It’s true that in Asheville, and across the country, restaurants have closed as the coronavirus pandemic has shaken the landscape for small businesses.

Still, some restaurants have opened and continue to do so, giving us a glimpse of what could be the future of dining.

In some of these new concepts, you’ll find takeout-friendly food, outdoor dining areas and more safe spaces where we people can at least distantly stay connected. 

More: Closed: Some of the restaurants and bars Asheville lost in 2020


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Leo’s House of Thirst

This West Asheville wine bar’s charm lies as much in its outdoor space as it does in its wine and food menu. 

Drew Wallace, co-owner of The Admiral and Bull & Beggar, is behind the venture, which opened in mid-September.

Leo’s House of Thirst is shaded by mature oak trees, and it’s hard to leave when the sun goes down on the patio, candlelight twinkles on roomy picnic tables and the bistro lights flicker on. That patio will stay open year-round.

More: Finally Favilla’s: Favorite Asheville restaurant for pizza announces opening date

It’s hard not to linger there over the extensive wine list, with eight on-tap selections from Txakoli to Tempranillo available by the glass, half-bottle and full bottle. And yes, you can take wine home, too.

There are dozens of bottles of wine on the list, focusing on small producers and a few up-and-coming wine regions interspersed with heavy hitters. You can find anything from a can of California wine to baller Italian bottles.

Wreckfish crudo at Leo’s House of Thirst. (Photo: Mackensy Lunsford)

There’s also cider and a small handful of beers and a couple of boozy seltzers to drink.

Erin Hughes and Austin Inselmann are in the kitchen, turning out a lovely little menu with dishes like wreckfish crudo with thinly sliced jalapeno and ginger-tomato water; smart charcuterie and cheese plates; composed salads; and unfussy desserts like a rich chocolate pudding topped with a crisp, nutty wafer to crack your spoon through.

Leo’s is at 1055 Haywood Road. More at


J Hackett and Gene Ettison are behind this cafe and coworking space, which opened Sept. 26 in the River Arts District. 

Hackett and Ettison, formerly of Green Opportunities, have opened their space in the Pink Dog Creative building to serve as a brick-and-mortar anchor for a community to come together in a space dedicated to social change.

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J. Hackett stands outside the coffee shop he will be opening with business partner, Gene Ettison, in the River Arts District. Grind Coffee Co., which will also act as a coworking space and will seek to nurture entrepreneurship with additions like mailboxes, will be the first Black-owned coffee shop in Asheville.  (Photo: Angeli Wright, ANGELI WRIGHT/ASHEVILLE CITIZEN TIMES)

Grind Coffee Co. will be a coworking space and cafe with Ettison’s Ashe-hole doughnuts, PennyCup coffee and other house-made pastries. It will also nurture entrepreneurship, with a focus on the Black community. 

Both Hackett and Ettison have said the craft coffee sector is not exactly brimming with people of color on the retail end, and this will be Asheville’s first Black-owned coffee shop. But moreover, the partners believe Grind will help support fledgling entrepreneurs by offering accessible ways to launch businesses.  

“Entrepreneurship is one of the quickest ways a marginalized person can build wealth,” Hackett told the Citizen Times in early September. “Instead of working a 9-5, they can take their own ideas and build a product they can sell, and that’s how it’s been done for years.”

More: Grind Coffee Co. brings Black-owned cafe and coworking space to the River Arts District

Tasty Greens

This new South Asheville restaurant offers an antidote to the heavy comfort food many restaurants think we want to eat right now. But one can’t live on cheeseburgers and pizza alone, which is why build-your-own salad bowl concepts like Sweetgreen have become so popular.

Kale salad at the forthcoming Tasty Greens (Photo: Shelley Ratterman / Tasty Greens)

Bialik’s Tasty Greens has a similar formula. The fast-casual salad concept opened Sept. 2 in Biltmore Park Town Square and does indeed offer bowls of kale, whole grains and other healthier fare.

But there’s plenty for everyone, as restaurant owners are wont to say. You may even have your cheeseburger on a salad with the keto-friendly All-American Burger Bowl of smoked gouda, peppers and Wagyu beef, or crumbled veggie burger, should you prefer.

Tasty Greens is in the front of Monk’s Flask and adjoining the Biltmore Park location of Thirsty Monk, at 2 Town Square Blvd #160. The restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, has outdoor seating and offers delivery through Takeout Central.

More: Tasty Greens is now open in South Asheville with build your own salads and bowls


Pie.Zaa is a short walk from Urban Orchard’s South Slope tasting room, Burial Beer, Dirty Jack’s, Green Man and other South Slope breweries, which means this slice-and-brew shop has situated itself perfectly. 

