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French Broad: A Kitchen & Wine Bar opens next week downtown

Just over 170 years ago, river partisans and road partisans fought over where to locate the town of Hendersonville, the seat of the newly formed Henderson County.

River partisans favored a site by the French Broad River, in present-day Horse Shoe. The road party pushed for a location along the Buncombe Turnpike. The road folks won. But the French Broad gets new life on Main Street today.
Diners will be able to enjoy a new restaurant honoring the river’s name when The French Broad: A Kitchen & Wine Bar opens next week at 342 N. Main St.
At this French Broad, foodies will find something new and different, in the menu and the décor. Located in the former Lime Leaf Thai Fusion space, the new restaurant makes liberal use of the second-floor loft, capitalizing on views both of Main Street and the completely renovated downstairs dining room.
Owners Chuck and Janna Watson welcomed a visitor to the new restaurant, where servers and cooks were interviewing for work. A prominent new furnishing is a 30-foot-long marble-topped beauty that they call the community table.
FrenchBroad 2Janna and Chuck Watson are opening The French Broad: A Kitchen & Wine Bar next week.“At some point, we’ll have a baby grand piano and a wine cellar,” Janna said. “We recently got back from Italy and we were inspired when we were there by the European method of having a table wine. So we’ll have a white and a red table wine and it’s going to be very reasonably priced and it’s really good.”
Diners will find something they like on the menu.
“Our menu kind of starts with France and then expands,” Chuck said.
“It’s approachable French,” Janna said. “People will hear French and they say, oh, that’s too rich and heavy …”
The Watsons, who relocated to Hendersonville from Greenville, can walk to work from their home on Fifth Avenue West.
“I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” Janna said. “We love the downtown, that’s why we moved close to it. We love being part of it. We knew we wanted to do something.”
They had a smaller-scale venture in mind until they real estate broker Jim Hall showed them the Lime Leaf spot. It’s roomier than it looks from the outside.
“Sometimes the building kind of determines that the project’s going to be,” Chuck said.
The restaurant seats about 130 up and down.
Diners will be able to sample that “approachable French” from a kitchen run by Chef Arienne Casebier, who learned cooking growing up in East Tennessee from her grandmother, a world traveler and gourmand. She worked for two James Beard award-wining chefs in Charleston. She was working as sous chef at FIG (Food Is Good) in Charleston when that restaurant won a James Beard award.
After graduating from Johnson & Wales culinary school in Charleston, Casebier worked in New York City, then returned to Charleston. After FIG, she went to Husk restaurant, serving as sous chef under Sean Brock. She spent the next year developing and testing recipes for Sean's award winning book, Heritage. Four years ago, she ventured out on her own to open Feast, a farm focused catering and private chef service. Air, as she’s called for short, was recognized by “Charlie” magazine as one of the 50 most progressive people in Charleston for her commitment to supporting local farms, other suppliers and artisans.
“We’re looking forward to doing once a month a family style supper that will be pass-around dishes and that’ll ne at our community table,” she said. “We’re going to be working with a couple of nonprofits in the area as well. … We’re just hoping to have as many community ties as possible through our nonprofit work and the farms that we intend to support,” she said.

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The French Broad: A Kitchen & Wine Bar is scheduled to open next week. For updates check out the restaurant’s Facebook page. Hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday; and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for Sunday brunch.