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Saying Hello To An Old Friend: Return to Asheville

Mural of actress/comedienne/Asheville native Shirley Hemphill,
as painted by local artist Gus Cutty
"And we're supping on tears
and we're supping on wine 
We all get to heaven in our own sweet time 
So come all you Asheville boys
And turn up your old-time noise 
And kick 'til the dust comes up
From the cracks in the floor"
Gillian Welch - "Hard Times"

Our yearly road trip adventures this year found us in one of our favorite destinations in Asheville, NC. The time gap between our two visits (roughly four years) plus the scope of our trip (unlike other visits, this craft beer mecca would share the spotlight with other destinations) made blending old favorites and new explorations a little trickier.

When all was tallied in the end, we sneaked in a lot more than we figured we would in our less than 48 hours in this town of nearly 90,000 people, and ended with plenty of worthwhile things to write about.

Founded by area food truck pioneer Suzy Salwa Phillips, Gypsy Queen Cuisine serves up a bevy of Lebanese-style eats not unlike what Columbus area purveyors like Little Lebanon and Lavash Cafe offer. However, this brick and mortar brings its own flashy flair to the proceedings, plus a stash of Lebanese-oriented store goods for purchase.

Suzy's Platter is a great way to introduce yourself to Gypsy Queen's offerings, offering two falafel balls topped with the tahini-based Tarator Sauce and pickled turnips, served with your choice of two of four items (my spouse chose their a nicely sumac-laced fattoush and creamy hummus), while I was happy to see Muhammara Dip (typically with Aleppo peppers and pomegranate molasses) as an option. Paired with Lebanese Fries tossed with Toom (a garlic-based sauce) and topped with tarator and parsley, it made for a perfect lighter dinner option.

Our biggest breakfast in the area turned out to be at West Asheville's Bim Beri Bon, which features a menu that (though we didn't realize it until after we sat down) is completely gluten- and refined sugar-free.

Columbus-wise, the space reminded me of SoHud's Baba's blended with Clintonville's Harvest Kitchen. Add in an internationally-focused menu, featuring items like Korean Soondubu, Russian Borscht Soup and a Corn Arepa Pocket, a mix-and-match salad bar concept not unlike Columbus' Little Eater, and a curated beverage list (fruit and vegetable juices, wine and cider, but not beer), and the overall package seems befitting of the generally perceived reputation that Asheville sports these days as a diverse, food lovers mecca.

Sometimes you wonder if a restaurant that presents a swath of menu items across numerous cuisine styles can possibly do the subtler things (e.g. spicing) correctly: in the case of the Dosa Masala, we would give a thumbs up on that all the way down to the accompanying chutneys.

I also enjoyed my Jian Bing, a street-style Chinese crepe featuring items like miso chicken, greens, egg, scallions, chili sauce, hoisin, and crisps. As for whether its better or worse or even close to the authentic rendition, I have no clue; but it does gives me a baseline to compare to a place I'd trust was serving the original creation.

We must give special kudos to the coffee, which was probably the best we had on our vacation trip. Our clerk behind the counter stated their beans were sourced from Larry's Coffee in Raleigh, NC.

Gypsy Queen Cuisine
807 Patton Ave (Google Maps)
Asheville, NC 28806
(828) 575-2758
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697 Haywood Rd. (Google Maps)
Asheville, NC 28806
(828) 505-0328
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