Poe-themed gastropub stays cozy but features stylish updates
What Edgar Allan Poe lost in reputation when he died, broke and raving from late-stage alcoholism, in the streets of Baltimore, is redeemed every time the writer’s iconic sunken face reappears in a funny meme — or every time an elementary schooler proudly recites Poe’s eternal literary calling card “The Raven.”
The world’s first confirmed Goth is also the namesake figurehead of countless bars and restaurants across the country: in Baltimore, of course; in Poe’s birth city of Boston; and in Sullivan’s Island, SC, where, under the name “Edgar A. Perry,” he served at Fort Moultrie, released his first book of poetry, and romanced a Charleston debutante who allegedly inspired his second-best-known poem, “Annabel Lee.”
There’s no solid geographical excuse for The Poe House, a long-time watering hole in downtown Hendersonville. But under new owners Megan and Richie Fortado, the bar, now a proper gastropub, boasts a booze list so inventive that old Poe, who would have turned 211 on January 19, is probably twitching approvingly in his grave.
“We’ve really focused on bringing some amazing beers in on tap and in bottles, ones that you don’t find elsewhere in Hendersonville,” says Megan, noting that Richie works days in the production facilities at Wicked Weed Brewing. The curated beer list includes selections from Ecliptic Brewing and Breakside Brewing (both out of Portland, Oregon); Maine Beer Company; Modern Times of San Diego; and Epic Brewing out of Salt Lake City. “We have a draft line dedicated to sour beer,” she adds. “Currently we have Victory Brewing’s ‘Sour Monkey.’” And the heady ambition doesn’t stop there: “We also want to evolve into a destination for wine lovers.” (As with any pub worth its Poe, the spirits list here is about five times as long as the food menu.)
Sequestered in two low rooms like an Irish pub or maybe a 1920s-era Speakeasy, the space — a chamber, really — emotes raffish opulence: It’s all dark paint and vintage glitter.
The back room enfolds a still-in-progress New Orleans-style bar. The drink special, on the night Bold Life visited in December, was spiked eggnog from Mills River Creamery, but Megan notes that “the standouts on the winter cocktail menu” are the Ilegal Smash, featuring Ilegal Mezcal (a uniquely spelled tequila with a fascinating backstory), fresh lime, and muddled blackberries; and the Maple Whiskey Sour with Bulleit Bourbon, egg white, fresh lemon juice, and barrel-aged maple syrup.
“We have a decent lineup of bourbon,” she says, “and are working to increase our selection as the bar gets its facelift.”
Food offerings under chef Heather Riesenberg are divided among small plates, big sandwiches, and pizza. The appetizers listed in the “Feeling Peckish” category — the best raven pun yet — include a rich but mildly spiced Lobster Bisque. (It would be nice to see even more cuisine from Poe’s New England roots.) The smoked-salmon plate was fresh and straightforward, with capers, onion, cream cheese, and toasted baguettes. There’s a trendy Pork Belly Banh Mi sandwich and a promising London Broil Roast Beef Sandwich that incorporates havarti and horseradish aioli.
Riesenberg’s flatbread pizzas are beautiful little outbursts of creativity, with the Veggie & Goat Cheese pie hitting all the right savory points. The other options are a Crispy Pancetta with fig jam and other delights, a Spinach Chicken Pesto option, and a simple cheese pizza.
Dessert is a choice between a decadent flourless chocolate torte and homemade New York-style cheesecake with various toppings. Overall, it’s nice to see such a tightly curated menu, with quality triumphing over quantity, but Poe probably wouldn’t mind seeing a couple more dessert options added as spring comes on.
You just know he had a sweet tooth — look at that cranky face.
The Poe House, 105 1st Ave. West, Hendersonville. Open Tuesday through Thursday, 5-11pm, and Friday and Saturday, 5-12pm. For more information, call 828-696-1838 or see “The Poe House” on Facebook.