Lex 18 in downtown Asheville closed, pledges to reopen with new chef


Lex 18, a Lexington Avenue restaurant that also billed itself as a “moonshine bar” and that opened in March, has closed. A sign in the window promises that the restaurant will open with a new chef. 

Here’s a comment from Joseph Malki, one of the original partners in Lex 18, that was posted on Stu Helm’s recent review:

Hey folks just wanted to be as transparent and I can legally be. My business partners at Jack & Masters: my sister Georgia S. Malki, Alan van de Kamp Grau, Joe Caristo and myself have not managed Lex 18 Moonshine Bar Southern Restaurant Musical Diversion since April 19th. Unfortunately the new management seems to have changed many of the qualities of our original vision. The majority owner Suwana Cry is currently in control of the restaurant.

Jack and Masters performed the build-out, interior design, branding, musical entertainment and social media launch in a whopping 3 weeks. We got out of the gate with rave reviews and great community support. This included several locals giving the original recipes made by Chef Randy Carter and Chef Jason Treadway 5 stars on their chicken and waffles, Moravian shrimp and grits, etc.

By the weekend of April 20th and in our fourth week of operation we were packing out dinners, having great entertainment and on the way to financial solvency with 20% daily increase in revenue. Mysteriously, after our best night ever were locked by majority owner Ms. Cry. According to reviews after our management the quality, service and vision of the restaurant seemed to have taken a downward turn.

Jack and Masters are currently in negotiations with Ms. Cry’s attorneys.

Jack and Masters’ will always be committed to using local and organic produce and English speaking staff will a remain firm. Hopefully this dispute will be resolved quickly and we will be back in the saddle or onto another venture.

Thanks for the wonderful support and reviews up to the end our management at Lex18.

We love our town and blogs like Ashvegas. Candor and honesty about food and service quality in AVL is something that our town desperately need. Keep up the good work!

Stay tuned…


chris June 6, 2014 - 10:33 am

I was the chef there before they re-bought back the place. They fired everyone, I was there barely 2 weeks AND NEVER EVEN MET THE OWNERS and I was the first one fired. This all happened the day before me and my staff we about to re-launch a new menu that awesome. They put 10 people out on the street. These people are very vindictive and will LIE, cheat and steal to get what they want. The reason they got kicked out from running the restaurant the first time is b/c they couldn’t pay bills and more importantly they couldn’t pay payroll.

Voltro June 5, 2014 - 10:02 pm

I second Uncle Randy! I miss the days Tupelo Honey was the place to get breakfast apres-bars! I needs me drunk munchies (Waffle/Huddle House not an option).

mtnturtle June 4, 2014 - 7:52 pm

The explanation/history provided is certainly on sided. The original chef left to assume his former position, line cooks maintained service while a successful search took place for a new chef. The new chef re-wrote the menu, purchased the new menu food and was ready to roll it out when on May 29th Georgia terminated all employees without even meeting the new chef or reviewing the new menu. The staff graciously stayed on until the food was sold during the next few days.

Chris June 6, 2014 - 8:43 pm

Do we know each other

pfffft June 4, 2014 - 10:06 am

just a thought…
Moonshine is a term used to describe high-proof distilled spirits produced illicitly. Moonshine is typically made with corn mash as the main ingredient. The word “moonshine” is believed to derive from the term “moonrakers” used for early English smugglers and the clandestine (i.e., by the light of the moon) nature of the operations of illegal Appalachian distillers who produced and distributed whiskey.The distillation was done at night to avoid discovery.

I am extremely tired of people opening “moonshine” distilleries and “moonshine” themed bars and restaurants etc. It is only “moonshine” if you make it yourself AND DON”T PAY THE TAXES, otherwise it is just corn liquor or whiskey of which there has been a bountiful supply of. For god’s sake Outback steakhouse has a “moonshine BBQ” menu now…WTF is that??

AVL June 3, 2014 - 10:21 pm

Ate there during the opening weeks – was nowhere near the experience this guy describes. Our party was asked “how we were going to pay” along with the drink order – who does that?!?

REX June 3, 2014 - 4:13 pm

So, here’s my issue with this place: every week day I walked by during the day (several days in May), usually around 1:30 or so, a group of waitstaff and chefs/cooks (in their whites) were outside smoking. It was a complete turnoff and one of the reasons I never wanted to eat there. I don’t care if folks smoke but the managers should not allow the staff to do it in uniform right next to the building.

Me June 3, 2014 - 1:39 pm

Would love to hear the other side of this story

burnsey June 3, 2014 - 12:36 pm

This is a Craiglist response to there call for waitstaff. I didn’t write this, just copied and pasted it from a response to an ad placed for help.

In response to the 1920’s era restaurant:
These “new owners”, are not technically new (they have been involved since the first time the restaurant opened) and do not have an ounce of professionalism between them. This establishment has already closed it’s doors twice since opening less than 3 months ago because of their lack of business sense and pettiness. The second time the doors closed, they were not interested in keeping ANY of the staff that had kept their establishment running while these “new owners” were squabbling amongst themselves, so out of pure spite, they were all laid off.
I am not posting this out of spite or malice, I just think anyone thinking of being employed by them in the future should be properly informed. I would highly recommend just passing it up entirely.

Me June 3, 2014 - 11:51 am

Don’t diss on non-English speaking wait staff until you learn how to write a letter using proper English.
On a side note, Lex 18 is one ugly space. Unless it’s a goth theme. Then it’s still lame.

kmcmoobud June 3, 2014 - 11:14 am

“English speaking staff will a remain firm”


Uncle Randy June 3, 2014 - 11:10 am

Someone open up a 24 hour diner there already.

JML June 3, 2014 - 10:57 am

Stu Helm really has some power

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