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When Amy Lyda was growing up in Swannanoa, her mother would make her father fried green tomatoes, one of his favorite foods. As owner of the Black Mountain Bistro, Lyda has offered  Southern food and hospitality for the past 12 years at the restaurant on East State Street.

The Black Mountain News talked to Lyda about everything from how she sets her menu to the atmosphere in the Black Mountain Bistro.

Black Mountain News: What kind of restaurant is the Black Mountain Bistro?

Amy Lyda: We put a new flare on Southern cuisine. We have some stuff that isn't necessarily Southern, but most of the items on the menu have a Southern feel to them. We have have pork chops, shrimp and grits and things like that. We try to also use local ingredients when we can.

BMN: What dish do you have to try if it is your first time eating at the Black Mountain Bistro?

Lyda: Every year our number one seller is the Fried Green Tomatoes. I get a lot of compliments about those, people tell me they're the best around town and sometimes the best they've had.

BMN: Did you know Fried Green Tomatoes would be such a hot item when you put them on the menu?

Lyda:Ours has a little twist to it, with a homemade potato cake in the middle of the tomatoes.

BMN: Who is the chef?

Lyda: I am. Actually, I don't have what would be considered formal training, but I've worked in restaurants for a long time and done pretty much everything in them. Before I bought this restaurant I managed one for 15 years. I feel like a lot of the most successful restaurants are run by people that have kind of done it all.

BMN: What is the atmosphere like in the Black Mountain Bistro?

Lyda: It was a house before it was turned into a restaurant. The lady that used to live here made handmade aprons. We're not upscale, we're very casual and family-friendly. I have people call and say "we have kids with us," or "we're wearing jeans." It's fine, anyone is welcome.

BMN: How big is the Black Mountain Bistro?

Lyda: We have about 60 seats inside and about 60 seats outside. We keep the outside open as long as we can, and we've had a number of people sit out there a few days this winter when the weather has been nice.

BMN: How often does the menu change?

Lyda: I try to change it about once a year. We try to change to stay current with trends, and we're always working on incorporating more local products. Working in local products dictates a lot of the changes to the menu. Currently, we use local meat from Hickory Nut Gap Farms, and we added a cheese plate to our appetizer menu and that's local from Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview. We have a farmer in Old Fort who I get fresh vegetables from when they're in season.

BMN: What is the craft beer and wine selection like?

Lyda: We have a good wine selection, and we try to get local wines when we can. Of course local wines aren't as easy to come by as local beers. We always try to carry three local draft beers and a few local beers in bottles. We have Catawba Brewing Co. in cans. We're adding Pisgah Brewing Co. cans, but we usually keep some of their beer on tap as well. We have a beer from Lookout Brewing Co., which is right down the street, on tap. We also sell mixed drinks since the town began allowing the sale of liquor by the drink a few years back.

BMN: The Black Mountain Bistro features art from local artists, is that for sale?

Lyda: In the big room, the pictures hanging up (local resident) Wendell Begley gave me when we first opened. Those particular pictures are not for sale. But everything else hanging up in the restaurant is for sale. The aunt of one of my managers is big in the art community here in Black Mountain, so she has told other artists in the area about us. We've sold several pieces of art by local folks here.

BMN: What's the best thing about the Black Mountain Bistro?

Lyda: I think the best thing is that we really are a local restaurant. Everyone that works here is local, and we try to really make people feel welcome and feel at home. We have a real family atmosphere. We like to make people feel like they are part of Black Mountain.

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