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Brooks Tavern is packed and getting rave reviews

Brooks Tavern opened Monday on Third Avenue West in downtown Hendersonville. Brooks Tavern opened Monday on Third Avenue West in downtown Hendersonville.

When he wasn't sweating in the kitchen to shore up the short-staffed cook staff, Mark Lowe was greeting customers and reveling in the apparent instant success of his new venture, Brooks Tavern.

In the historic building on Third Avenue West, the tavern adds one more new feature to the increasingly diverse offerings of downtown Hendersonville revolving around food and drink. The place has been packed since it opened on Monday and the reviews from patrons have been stellar.

"Great atmosphere," one patron said on the tavern's Facebook page. "I loved the layout and music. Good selection of beer on tap. The food was great. We had the candied bacon and sliders. I highly recommend getting the bean soup as a side. It's only 25 cents! The owner was super nice and greeted us as we left. We will be back."

The tavern is indeed cozy — we can see it getting very crowded on a cold winter's night — with 40 seats total, including comfortable chairs with backs at the bar.

Lowe decided to start the food and drink business when his wife asked him, "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" The answer, to the good fortune of Hendersonville diners, is Brooks Tavern, named for the nearly 100-year-old brick building. Lowe wanted to create the era of the building's first years, the 1920s, and he's done it in a way that has people raving.

Appetizers include a "Pint of Candied Bacon," ($6.95), crab-stuffed mushrooms ($7.95), eight boneless wings ($6.95), Tavern Whiskey Fondue (cheese dip with bacon crumbles, smoked brie blended with Jameson Irish whiskey served with soft pretzels, $6.95) and jalapeno poppers. Bonus: Bean soup is $2.95 but just 25 cents with a meal. You read that right. A quarter.

Sides served all day are French fries, cole slaw, potato salad, tossed salad and baked mac and cheese. At night there's also a vegetable of the day, mashed potatoes, baked potato and wild rice.

The burger menu includes three house specials — mushroom and swiss, the Brooks Blue Burger with Clemson blue cheese (Google it) and the Tipsy Tavern, with carmelized onions, bourbon barbecue cause and smoked gouda — plus a build-your-own option

The sandwich board includes burger sliders, The Elvis (grilled thick-cut white bread with peanut butter, bananas and bacon — we are not making this up — for $8.95), a Monte Cristo, Turkey, Apple & Brie, Extreme Grilled Cheese and a Super Dog ($6.95). Entrees include a 12-ounce ribeye for $22.95, iron skillet rainbow trout ($19.95), chargrilled chicken breast ($9.95) and Southern fried chicken breast ($9.95).

Lowe has dreamed up 11 specialty cocktails, most $9 each, and the bar has 10 taps ($4.50 for a tall 20-ounce pour) plus 28 bottles and cans. The somewhat limited wine selection includes four whites and seven reds, $7 to $9. House wine is $6 a glass, except on Wednesday, when it's $3. Other weekly specials are $3 drafts on Monday, $3 well drinks on Tuesday and $4.50 appetizers on Thursday. It's open for Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Lowe, a retired hotel manager, salutes his former business workers with the hospitality workers specialon Sunday nights.

"From 8 o'clock to close we'll have specials just for them," he said. "People that work in the hospitality business work their tails off and I just wanted to give something back. Anybody that's classified as a hospitality worker" can get a special card and enjoy the treats.

Another patron raved about the tavern on Facebook, noting that it's across the street from Black Star Line Brewing Co., which made the news in the past two weeks for being the target of racist and anti-LGBT threats.

"There's literally nothing wrong with this place," the patron said. "Service is gold. Servers are friends. Menu and selection is intentional and isn't over priced. Live music with a kind atmosphere. It has a traditional nowness that seems so intentional that I can't imagine it fading with time. ... It's located next to Black Star Line Brewery which stands in such profound solidarity in the face of bigotry and social injustice. I think I'd have to have a couple pages to accurarely describe how okay I am with what's happened on 3rd avenue in Hendersonville."

Brooks Tavern, at 142 Third Ave. W., is open seven days a week.