Cafe Azalea - Asheville Tunnel Road
I love this little gem! It is located in a small strip mall east of 240 on Tunnel Road.
It has been on my short list for a few years. We had an early dinner yesterday with friends after attending the Met matinee simulcast of 'La Traviata' at Carolina Cinema. One of our out of town friends insisted on trying this restaurant at the recommendation of a good friend who used to babysit the owner, Judd, when he was a toddler. We had the opportunity to meet Judd and found out he opened the doors to Cafe Azalea five years ago. He didn't remember his babysitter, but asked for us to report back he turned out OK.
We arrived at the 'off hour' of 4:30 and were offered an intermezzo menu that they serve between lunch and dinner. We were told the dinner menu would be available at 5:30. Not an issue for any of us as we were not all that hungry and just wanted to have an early light dinner and enjoy a cocktail, light bite and conversation. The list of wine by the glass was limited, but very well selected. One member of our party ordered a mojito and we were told the mint was picked fresh from the garden that morning. The featured soups were lobster bisque and a butternut squash with fennel cream. Both were divine and beautifully garnished. The light menu offered several salads (with optional add-on's of chicken, shrimp, portabella or scallops) and a creative selection of sandwiches.
The two vegetarians were offered the nightly vegetarian option from the dinner menu that was a stuffed squash with soy sausage, mushrooms and roasted almonds served over red rice and sauteed swiss chard. It was one of the best vegetarian entrees I have ever been served in a restaurant! Perfect blend of textures and seasoning.
The dinner ended with a ginger creme broule. Over-the-top greatness.
Nice cozy space, friendly service, great cafe style food. Will return soon!
wow, really...totally opposite experiences. Had dinner a year ago w/ friends and out of the 4 of us two had to send dinners back - overcooked seafood I think it was. Have been there for lunch and been very underwhelmed. There is not much on that side of Asheville so I'm sure local residents are glad it is there and the servers seemed very nice but I don't think it would survive long in downtown Asheville.
Maybe it was just a beautiful day with good company and we got lucky with the food and service. Maybe it was just an Opera high. Thanks for sharing, Foodher. I started wondering what the story is as days went by before any response to my post. I guess another clue was given by a good friend and professionally trained chef who lives very close to CA. When he heard we had dinner there last weekend his response was a cold 'I had dinner there once years ago.' He and his wife dine out fairly frequently, so that didn't bode well for their one and only visit.
Then again, maybe they have turned things around. I will try again, next time I am on that side of town.