Hopkins and Company's H&F Burger to reopen, reimagined as Holeman and Finch Asheville

Mackensy Lunsford
Asheville Citizen Times

This year, James Beard Award-winning chef Linton Hopkins will have essentially launched H&F Burger three times: first as an Asheville outpost with a wildly popular burger as its focus and second as a hybrid soup kitchen and delivery-only restaurant.

Now it's time to do something entirely new. Again. "We have been given the opportunity to stop and reset and open a full-blown Holeman and Finch," said Hopkins.

The chef and his wife, Gina Hopkins, are behind Hopkins and Company, a group of renowned hospitality businesses, including the original Holeman and Finch Public House in Atlanta, the now-closed Restaurant Eugene, a pandemic-born cheese and provisions shop called The Buttery ATL and several others. 

Gina and Linton Hopkins are the culinary couple behind Holeman and Finch.

Now part-time Asheville residents, the couple will launch the first Holeman and Finch outside of Atlanta in the former H&F Burger space at 77 Biltmore Ave.

H&F Burger barely had time to launch. Opened in late 2019, the restaurant was an homage to Holeman and Finch's double-stack burger. Served late night in the Atlanta restaurant in limited quantities, the burger inspired a cult following and a handful of satellite restaurants and ballpark kiosks.

Asheville's was unique with its added emphasis on oysters, sliced specialty ham and spread of whiskeys. There were deviled eggs and a host of fried things to munch. 

More:Dining review: What you can get for $25 at downtown Asheville's H&F Burger

The plan was always to highlight local produce, with Hopkins joking about the silliness of a burger restaurant with the best vegetable plate around. It wasn't to be, as the COVID-19 pandemic bore down before spring and its bounty arrived. 

Beef tartare at Holeman and Finch.

But rather than lamenting the lost chances, Hopkins said he and his team regrouped and reset. "In the restaurant business, we're rarely given an opportunity to just reflect," said the chef. "You just get caught up in it."

The burgers and booze will be back

Holeman and Finch Asheville will drop the burger from the name, but fret not: the actual burger is not going anywhere, nor are the boozy shakes.

Still, de-emphasizing that unlikely spotlight-hogging phenom will give the chef more opportunity to lift up local artisans and farmers. Hopkins wants a menu that's more vegetable-forward, with meat in smaller portions, often serving as a garnish rather than center-of-plate focus.

"It will allow us to reassess and reaffirm our values," said Hopkins of the shift. "Why we cook and serve. It feels like we're free to do more of what we want, and it gives us the opportunity to recommit to why we're here in Asheville."

The spirit of Holeman and Finch, he said, is rooted in the concept of both whole animal and whole vegetable cookery. 

"That means turnip greens and roots and all parts of the pig," he said. It also means nurturing relationships with local agricultural heroes such as Lee's One Fortune Farm and Farm & Sparrow.

Creamy heirloom polenta, garnish with pork at Holeman and Finch.

Hopkins imagined a plate of Farm & Sparrow Cateto Orange Flint polenta serving as a bed for a small slab of Benton's bacon, rendered soft via sous vide, then griddled until the quivering fat cap crisps. In his vision, polenta is the star. 

Also in Hopkins' vision, the world is waking back up. Restaurants and the people who love them are poised at the edge of a celebratory moment of full reopening.

"The world's opening, and you can't put the genie back in the bottle," he said. "So for me, it's go forward or don't."

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Perhaps that's why much of his plans for the restaurant's future sound, frankly, fun: an oyster roast on the back patio, cracking open a 50-pound wheel of English cheddar to slice and pass around, tapping into a cask beer with boiled peanuts ready at the bar.

He wants lots of varieties of oysters in a fully stocked raw bar, some house-made terrines, lots of cheeses and cured meats and a wealth of local produce, grains and beans. 

A spread of Holeman and Finch fare, similar to what you might see on the menu.

Building back better

A cancer survivor, Hopkins said he wants to revel again in communal experiences surrounding food. That wasn't happening during the pandemic, when he learned that he didn't want the kind of restaurant where you click to order.

What he wants is to build back better. 

"My favorite phrase is 'Yes, and,' as opposed to 'No, but,'" said Hopkins, referencing an improvisational principle of accepting ideas and building upon them.

That means reckoning with a few recent issues in the restaurant business in general.

Recently, the industry's widespread layoffs spurred many talented professionals to leave the business for more stable work. The culture, he said, is now much changed.

Clams and broth.

"It's been shaken, and a lot of people are not coming back," Hopkins said. 

Similarly, he said, the farmers at the center, but still in the shadows, of the farm-to-table phenomenon need to be better supported. Many struggled to keep their operations afloat when restaurants closed. 

Innovation and tenacity:New ASAP report shows farmers faced big challenges in 2020

Farmers, he said, should not struggle to make ends meet as restaurants profit.  

"Let's reestablish everything we do with every farmer we buy from to go through trust-building with them so they're never again left holding the bag," Hopkins said. 

How exactly that manifests in is still in the works. "But we're a part of bigger system that really needs working on," Hopkins said. 

Holeman and Finch Asheville is slated for a late spring or summer opening at 77 Biltmore Ave. More at holeman-finch-avl.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.

Reach me:  mlunsford@citizentimes.com.

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