Chef John Fleer has announced that his newest concept, Benne on Eagle, will officially open to the public on Friday, November 30 in Asheville, North Carolina. Chef Fleer created Benne on Eagle to pay homage to the rich history of African-American culinary traditions that once thrived in The Block, the neighborhood surrounding The Foundry in its past life as the community’s metal foundry. Working alongside Culinary Mentor Hanan Shabazz and Chef de Cuisine Ashleigh Shanti, Chef Fleer employs his penchant for utmost quality and warm hospitality known at his other Asheville concepts, Rhubarb and The Rhu, and freshly applies it to Benne on Eagle’s small plates, entrees, dessert program, and specialized family-style suppers.
Capitalizing on Chef Fleer’s ability to transform local, seasonal elements into a world-class dish, Benne on Eagle draws upon his expertise with a menu and cuisine that pay tribute to the far-reaching impact of African-American cooks’ contributions to Appalachian food throughout the centuries with bounty that is seasonally available and ingredients reminiscent of the times.
Located alongside The Foundry Hotel, Benne on Eagle is open seven days a week for hotel guests and walk-ins alike to sit and enjoy Chef Fleer’s dinner menu. Menu options range from Crispy Quail with Hot Water Cornbread, Sauce Beautiful, and Crowder Pea Salad, Winter Salad with Winter Lettuce, Brussel Sprout Leaves, Toasted Benne, in Cider Vinaigrette, to Oxtail and Cream Peas with West African Curried Rice and Sumac Onions, to name a few.
To complement the savory cuisine, Benne on Eagle also offers a carefully-curated beverage and dessert program. The bar’s program, designed by Bar Director Anthony Auger, is an ode to the soul of the restaurant’s Appalachian-African-American roots. Centered around rum-centric cocktails, the cocktail menu draws inspiration from across the world, utilizing regional Appalachian ingredients in tandem with spices and spirits from the Caribbean and West Africa. Alongside cocktails, bar selections also include a number of local craft beers and an international wine list curated by Wine Director Evan Scott. Ending the meal on a sweet note, Executive Pastry Chef Kaley Laird (also of Rhubarb and The Rhu) spearheads the dessert program. The menu offers a taste of regional spins on Southern classics, such as Banana Bread Pudding Cake, Chocolate Birthday Cake, and Chef Laird’s innovative take on Hummingbird Cake, alongside local favorites from Culinary Mentor Hanan Shabazz, like Bean Pies and Sweet Potato Pie.
Benne on Eagle’s visual identity was both created and planned by Rethink Design Studio, the Savannah, Georgia, based firm. Born from the functionality of The Foundry building and its history as a metal foundry, Benne on Eagle’s space pays homage to the deep-rooted culture of the Asheville’s historically African-American neighborhood, The Block.
The space, crafted to welcome guests as active participants in their dining experience, offers an open kitchen and chef’s counter seating for six. At the center of the 60-seat dining room, booths allow for more intimate seating alongside the private dining area, while window seating, individual tables, a nine-seat bar, and an outdoor fireside patio allows for cozy al fresco dining for up to 22 guests.
Playing with various elements, Benne on Eagle’s interior design was extracted from the embodiment of soul food: comfort, rusticity, and traditions of the handmade. Centered around the portraits of “Legends” of The Block and the restaurant’s striking mural, created by Joseph Pearson, the piece sits as the bar’s focal point—an ode to The Block’s historical relevance and impact on Asheville.
Style details within the interior highlight two main brass dome lights overhead, reflecting warm amber light and alluding to a time where similar vessels would have served as a means of cooking within, while the preservation of the original brick of the foundry around the restaurant’s perimeter encapsulates the historical groundwork of the space’s past life.