Mountain Madre Kitchen & Agave Bar, Asheville’s newest local, independent restaurant, is putting its own twist on Mexican food while spotlighting craft tequilas at its downtown location. The restaurant is open at 13 W. Walnut St.
The restaurant is the work of owners longtime Asheville restaurant and bar entrepreneurs Paige and Danny Scully. The couple recently closed the books on Scully’s Bar & Grille after a decade-long run on Walnut Street and have opened Mountain Madre. The shotgun house shape of the place has gotten a massive makeover, with a massive beer-soaked wooden bar and music stage giving way to a modern design that emphasizes a nearly forgotten rear courtyard.
Chef Kyle Allen, a graduate of the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, says he started making pizzas when he was 15 and slowly began broadening his horizons. He fell in love with Spanish food after helping open a tapas restaurant, he says. “The colors, the ingredients, learning the regions of Spain and how everything is put together – it was amazing,” he says.
An avowed sports participant and fan (baseball is his favorite), Allen says he sees similarities in a kitchen setting. “Being part of a team, the need for communication, it’s all great.” (Also on the sports front: Allen met Danny Scully in a local Crossfit gym.)
Allen says there will be plenty of traditional Mexican dishes on his menu, which will feature local meats and produce, as well as plenty of fish. (There will be vegetarian options, too.) Empanadas, roasted poblano peppers stuffed with cheese and pan-seared salmon are all examples.
“I like taking your standard dish and putting it together in a stylish way that looks and tastes amazing,” Allen adds.
Tim Walker will oversee the bar side of things. (He’s a nine-year veteran Scully’s employee.) Walker is stocking craft tequilas and mescal available in tasting flights at Mountain Madre, as well as margaritas, cocktails and sangrita.
“This is a great time to be in the food and beverage industry. There are so many great things available to us, so many great tequilas being imported,” he says.
Walker adds that all of Mountain Madre’s tequilas will be “100 percent blue agave,” and there will be a whole family of agave-based spirits. Just as with wine, there’s much to learn about tequila, he says, with agave farms that have been passed down from generation to generation. “Working within the agave family sort of inspires creativity,” he says.
There will be plenty of cocktails at Mountain Madre as well.
“I’ve been a cocktail geek for a long time, so I will be able to bring in some of those elements and have people discover how versatile tequila can be.
“We are trying to find balance between sophistication and approachability. We take cocktails seriously so the customers don’t have to,” Walker says.