It would be disingenuous not to use the words ‘fairy tale’, ‘storybook’ or ‘magical’ to describe the first glimpse of the elder (111 Grovewood Road, Asheville), the newly opened restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a century-old cottage among the trees in historic Grovewood Village. Red, red shingles hang over the cobblestone exterior walls; Sliding glass windows are framed in green pine metal; A solid sandstone path meanders through the landscaped grounds to the golden oak front door.
Although the exterior evokes the Red Riding Hood, from inside the cozy vestibule, the view is minimalist Nordic, a less common spirit that co-owner Carson Lucci describes as “ultra-clean, modern and timeless.” Eldr is Old Norse meaning “fire,” a term that Lucci and her personal and professional partner, Chef Eric Burleson, learned on their travels through Scandinavia. Those trips over the years have inspired the restaurant’s decor, and the area’s culinary profile has informed Burleson menus.
Lucci and Burleson are veterans of Asheville F&B. Opened Over Easy Café in downtown Broadway in 2005, Lucci serves a communal breakfast and lunch menu seven days a week. Burleson came one day a week in 2012; As the other chefs left, he took over their shifts until he became an executive chef. In this role, he began sourcing more locally and regionally, starting with produce from Gaining Ground growers Anne and Aaron Grier, and famed Alan Benton’s bacon.
What used to be hanging around with locals favorite comment exploded with the tourism movement in Asheville; By 2019, the 42-seat restaurant was seeing a two-hour wait until midweek. Heather and Jim Cassidy, regulars at Over Easy, provide professional advice and finance to local businesses and have seen this growth. They approached Lucci and Burleson about the partnership at a second location, but the couple weren’t interested at the time. Burleson has been exploring more creative culinary paths through pop-ups and events such as food and wine festivals in Charleston and Atlanta.
When Covid Over Easy forced a takeout-only model, Lucci and Burleson considered options for reopening their little cafe for indoor dining. But Over Easy was behind on some long-awaited infrastructure repairs, and after getting the hard numbers, they made the tough decision to permanently close it in November 2020. A week later, they heard from the Cassidys.
“They told us they found a building in North Asheville, and all I could think about was ‘What kind of horrible old building are we going to see?'” says Lucci. “When we walked to this place, we were stunned. It seemed like a fairy tale.”
Inside the building – which until March 2020 was an upscale Greek-inspired Golden Fleece restaurant – the ambiance wasn’t quite as glamorous. “The back room was locked from the front; the walls were painted gold. The wood was dark. It was just kind of bleak,” she recalls. “Fortunately, Heather and I were on the same page aesthetically.”
widen the door between the two rooms to bring about flow and light; After the walls were primed with paint, white was the obvious choice of color. With outdoor greenery framed by windows, a lot of art on the walls would be superfluous. Instead, they hung some references to the history of the building and property.
From the front door, Marra Forni’s commanding brick, wood and gas oven—handcrafted on site with an ELDR white tiled casing—is the first thing diners see, but Burleson emphasizes: “We Not Pizza resturant. But we’ll make a good, damn Neapolitan pizza.”
Driven by long waits at the original downtown restaurant, Eldr invites over to Grovewood Village for their fix of Over Easy breakfast and brunch favorites such as huevos rancheros, breakfast sandwiches, soft scrambles with crunchy bits of smoked trout, crushed burgers, and salad radio The dinner-style breakfast hash has been elevated further with the addition of a crispy-skinned duck nugget nested on a pile of seasonal vegetables and fries in duck fat.
Burleson is fond of duck, and uses the entire bird: duck fat, duck leg, duck liver, duck carcass for a rich demi, and duck breast as the filling centerpiece for dinner with cabbage and preserves of sour cherries. Grilled chicken, two fish and two dry ribs complete the main dishes for your dinner service. Burleson relies heavily on his friends at the local farm, and items on menus will change frequently to reflect this, as well as protein availability.
Like the most enduring fairy tales, the Elder believes in happy endings, and here the dinner concludes with what Burleson calls angelic cannoli, a free epilogue. Wild angelica celery, prepared especially for it, is cut into two-inch hollow batons, studded with fir cream and covered in fir sugar and young elderberry flowers; Pair with a hint of sweet, refreshing lemon curd. “The last bite of the night should be unforgettable,” he says.