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Mo' space: Smokin' hot Moe's expanding upstairs and outside

Dave Rice hoists a tray of smoked chicken as Moe's Original Barbecue prepared for Garden Jubilee crowd. Dave Rice hoists a tray of smoked chicken as Moe's Original Barbecue prepared for Garden Jubilee crowd.

Dave Rice and his partner, Erik Chandler, had long known that a weekend festival was likely to bring a big flock of diners into their new Main Street restaurant, Moe's Original Bar-B-Que.

IMG 0062Dave Rice and Erik Chandler are owner-operators of Moe's Original Barbecue.On Saturday morning, as thousands of plant shoppers were working up an appetite at the Garden Jubilee outside, Rice and Chandler were busy executing the plan. He pulled dozens of half chickens, smoked turkey and pork butts and ribs out of the firebox at the rear of the kitchen, stockpiling the smoked meat for a crowd of hungry diners who would soon arrive.
"It's hard to say," he said when asked what he thought the day would bring. "We don't know what to expect. Everybody's telling us we've got to double or triple or even quadruple the pars to be ready. So if I'm going to do 16 butts ordinarily, I have to go up."
It was just after 10 a.m. and Rice and Chandler had already been on duty for three hours. Business has been as smokin' hot as the pork butts, ribs and roasted poultry that the cooks pull out of the oven.
"Things are going really well, better than expected for sure," Rice said.
The co-owner of the new Moe's across from the Historic Courthouse and one in Biltmore Village in Asheville, Rice has compared seatings, servings and revenue to the business he did during the first weeks of the Asheville store. Numbers here are way up.
"That's been very encouraging," he said. "But I also know we're kind of piggybacking off the success of Asheville. We have people saying 'we're glad you're over here closer to us.'"
The location has the cache, too, of local restaurant lore. The 114 N. Main St. space was home to Expressions, where the late innovative Tom Young was the impresario of good food, good wine and dazzling presentation.
In fact, things are going so well that Chandler and Rice are getting ready to expand upstairs. That will double their seating, from 49 to just under 100. The upstairs will be open later and feature a bit more of a bar atmosphere and music. The owners know about the fuss over the last tenant, T's Bluenote Grill, and they promise that their brand of entertainment, acoustic and bluegrass, will be at a lower volume than the R&B bar, which provoked noise complaints from condo neighbors and prompted the City Council to mandate a lower volume.
"I'm not going to stir up a hornet's nest," Chandler said. "We're going to keep it mellow. It's not going to be a late night bar, that's for sure."
They will make the upstairs available for parties, meetings and other events. They just added outdoor seating Friday and in the run-up to Memorial Day weekend sent out an email blast soliciting orders to let Moe's do the cooking for the traditional summer kickoff.
Rice and Chandler both have fine dining backgrounds, and Rice says that contributes to the success of Moe's, which features standards like baked beans, slaw and potato salad but is fast becoming known for the popular sides of the day. On the daily board Saturday were several of its big hits — macaroni and cheese, collard greens, skillet corn, squash casserole and lima beans. In a state known for an enduring civil war over Eastern-style versus Lexington barbecue, Rice and Chandler have made inroads with smoked meat Alabama-style, pulled pork and not chopped, and tartar sauce with a mustardy tang (Moe's also serves catfish).
"People are just really pleased with the quality of the food," Rice said. "We take pride in our sides. We make everything from scratch and it shows. We care about what we're doing. We don't dump things out of cans."