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A look at Pie.Zaa Pizza, opening Monday on the South Slope. (Photo: Angela Wilhelm/[email protected])

During the pandemic, this new spot specializing in big-as-your-head slices in the vein of New York’s favorite late-night nosh, will be open until midnight daily.

Those hours should be expanded as Pie.Zaa gets its footing and the late-night scene comes back to life — which is to say likely when Gov. Roy Cooper allows businesses to serve alcohol after 11 p.m.

Pie.Zaa opened Sept. 7 at 46 Millard Ave. There’s a small patio, some indoor dining and the food is takeout friendly. 

More: Giant late-night slices and beer: Pie.Zaa opens Labor Day on South Slope

10th Muse Comfort Food

Christian Watts, 10th Muse Coffee owner, and local DoughP Doughnuts chef Jay Medford have come together to bring warm nostalgia to a former West Asheville ice cream shop.

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Christian Watts at Frostbite Ice Cream in West Asheville August 10, 2020. (Photo: Angela Wilhelm/[email protected])

Watts is a purveyor of sweet things who founded a food truck called Frywalkers in Las Vegas, which served funnel cakes, fried oreos and other fair-friendly fare. His original Biltmore Village coffee shop, also called 10th Muse, served over-the-top espresso drinks with ingredients like cookie butter. Don’t worry: that’s made the trip to West Asheville. 

Medford is a classically trained chef who owns Storm and the Underground Cafe but also makes his own doughnuts, which sometimes riff off Simpsons themes.

10th Muse serves ice cream sundaes, shakes and floats, espresso drinks and doughnuts (when available). As the menu develops, Watts and Medford will add breakfast basics like burritos, plus chicken and waffle sandwiches. This isn’t a kale salad kind of place.

10th Muse is open daily at 1475 Patton Ave. with plenty of outdoor seating and a drive-through window.

More: ‘Reason to feel good’: 10th Muse coffee buys Frostbite, plans new West Asheville concept

Citizen Vinyl

Soon, the industrial spirit and sounds of vinyl will warm the Citizen Times building, where the daily newspaper staff indeed still writes, but does not print, newspapers when there’s not a pandemic going on. 

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A look at the offerings at Citizen Vinyl in Asheville September 18, 2020. (Photo: Angela Wilhelm/[email protected])

Citizen Vinyl is the name of a record pressing plant now on the first floor of the historic 14 O. Henry Ave. building. The third floor now holds the operation’s recording studio. Food operations on the ground floor will be anchored by Session bar and cafe.

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A look at the offerings at Citizen Vinyl in Asheville September 18, 2020. (Photo: Angela Wilhelm/[email protected])

Session’s menu and spirit will be steered by OWL Bakery’s Susannah Gebhart and former Sovereign Remedies chef Graham House.

There will be deli fare and full plated meals created with the sorts of nods to nostalgia a record-making business demands.

There will also be records to hear and coffee and cocktails to sip and merchandise to buy. The interior affords plenty of space for social distancing. The official opening date is Oct. 8.

More: Citizen Vinyl, Session bar and cafe, press on toward summer opening

Nani’s Rotisserie Chicken

Nani’s Rotisserie Chicken, a project of the Chai Pani restaurant Group, will take over the former True Confections space in the Grove Arcade as early as mid-October. The focus will be takeout-friendly American comfort food: roasted chicken, familiar sides and not much else. 

In Indian culture, “Nani” means maternal grandmother, and Chai Pani co-founder Meherwan Irani said he drew inspiration from his own daughter’s nani: Roz Taubman, the former Blackbird restaurant owner whom he said makes a mean roasted chicken. The restaurant will have ample seating outside, but there is no table service. 

Joyce Farms chickens will be served in quarter- or half-portions or whole, with an assortment of sides like corn pudding, scalloped potatoes, roasted roots, Caesar salads and sweet rolls.

More: Nani’s Rotisserie Chicken, from the Chai Pani Restaurant Group, coming to Grove Arcade

Griff’s Kitchen and Bar

Griff’s Kitchen and Bar will open in the Enka-Candler area Oct. 7 for takeout, with a modern-American menu of dishes like house-ground burgers, salmon salad, grilled pork shoulder buns and rotating vegetarian steam buns.

Ian Griffin, chef and co-owner, worked in the kitchen at venues including All Soul’s Pizza, Panciuto and Garland. 

“We’re so excited to finally open,” co-owner Gina Griffin said in a release. “It’s been quite the journey due to the pandemic, and we’re so grateful that we’ve had a fan base from the beginning, sticking with us through all of this.”

Lunch service will be available Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for curbside pickup. Griff’s Kitchen and Bar is at 1390 Sand Hill Road. For questions or orders, call 828-633-2153. More, including menu details, at


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:  [email protected]

Read more: Subscribe to the Citizen Times here. Subscribe to my newsletter here. 

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