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A white plate with roasted beets.
A beet dish at Little D’s.
Carrie Turner Photography

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Asheville’s Little D’s Opens With a Focus on Local Produce, Even in the Middle of Winter

Asheville Proper owners fire up Little D’s in North Asheville

Opening a new restaurant with a menu that emphasizes regionally sourced, seasonal vegetables is challenging as chilly wet February rolls to a close in Western North Carolina and segues into chilly wet March. But it’s not the most daunting thing that has faced chef Owen McGlynn and his wife/partner Mindi McGlynn who opened their first Asheville restaurant as the pandemic was peaking. Fine dining, live fire, steak-centric Asheville Proper debuted in August 2020 in the Grove Arcade; as the majority of downtown restaurants were madly scrambling and reactively pivoting, Asheville Proper kept calm, fired on and prospered.

For their second act, the McGlynns turned their sights to North Asheville, relatively unencumbered with vehicle congestion and rife with free parking. Their children — they have four under ten — attend school in the area and Owen had his radar set on seeking a potential spot for a small, neighborhood restaurant. Spying a lease sign on a vacant slot in a strip mall anchored by Fresh Market on heavily-trafficked Merrimon Avenue, he called his broker, the couple did a site visit, it felt right and in November signed the lease.

Little D’s (952 Merrimon Avenue, Asheville) opens Thursday, February 23, with a big reveal of the menus and the interior transformation, an occasion clearly anticipated by the daily shoppers who have been pressing their faces against the large glass storefront windows assessing progress.

Plates of food on a round wooden table.
Little D’s sources from local farmers around Asheville.
Carrie Turner Photography

With just 40 seats nestled into one room and at an L-shaped bar, there’s no attempt to make the space feel larger; the vibe is all about intimacy, comfort, and casual elegance. Muted blues and greens color the wainscoted lower portion of the walls, botanical wallpaper on the upper half, and softly-curved velvet upholstered chairs, with a banquette and bar stools covered in buttery caramel leather. The polished concrete floor and ceiling are painted the same dark pewter, enclosing diners in a snug room, with the kitchen out-of-sight in the rear.

“This [menu] is a departure from what we do at Asheville Proper,” says Mindi. “With the more intimate space, we wanted more dishes to share with the person next to you. Those smaller plates have more emphasis on vegetables.” Which is the daily dilemma. “We’re on that cusp of winter into spring so it’s kind of a funny time,” says Owen, serving as executive chef. “I’m talking to my purveyor to see what I can get consistently for two to three weeks. Spring isn’t far off, but right now we’ve got a lot of kale, squash, carrots, and potatoes.”

Sliced duck breast with pomegranate seeds.
Duck even shows up on the kid’s menu at Little D’s.
Carrie Turner Photography

He and his chef de cuisine Faith Hall look forward to the spring arrival via local farmers and foragers of lettuce, peas, asparagus, ramps, nettles, and then the rollout of summer and fall bounty.

The produce is local, but finished plates are global — grilled broccolini, for example, is set with cardamom labneh and pistachio dukkah; caramelized cauliflower with raisins and vadouvan aioli; charred carrots with smoked feta, toasted peanuts, harissa, and cilantro.

The mains will hit the main things – beef, pork, fowl, and fish – with a vegetarian option and specials as the kitchen gets into gear. Asheville Proper pastry chef Hilary Lamont also oversees the dessert menu at Little D’s, named for their 8-year-old “tiny and mighty” daughter Davis. Speaking of the littles, the kid’s menu eschews chicken tenders for duck, steak, or mahi mahi.

The beverage lineup is more cocktail-focused than the wine-dominated Asheville Proper; Owen McGlynn is doing the prep and batching for what he describes as “elevated classics” as well as several sophisticated non-alcoholic options.

“Little D’s isn’t in the thick of things like Proper, but we’re a straight shot from downtown and we think people who want this experience will find us,” says Mindi. “It’s a downtown experience without the hassle.”

Little D’s is open for dinner only; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Below is the full menu.


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