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Arabella Breakfast & Brunch to open on Main Street

Mike Santacrose plans to open Arabella Breakfast & Brunch in January. Mike Santacrose plans to open Arabella Breakfast & Brunch in January.

From serving up classic French dishes at high-end resorts to making sure orders fly out the door at Cookout drive-thrus, Mike Santacrose knows the restaurant business.

Classically trained in French, Greek and southern Indian cooking, he ran kitchens of high-end restaurants, country clubs and resorts before he started working as a Cookout manager. As a regional director of operations, he was responsible for more than 30 Cookouts in five states, opening new ones and fixing broken ones. Although the money was good, the travel was exhausting and incompatible with family life. He and his wife, Kimberly, have two children, Arabella, 3, and Dominic, 7.
Santacrose plans to open Arabella Breakfast & Brunch next month at 536 N. Main St., which was last occupied by the Cask & Wine bistro. His diverse food industry background, cooking up high-end dishes and mastering business practices that demand efficiency and quality control, “put us in a really good position to be able to do this,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have experience in all aspects of this business.”
He perceives the restaurant as community-oriented. "We want families and churches and we want to be the place people gather and build memories," he said.
The space in the 500 block across from Mast General has been home to several restaurants and coffee shops but has never had a commercial kitchen exhaust hood, which Santacrose said limited the dishes the kitchen could produce.
He is avoiding more traditional lunch and supper fare because he thinks they're well-covered downtown.
“I love Three Chopt and Moe’s,” he said. As for a breakfast-brunch specialist, “There’s nothing like that” on Main Street. “I’m fortunate to have have the opportunity that I have to do this right.” He likes the renovation that Cask & Wine owner Steve Bevins did to fix up the bar, add a pressed-tin ceiling and other improvements. “All I did was paint it,” he said.
Having worked in restaurants a long time, he’s sensitive to the long hours and low pay.
“If we can come up with a concept that works for families, we’d like to give them the income and give them the time at home,” he said. “We were so used to working 80-90 hours a week” in restaurant management across a wide region.
On Saturday and Sunday, diners can enjoy a brunch buffet or order from the full menu. He plans to rotate four local craft beers plus Dos Equis and Modelo and will also serve wine and a variety of brunch cocktails including mimosas, bloody Marys and screwdrivers.
“I’m going to try to get my breads and stuff locally,” he said. He's working with Bean Werks of Asheville on the coffee menu. “They’re going to help us develop our espresso drinks," he said. Arabella will also serve “all different kinds of juices” and will offer an “out the door menu” of quick breakfasts in less than 5 minutes.
Hours at Arabella will be 7 a.m.-3 p.m. every day but Tuesday. Santacrose never considered closing on Sunday because it seems like everyone else closes that day.
“The places I want to go and take my children, Chick-Fil-A, Hot Dog World, were always closed,” he said.
He also plans to launch business-to-business, business-to-government and business-to-consumer marketing. He might add catering but only when he's convinced that the restaurant is working exactly as he envisions.
"We want to make sure we don’t over-extend ourselves,” he said. “We want to do a few things perfect.”
He expects to start hiring a wait staff in January. People can look for an update on hiring when he goes live with a website and social media.
Santacrose knows exactly the exactly the feel he's striving for at Arabella.
“When you go to your grandparents’ for Christmas," he said, "you’ve got to go to that place for breakfast.”