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LIBATION NATION: Claywood ups the ante

Swingin' for the fences: Carly and Scott Buntin opened Claywood on Seventh Avenue East. Swingin' for the fences: Carly and Scott Buntin opened Claywood on Seventh Avenue East.

If you’re among those who think we’ve reached the bubble when it comes to microbreweries, or that a high-end wine bar and charcuterie-board specialist on Seventh Avenue might be too upscale for little ol’ Hendersonville, well, you’re not paying attention.

Booda’s, a new taproom on Barnwell Street, attracted a standing-room-only crowd to its soft opening on Monday night.

And Claywood, in the Historic Seventh Avenue District, has been drawing crowds to its spacious digs in a building originally constructed as a farmers co-op. The diners are raving about the “Cheers”-like atmosphere, friendly service and colorful grazing boards.

One more microbrewery pouring locally made beers might not say too much other than we can’t seem to get too much of a good thing. Claywood, on the other hand, seems to have nudged Hendersonville a few rungs up the ladder when it comes to creativity, taste, atmosphere and service. It’s safe to say there’s nothing quite like it in the city and if the early reception is a measure, it satiates an appetite we didn’t know we had.
Carly Buntin, the owner and founder, explained how she and her husband, Scott, came up with the idea.
“We are just like everyone else — we like to brunch on Sundays and go on a date night every once in a while,” she said in an email interview. “We struggled with options here and also didn’t want to drive to Greenville or Asheville as one of us wouldn’t drink and we wanted to enjoy a glass or two together. The other aspect that we did research is the attraction to Hendersonville and how well the community comes together for various holidays and events. This town is growing in a positive direction and has an influx of tourism which is supporting jobs and this community.”
The couple named the bar after the early practice of aging wine underground in clay vessels and from the art of charring wooden barrels for aging whisky. And Carly points out that the 113-year-old building they’re in echoes the theme.
“We like the story behind the building and how it was restored to look and feel like the farmers co-op it originally was back in 1910,” she said. “It also mirrored the Clay and Wood aesthetic with the wood beams and restored brick.”
Carly grew up in the Midwest and put herself through college in Chicago before a marketing job with North Face took her to San Francisco, where she met Scott. They have a 6-year-old daughter, Sophia, and 4-year-old son, Logan — the main reasons they moved to Asheville.
“We wanted to find a town where we could see raising our toddlers and getting into the community and adding value in a new business venture,” she said. “We had plans for a wine bar, but didn’t really know when we would start something like Claywood.”

‘You feel part of something’

The atmosphere is casual and it’s plain to see that the management values service very highly. When he’s not assembling the creative and visually stunning grazing plates in the open kitchen, executive chef Ron Henry is strolling about, checking in with diners — almost always getting a happy thumbs-up review.
Small plates include whipped goat cheese with honey, a brie wheel with cranberry and pistachio, antipasto skewers, lamp pops, crab cakes, baked oysters and prosciutto and burrata with apple flatbread. Grazing boards ($20 to $56) include fish (smoked trout, mussels with smoked salmon coleslaw, mahi dip, poached shrimp), hunter (fresh duck breast, lamp sausage, wild boar sausage, cheese and muffins), antipasto cheese, Spanish tapas, winter cheese and Carpaccio beef. Desserts include pistachio cheesecake, crème brulee cheesecake, tiramisu and chocolate salami. There’s also house specialty cocktails and three pages of American whiskey ranging from $8 to $47 a glass, plus a page of Irish, Scotch, Canadian and Japanese whiskey, red and white wine and beer — by the can plus rotating taps.
Here’s more of our email interview with Carly:

From the looks of things, it’s going really well. Is it better than expected?

“We have had such a positive and inclusive response to so many and it has created something special. This restaurant has been coined as ‘Cheers’ by so many. Oftentimes we see different groups of people join up together at a couch and find out they are neighbors and set future plans together. The communal seating also shocked us with how much this community loves sitting next to someone they haven’t met before. … We have provided a space where we feel connected in a day an age where our world seems so divided. You feel a part of something.”

What research/marketing went into the idea for a charcuterie board and high-end whiskey and wine bar?

“Understanding the brewery/distillery saturation, we wanted to hone in on our specific interests. We honestly kept our heads down through this process and truly looked to each other for how we like to enjoy food, how we like to feel comfortable and how we like to be treated when we are out dining.”
I never thought I’d say this about Seventh Avenue, but is parking a concern?
“Parking currently isn’t a concern as we have a private/free parking lot in the back of Claywood with plenty of street parking as well. Currently this is working well for us. As Seventh Avenue continues the gentrification process we will look to grow designated parking for our guests.”

How did you and your team come up with the menu?

“My mom (a co-investor) and I knew we wanted a chef with an imagination — someone that could understand our kitchen machines and process to limit grease and smells in the dining room as this is an open kitchen concept. You can watch the team at work creating compelling presentations with carved meats, cheese and dips. My family and I have been creating beautiful grazing boards for years as our own way of providing a mix of different ingredients while entertaining at home or for work events. … Ron Henry has years of experience bringing color, texture and smell to life in his kitchen and we knew he would see our vision instantly and create compelling and fulfilling boards and small plates for our menu.”

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Claywood, 317 Seventh Ave. East, is open 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 3-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. The wine bar caters offsite for lunch and can set up grazing tables at private events in homes. Book “The Social” by visiting or emailing Reservations can be made on the website or OpenTable. The wine bar debuts its Sunday brunch buffet this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Phone: 828-471-7500.