
"It's our role to provide amazing Thai street food to the S&W, which is something we know how to do under any circumstances," James said in a July interview, when Bun became the first restaurant tenant to sign on at the S&W.
Bun Intended will highlight flavorful Thai street food, like Hickory Nut Gap pork belly bao, pad see ew noodle bowls and som tum salads.
Prices will be about $8-12, a range James rightly said is underrepresented in downtown Asheville.
Bun Intended's food truck will continue to operate during and after its expansion.
Buxton Chicken Palace
This concept from chefs Irani and Elliott Moss of Buxton Hall Barbecue will focus on fried chicken sandwiches.
Fun fact: The James Beard-nominated Moss worked in the kitchen at a Chick-fil-A as a teenager, but there's nothing fast food about his sandwiches.
Though barbecue is the star of Buxton, Moss shows off his prowess with bird in what Bon Appétit magazine once named the "Best Fried Chicken Sandwich of The Year."
It's hard to argue.
Though the sandwich sounds simple — buttermilk brined crispy fried chicken, American cheese and pickles — it's so much more than the sum of its parts.
"Buxton Chicken Palace will be anchored around the legendary Buxton Fried Chicken Sandwich," Irani promised.
More details to come on the exact nature of this new S&W Market concept.
Farm Dogs is a new concept from George Frangos of Farm Burger, which has two locations in Asheville and others in Atlanta.
Farm Burger uses regionally and locally sourced grass-fed beef, with local ingredients showing up in toppings and specials. A similar ethos will play out at Farm Dogs, which will use Hickory Nut Gap-made hot dogs.
There's not a whole lot of room to get creative, said Frangos, whose latest venture will open in all of 100 square feet.
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"We were thinking of what we could execute without a full kitchen, and if someone could do a great hot dog out of a cart in New York, we could figure it out," he said.
The result: a small menu of dogs and sausages that can be had fairly plain, as a beefed up menu standard or as a seasonal special. There will also be pretzels made with local flour and, potentially, sausage hand pies and pierogies.
"It will be simple," Frangos said. But it will also complement anchor tenant Highland Brewing Company perfectly.
Highland Brewing Company
Highland Brewing returns to downtown Asheville, where it was founded as Asheville’s first brewery more than a quarter-century ago.
Though Highland will be the anchor tenant at the S&W Market, the brewery's East Asheville homefront will be unaffected.
A mezzanine-level bar will showcase an expanded lineup of Highland’s small-batch, sour and barrel-aged beer collection on 18 taps.
The space will have a view of the activity on the market floor below, as well as downtown Asheville through the building's iconic curved front windows. Highland will also have a smaller eight-tap bar on the first floor for quick service.
Customers will be able to sip Highland brews throughout the building, whether at community tables or while perusing the kiosks.
The Hop Ice Cream Cafe
This will be the first downtown location for this locally beloved ice cream shop, first founded in the '70s but made entirely modern with its inclusion of ingredients from kale to CBD.
Owners Ashley and Greg Garrison aren't only about weird flavors though, and you'll also find plenty of classics and treats for vegans, too.
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Peace Love Tacos
Veteran hospitality professionals Paige and Danny Scully are behind Asheville’s Mountain Madre Mexican Kitchen and Agave Bar.
This is the sister restaurant to the fresh Mexican restaurant, which sources sustainable meats and seasonal produce. Read more about Mountain Madre at www.mountainmadreavl.com.
The Times Bar
This established and excellent craft cocktail bar by Chris Faber and Ashley Williams-Faber is set adjacent to the market floor and connected by a shared outdoor patio.
Expect seasonally inspired and classic cocktails and coffee drinks, all with expert attention to detail and hospitality. More about the Times at www.thetimesbarasheville.com.
The S&W Market’s event space, Circa 29 will open at the same time as the food
hall. The speakeasy-style space on the basement level of the S&W Building will have its own bar.
Circa 29 will be available to reserve for private events in the coming months, with space for up to 150 guests. More about this venture to come.
What's the market going to look like?
The S&W Building, designed by architect Douglas Ellington in 1929, is known for its classic Art Deco beauty and intricate architectural details.
Ellington also designed Asheville City Hall, First Baptist Church downtown, the main building at Asheville High School, the Merrimon Avenue Fire Station and others.
The interior has remained mostly unchanged since its 1929 beginnings as a home for Asheville's S&W Cafeteria, which first opened in the old Asheville Opera House on Patton Avenue in 1922 before moving across the street to 56 Patton Ave.
Asheville's location was one of the most successful of the chain of eateries, serving moderately-priced meals in an uncommonly grand atmosphere.
The S&W building went dark in 1974, when the cafeteria moved to a new location at the Asheville Mall, since revived in fits and starts for a variety of ventures, most recently the S&W Artisanal Eatery.
Now, a revamped interior seeks to evoke the same energy of the original S&W Cafeteria, according to the Ellington Realty Group, which enlisted Diana Bellgowan to lead the architecture and interior design of the project.
There will be ample sidewalk seating along the building’s front, but the familiar facade with its wide arched windows, terra cotta panels and colored tiles will otherwise remain unchanged.
Bellgowan will bring the vibrancy of the exterior inside with color. She's also returned the ceiling back to its original metallic gold color with additional gold accents and details, the Ellington Group said.
The restaurant stalls and bar spaces will match the building's original era with period-appropriate materials and architectural details as a common thread. Still, each restaurant space will have its own lighting, signage and other details.
Up to 65 guests can sit and dine on the main floor with room at standing tables for up to 20 more. The mezzanine will have another 100 seats, with 36 seats on the patio.
S&W Market will be open daily at 56 Patton Ave., 11 a.m.-10 pm. Monday-Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday.
More at swmarketavl.com.
Mackensy Lunsford has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years, and has been a staff writer for the Asheville Citizen Times since 2012. Lunsford is a former professional line cook and one-time restaurant owner.
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