Dark City Deli & Pub does it all on Cherry Street
On the southern end of Cherry Street is a place many Swannanoa Valley residents know well - Dark City Deli & Pub, owned by Jen Mohr with husband Bill and business partner Joel Lenk.
Mohr, who was a psychotherapist for 15 years before opening her own catering company, is the general manager of Dark City Deli & Pub. She took a few minutes out of a busy morning of prep work to talk about the menu, the versatility of her space and what she called the "best patio in town."
The Black Mountain News: What's your role here at Dark City Deli?
Jen Mohr: I do everything. Bill and Joel have full-time jobs so I am responsible for the day-to-day operations here.
BMN: Are you a classically trained chef?
Mohr: I'm not. I'm a psychotherapist. I practiced for 15 years. But I've always loved to cook, and my grandma owned a bakery in New York. So I've always had a passion for food. I've always wanted to have a restaurant. A Realtor called me and told me about this place for rent. My husband was away on business in Brazil, and he told me "If you want it, then get it."
BMN: How did you get started on that path?
Mohr: When my children were born I put a commercial kitchen in my home. That was around 15 years ago, and as I was outgrowing that spot this space became available. We've been here for five years now.
BMN: This location (122 Cherry Street) is an interesting one. What do you know about it?
Mohr: It was home to Pepper's (restaurant) for around 30 years. We're part of a pub tour, which started in the summer, and we tell them a little about the building. I spoke to a man who worked here when it was a dry cleaner. He said their claim to fame was that they did Billy Graham's dry cleaning.
BMN: How did you come up with name Dark City Deli & Pub?
Mohr: Well, I started reading some history about the town and a lot of it was about how early explorers described the area as so dark because of the density of the trees. We have a quote on our menu that says "Even on the brightest days it seems like night." The name really seemed to fit.
BMN: How would you describe the atmosphere in Dark City Deli & Pub?
Mohr: It's like the hub of Black Mountain. You can come here with your family, you can come here with friends after work. It provides a little bit of everything for everyone. It can really be anything you want it to be. We have the pub, the game room and the dining area. We have a lot of families that come in after a game, and they can eat wings here and hang out. We've had rehearsal dinners, baby showers, you name it. You can also relax and have a glass of wine on the patio.
BMN: Speaking of the patio, that can be a pretty popular spot when the weather is nice, right?
Mohr: Oh, I think we have the best patio in town. It's really a great place for the community to gather. It's such a comfortable environment.
BMN: What was your inspiration for the menu?
Mohr. I've always wanted a deli. I grew up in upstate New York and there's such quality of meats and breads, and I just felt like that was something we could use here in town. We use artisan breads. I pick what turkey we'll use and what roast beef we serve. If I won't eat it, I won't serve it. We also carry things like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and things that appeal to those who like Southern food.
BMN: What is the thing you have to try when you come to Dark City Deli & Pub?
Mohr: Our BLT is called the "Sweet Baby Jane," and it has six slices of bacon. I have people that have come here regularly for four or five years and that's the only thing they eat. Our burgers are amazing, and they're half-pound, fresh burgers. Our salads are amazing as well. Our wedge salad comes with grilled Bingo (short for Bingo Town) skewers which are prepared with a marinade that originated in my hometown of Binghamton (N.Y.).
BMN: How often does the menu change?
Mohr: We just changed it around a couple of months ago. We added a bunch more appetizers, and we put in a late-night menu so people can order food until we close at 2 a.m.
BMN: What is Dark City Deli & Pub's beer and wine selection like?
Mohr: We constantly bring in current seasonal beers. We keep 12 rotating taps. We have house wines and then we have nice Chardonnays, Merlots, Cabernets. We have discount wine night on Tuesdays, $2 off glasses of wine.
BMN: What are examples of other specials offered here?
Mohr: Thursdays are 60 cent wing nights, we have the best wings ever. I went to undergraduate school in Buffalo and worked at the wing shop where Buffalo wings were invented, so I know how to make wings. We have $1-off draft nights, 50-cent-off bottles of beer. We do pint nights where local brewers come in and offer discounts. We post upcoming specials and events on our Facebook page regularly.
BMN: In your opinion what is the best thing about Dark City Deli & Pub?
Mohr: Our food is high-quality, but there's more to this place than just food. It's getting an excellent meal and feeling like you've been taken care of. We try to make everyone feel like they want to come back because their experience was just that good.