The Hand That Holds the Ladle

Photo by Rimas Zailskas

Photo by Rimas Zailskas

It was 1976. The jangly sounds of Captain and Tennille topped the charts, and, for the first time, VHS tapes immortalized films like Rocky. AlyKat Deli opened its doors, making it a notable year in Hendersonville history, too.

On the cusp of celebrating its 40th anniversary, AlyKat Deli has been a mainstay in WNC ever since. And in a regional restaurant scene known as much for its whopping turnover as its national accolades, that’s saying something.

AlyKat’s current owner, Richard Kaltenbach, likes to call it the “friendliest restaurant in town” because of the regulars who keep coming back year after year. He acknowledges that the deli hasn’t changed too much since its early days, although his own role has: Kaltenbach started as a customer in the mid-’70s, then became an employee, and eventually bought the restaurant in 2011.

There have been some updates to the furniture and a few additions to the menu over the years, but the restaurant’s status as a neighborhood gathering place remains the same.

“Some of the employees have been here ten years,” Kaltenbach points out. “Most of our customers are local, but we get quite a few people in just because they’ve heard about us.”

AlyKat is known for its soups: lots of them. But whether it’s broccoli-potato or chicken-enchilada, soup is a comfort food that can’t be rushed. The restaurant offers an unheard-of 10 varieties each day.

Kaltenbach says that AlyKat is a holdover to a friendlier era. It has held up well, even as other restaurants shift from full service to order-at-the-counter convenience.

“It’s something that America is losing,” says Kaltenbach. “In a quick world, everyone wants to be in and out. [But] we can talk to our customers. That’s why I think people come back. There are people who like to sit down and have a conversation and eat.”

Visit AlyKat Deli at 635 Spartanburg Hwy, Hendersonville. 828-697-0311.

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