Soft Serve

Photo by Brent Fleury

Photo by Brent Fleury

When owners Ben and Sue Green re-branded Main Street eatery The Living Room to reflect their own surname — retooling the interior and adding dinner and live music on the weekends — they sowed the seed for a lush range of possibilities in theme and atmosphere.

“The Green Room” suggests a variety of moods. There’s the show-biz definition: a private space where VIPs hunker down between stage appearances. It could also reference a trendy eco-mindedness (the couple reportedly use lots of fresh, local produce in their food). Or it could simply be a fun exercise in color, borne out in décor, art, and an abundance of leafy garnishes perched on green plates. Hint: Shamrock Fiestaware would be fabulous.

A bank of live plants sets the tone in the front window. It would be nice to see a change in flora reflecting the ongoing seasons, alongside the de rigueur coleus and cacti. Inside, lime-green tablecloths pick up the tone. A backlit alcove of curios and a life-sized abstract portrait show the Greens’ passion for art collecting.

Echoing its former incarnation, the restaurant is still serving living-room-like comfort food in a hail-fellows-well-met atmosphere. I was charmed by the inclusion of Trivial Pursuit cards in the sugar holders on each table. Such parlor tricks may encourage patrons to put down their phones for a change and engage with their fellow diners.

Simply put, WNC needs more cozy restaurants. All those shiny bistros, tricked out in reclaimed wood and hand-fired ceramic tile and high tin ceilings, are fun to revel in. But they’re not conducive to relaxation. A couple hours spent screaming at one’s companion, trying to overcome spacey acoustics, begs a retreat to the comforts of home — or at least the comforts of a homey restaurant.

The day I stopped by the Green Room for lunch, a lone server was working the full room. He cracked jokes worthy of an old-timey diner waitress, entertaining the crowd even as he weaved from table to table with laser focus, obviously packing years of experience.

But the fare is many cuts above diner food. The Memphian, for instance, is roast beef, provolone, and horseradish mayo on toasted French bread with au jus. Pretty standard — except for the noticeably high quality of the meat, which feels like someone in the kitchen really cares.

The Cuban is given the respect this culturally important sandwich deserves. All the crucial components are on board: pork tenderloin, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, pickles. A generous amount of chipotle mayo is an admittedly trendy detour, but more importantly, the meat is tender and generously dressed.

The restaurant’s Blue Burger, with homemade blue-cheese aioli, is a robust half-pounder. The Gourmet Grilled Cheese features Fontina, white cheddar and La Gruyère.

Rich, traditional soups (I savored a shrimp chowder with corn and potatoes) and happy salads (the strawberry-and-spinach offering is ideal for summer, especially with the zesty house vinaigrette) stay consistent to a vision of pleasant, satisfying, unpretentious food at reasonable prices. The best of the desserts, an apple-crumb confection thick with caramel, was just delightful.

The dinner menu offered Wednesday through Saturday has proved a popular addition. And, live music on weekends has already developed a following. (It surely helped that during these hours the restaurant hasn’t had to compete with weekday construction commotion — the “beautification” of Main Street that’s been a detested burden to downtown businesses.)

The bones here are in place and the transformation is well underway. The Green Room has begun its journey to claiming the best seat in the house.

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