ASHEVILLE - Follow the trail of foraged mushrooms to a new restaurant celebrating fresh and wild foods.
Wild Morel Restaurant and Wine Bar are now open at 204 Main St. in Brevard. The hours are 4:30-9 p.m. daily.
Tony Pope, chef, and owner is curating menus that showcase seasonal ingredients sourced from local and regional farmers, growers, and suppliers.
"My vision for the restaurant is to bring a chef-driven farm-to-table restaurant to the community," Pope said. I want to partner with local farmers and artisans to source everything in a small radius. We want the cuisine to be indigenous to the mountains — The Foothills here in North Carolina."
Wild Morel is in the former location of Marco Trattoria, which Pope took over nearly a month ago. Diners returning to the venue will have a vastly different experience than before.
Pope has slowly made changes to the menu and venue and most recently the name without closing the restaurant's door.
"The timing of opening the restaurant in the middle of the height of the season in Brevard has been a challenge but it was important for us to stay open rather than close and make all these changes," Pope said. "We wanted to transition quickly. We wanted to keep our staff in place — and we did so. Pretty much, in a month's time, we've transformed the restaurant into what my vision was."
Marco Trattoria served Italian cuisine. Wild Morel is serving New American style dishes prepared with French techniques and inspired by ingredients found in Transylvania County, Zach Weinstein, general manager, said.
More changes are underway, including new management and a dining room and kitchen revamp. Weinstein said that the building has been a restaurant for almost three decades, and Wild Morel will keep the tradition going.
“It’s kind of like a new restaurant inside of the old restaurant,” he said. “It’s a startup restaurant inside what was already a busy restaurant.”
Lunch hours were suspended during the renovation.
"We are doing a lot of upgrades. We're elevating the space," Pope said. "I want to have that contemporary farmhouse feel to match the concept."
Pope, a West Virginia native, embarks on WNC’s dining scene with an extensive resume in tow.
He’s a graduate of the Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute in Charleston. He’s served as executive chef for Dormie Network, Buckhead Diner in Atlanta, and Chechessee Creek Club in South Carolina. He was the executive sous chef of the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia and chef de cuisine at Bayonne Restaurant in New Orleans and Hanks Seafood in Charleston.
The 25-year industry veteran has created and shaped menus bought and managed restaurants, and designed top-level kitchens.
At Wild Morel, Pope is leading the restaurant's transition by introducing elevated farm-to-table dishes with mushrooms and more.
Later this month, new menus will roll out for the dining room and bar.
The updated wine list will have more than 70 labels focused on natural, sustainable, and dry-farmed wines with old world and new world selections, Weinstein said. A spirits, vermouth, and sherry program will be introduced soon.
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A cheese program that will feature local and imported cheeses is in development, too.
The wood-fired oven that’s been a staple of the building will be used to make premium Neapolitan pizzas. Recently, the menu featured a truffle cheese and mortadella pizza made with fresh chanterelles foraged from the Hendersonville area.
"We're working with local mushroom foragers every day and we'll feature that on our menu year-round," Pope said.
In addition to an assortment of mushrooms, there will be a wide selection of proteins on the menu, Weinstein said.
“Chef Tony is very experienced cooking fish, coming from Charleston," he said. "He’s maintained much of his procurement network, so we’ve been getting fresh fish from the Carolina coast daily and are also serving steaks.”
Entrée plates set to roll out include New York strip steak, Cheshire pork, Prince Edward Island mussels, squid ink linguine with shrimp and scallops, smoked trout, and local heirloom tomatoes.
The menu is expanding by the day, Weinstein said.
Wild Morel Restaurant and Wine Bar
Where: 204 Main St., Brevard
Hours: 4:30-9 p.m. daily
Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Wild Morel Restaurant and Wine Bar opens with farm-to-table concept