Blue Ridge Bistro opens in Banner Elk
The website describes it as a “Southern-Style Mountain Bistro.”
The menu gives the impression of a comfort food joint.
It falls under the category of an organic café that uses locally farmed goods. You could also deem it a family business, a sustainable restaurant or the most spotless restaurant you’re likely to have seen in a long time.
Or you could just call it the Blue Ridge Bistro.
Originally from Massachusetts, owner Michele Theriault said that “good family values” are a quality she likes in her adopted home state, and she is supported by extended family in her new Banner Elk business.
The art on the walls is painted by her daughter, Jess. The cook is Jess’s boyfriend, Mike Brown, who previously cooked at Linville Ridge and Hound Ears. Brown’s brother, Chris, helps out in the kitchen, along with Theriault’s son, Joshua. And the whole family is on board with the ethos of this new cafe.
Every dish at Blue Ridge Bistro is good in more ways than one. Michele and her team are committed to home-cooked food, making everything from veggie burgers to popcorn balls in-house. Also, they not only buy organic products, but purchase from local suppliers whenever possible.
“We are very proud to be serving all organic, made-from-scratch food,” said Theriault, who currently uses New River Organic Growers as a major supplier. “No GMOs. Our beef is grass-fed and is from one cow, not 5,000. No pink slime.”
Even the hot dogs in the kids’ options are organic, and large “Vs” dot the menu to identify the many vegetarian offerings. Dishes range from Southern classics, like chicken and dumplings and sweet potato pie, to exotic options, such as tempura shrimp with orange marmalade and portobello mushroom fries.
Theriault is mindful of the health not only of her diners, but also of the environment. She proudly shows off her new Trapzilla Grease Trap System, installed by an Asheboro company and designed to keep fats out of sewers, creeks and streams. Blue Ridge Biofuels recycles the bistro’s old cooking oil.
Theriault would like more extensive sustainability, saying, “We wish we could have everything solar, but the technology’s not here yet.”
Patrons take note: Blue Ridge Bistro is a cash-only business. Theriault said that even with the low-fee (and locally provided) ATM right in the restaurant, response has been mixed, but her reasons to forgo credit cards are about community responsibility.
The cash-only policy keeps meal prices lower, circulates more money in the local economy and allows for higher employee pay. Once the business is established, Theriault is also interested in supporting local causes. “We’ll be able to give more money to the community because we don’t have the overhead,” she said.
In addition to knowing their food is pesticide and GMO free, customers at Blue Ridge Bistro can trust the extended Theriault family with the purity of meals in yet another way, judging by the posted sanitation rating of 102.
Theriault said the two extra points resulted from taking a food safety course, but that next year two points won’t be added, but rather subtracted from a perfect score if employees don’t take the course. She hopes customers won’t see her score drop to 100 and worry. “I’m a retired RN and a neat freak,” she said.
Saturday, Mach 31, is Blue Ridge Bistro’s grand opening celebration, with complementary pastries and appetizers with purchases.
Blue Ridge Bistro is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and is located at 142 E. Main St. in Banner Elk. For more information, call (828) 898-3325.
Got restaurant news? Email editor Frank Ruggiero at (email@example.com) or call (828) 264-6397.