Asheville’s newest restaurant, Rhubarb, offers rustic charm, outstanding menu

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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rhubarb 1Rhubarb, Asheville’s newest restaurant, opened to a full house on Monday night on Pack Square. The restaurant is the work of Chef John Fleer, a three-time James Beard Foundation Award finalist who is known for his great work at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.

I dropped in for a couple of drinks and appetizers to check it out. One of Asheville’s finest photographers, Stewart O’Shields, tagged along and captured these shots during the evening visit, as well as a visit he made earlier in the day. (If you need photo work, O’Shields can be reached @ 828.423.2262. He does a fantastic job.)rhubarb 2

The restaurant space – the former Bistro 1896 right on Pack Square in the heart of downtown – has been beautifully deconstructed to create an open, rustic experience. It’s now more barn than bistro, with rough-cut timbers and muted colors that blend to create a comfortable, intimate dining experience. There are a mix of textures, from the wooden tabletops to leather-covered booths and stools, that all come together to create a warm vibe. A couple of nice nods to the family dining experience are also on display – a reminder written in crayon to wash your hands over the bathroom sink, and a couple of giant chalkboard walls featuring art and updates – complete that homey feeling. The entire restaurant has been opened up and is much bigger than I ever imagined. An open kitchen allows dinners in the back dining room to see all the kitchen action.rhubarb 7

While I only sampled a couple of appetizers, my sense is that Rhurbarb will stand on par with Curate and The Admiral in Asheville as a delicious, creative dining experience that locals and tourists alike will flock to. I had a lobster corn dog that melted on my mouth, and a slice of berber pie (local fig-rhubarb jam, Benton’s prosciutto and spiced onions) that was a perfect compliment to my Bell’s Two-Hearted brew. Other snacks: brown sugar-benne popcorn, rosemary sea salt pecans, brick oven roasted oysters, wood-grilled broccoli rabe and more.

The cocktail list is sweet, including drinks called the Rhubarb Bounce, the Bitter Pink Sling, the Dickensian Julep and the R.L. Fitz. You’ll have to visit to check out these fancy drinks.rhubarb 5

The “full plates” include a wood-roasted  whole Sunburst trout featuring fennel-leek confit, shoestring potatoes and green tomato catsup; wood-grilled Ashley Farms chicken with brown butter sweet potato/sage hash and rosemary-chile braised Tuscan kale; and a charmoula grilled Georgia grassfed flatiron steak with smashed and seared Adirondack blue potato and soffrito snap beans.

This is a restaurant is offering a truly creative take on Southern food the likes of which Asheville has not seen. It’s a great new addition to the city’s blossoming food scene.

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Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. What a gorgeous-looking interior! I have to check it out.

  2. doghaus28815 October 18, 2013

    good, but not impressive. a couple weeks, maybe a different ball game.

  3. 2 Stars October 17, 2013

    Just returned from my first and last visit to rhubarb. First, the good…they did a beautiful job on the interior…nice open kitchen with chefs station seating area provides a front row seat to the action if thats your scene…Second, the staff…everyone we encountered were very professional and friendly.
    The food was a disappointment. We ordered the salted pecans (excellent), the lobster corn dogs (tiny amounts of lobster and every bite had bits of shell…not good.), pimento garbanzo beans (neither good nor bad IMO), and the lamb short rib appetizer (served luke warm per chef, honestly weird eating cool lamb but when we inquired the chef explained that was how the dish is intended). We had them warmed up but by the time they arrived, our entre of Georgia grass fed skirt steak also arrived. Steak was too salty and too small, probably no more than 4 oz of meat sliced over green beans for $31.00. The $11.00 cocktail was good but did I say $11.00…We proceeded to order dessert which also wasn’t good. It was some sort of cake with chocolate crunches and espresso ice cream…sounded great but fell way short as it tasted void of sugar…or maybe my taste buds were fried from the salty overpriced beef and crispy lobster shells…All in was $100 for 2. Way to much considering we shared one entree, drank one cocktail, and shared several snack plates…Also, we didn’t eat half of the lobster app, told the server about the shells, and nothing…she apologized but it was still on our bill. I realize that it’s not their obligation to remove but considering its a brand new place it would have been a nice gesture.

    1. biguglybrown October 18, 2013

      I ate there last week and had a very different experience. The food was wonderful. We enjoyed the Mongolian lamb ribs and the steak which were both cooked to perfection. The desert was incredible, in fact my wife thought that the pastry chef almost stole the show from Chef Fleer. The experience was what one would expect from a James Beard Finalist. Chef Fleer is a a very nice man and has raised the bar for Ashevilles self proclaimed foodie reputation.

  4. Jolene October 17, 2013

    Can’t wait to check it out!

  5. Kate October 17, 2013

    What a cool looking space. And O’Shields pics are amazing, as always!

  6. doghaus28815 October 16, 2013

    welcome to my world, murphy.

  7. Murphy October 15, 2013

    When an establishment does not even interview a person with 10+ years of local restaurant experience one wonders…

    1. JT October 16, 2013

      Makes one wonder what?

      Qualified applicants fail to get jobs/interviews all the time, in every industry.

      1. Harry October 16, 2013

        Yes, but you see, Murphy believes he is entitled to an interview because he has worked in local restaurants for 10 years. Murphy is like so many in this town who believe the world OWES them something.

    2. Nate October 16, 2013

      . . . if it’s time for a new look, or maybe time polish up one’s resume or to brush up on one’s interview skills?

      . . . if one may have burned one too many bridges in the past?

      . . . if some hires had been planned in advance, and that there might have been dozens and dozens of applications for each of the positions that really was available?

      Nah, probably some sort of conspiracy.


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