Review: S&W Artisanal Cafeteria (Asheville, NC)

If you do only one thing in Asheville, eat dinner at S&W Artisanal – then get dessert at their cafe downstairs. And start your evening at their adjacent bar called The Times.  So that’s actually more than one thing, but S&W is the one stop you need to make.

A Greek/Mediterranean restaurant set in a 1920’s style art deco building in the heart of the town of Asheville, S&W has literally everything.  You walk in to their casual cafe-style bakery that serves not only desserts but is great for a casual lunch or coffee break.  On the mezzanine level overlooking the cafe is their restaurant, actually referred to as The Mez here – a MUST for dinner.  Each member of the staff worked together to flawlessly execute the evening from start to finish.  Service was amazing throughout the meal and even after the meal as we were exiting the front door, held open for us by one person while another wished us a good evening.  While it is slightly upscale (maybe don’t wear sweats), it’s not exactly a fine dining establishment where you would expect to have such refined focus on you individually.

 

Before we even got seated I was already fawning over the table setting as well:

The food. My god, the food.  Actually, wait. Before I even get started on the food – the WINE.  Honestly, S&W is the first place I have properly explored Greek wine.  I had only recently had my first assyrtiko (a white from Santorini) at CorkBuzz not too long before this trip to Asheville.  The wine list at S&W is predominantly Greek wine in accordance with the food, naturally, and so I started with another assyrtiko (to continue familiarizing myself with the flavor).

After getting our first drinks, we ordered an appetizer to share – baba ganoush.  Nothing too exotic and didn’t look like much but holy $#!& – it was delicious.  Seasoned well, and even the pita triangles served along side it was salted and seasoned just enough, and maintained a soft yet chewy and, in the corners, crunchy texture that we could not get enough of.  The way this baba ganoush on the pita hit my palate is ingrained in my memory.  Much like the general vibe of the restaurant, the food was divinely understated and subtly gourmet.

Half-eaten baba ganoush with glass of Assyrtiko

We ordered second drinks for our entrees – to mix it up, I tried the most popular red varietal – Agiorgitiko – that Greece produces for the sake of getting a more well-rounded introduction to the wines of the region.  A fabulous wine, I definitely want to drink more Agiorgitiko and I have been subsequently inspired to explore more Greek wines.

While the menu had tons of options – plenty for vegetarians and if you get creative, options for vegans as well – I am thrilled with the dish I opted for: risotto in a creamy tomato sauce with crushed black garlic and dollops of whipped feta.  The flavors and textures were woven together so well, I’m desperate to go back to S&W to try more of what they have to offer.

I have not, will not, and cannot forget about the dessert.

    

I ordered off of their restaurant’s dessert menu – a hard chocolate sphere filled with dark chocolate and pistachio creme, plated with some raspberry couli and fresh raspberries.  The plating alone made me soon, and cracking that chocolate hunk of a dessert open was so satisfying and delicious, albeit extremely rich.  I could not finish it.  My boyfriend knew what he wanted for dessert the second before we even decided we were eating dinner there – the red velvet cake behind the glass downstairs on the bakery level.  No exaggeration, this red velvet cake was the best I have had that I can remember.  I’m thankful he even let me steal a bite.  Moist with not too much sweetness that can be typical of red velvet, the outer edges of the cake were lightly crispy which created a mind blowing texture.  It would also be good to note that the coffee was extremely high quality and brewed to perfection – no burnt coffee grounds flavor.

As if you weren’t already sold, it was reasonably priced as well. Yep. No spenders remorse was experienced here.

I could not find a flaw in this dining experience if you paid me.  I swear I was glowing after we exited the restaurant.  We had barely been in Asheville for three hours – this was our first stop – and we were already planning our return trip.  S&W is relatively new (opened just this year in 2018) so you likely haven’t heard about it as much as the tried and true favorites of the town, but don’t let this golden palace of art deco and Greek food pass you by on your next trip to Asheville.

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