On a Sunday afternoon jazz guitarist Leo Johnson is playing soft music that diners at Luella’s Bar-B-Que in Biltmore Park Town Square are enjoying.
Children who come in with their parents sometimes gather around Johnson and dance to the tunes, says Krissy Hinshaw, general manager of the restaurant.
“Everybody comes in on Sunday,” she adds.
Along with tempting styles of barbecue, ribs and accompanying side dishes, Luella’s has created a tradition of serving up music of different varieties.
In addition to the jazz brunch on Sundays when Johnson plays from 1 to 3 p.m., musicians perform at Luella’s on Friday nights from 8 to 10 p.m.
“We have a good time with it,” says Hinshaw.
The restaurant staff is also excited about the musicians, who mostly are from Asheville, she notes.
“We like to have live music,” says Jeff Miller, who owns and manages the restaurant with his wife, Ashley. “It’s fun and adds good energy.”
When selecting musicians to perform, Miller says he aims for a variety of genres—and for those who play mostly string instruments. While the music is soft enough for diners to have conversations and enjoy food, it is also up-tempo, he says.
Miller says that he been offering music for so long at his restaurants in Biltmore Park Town Square and North Asheville that he doesn’t have any trouble finding them.
Miller discovered Johnson while the guitarist was playing music in the parking lot of Greenlife Grocery on Merrimon Avenue.
“I said, ‘Wow, this guy has great energy,’” Miller recalls.
A true lover of barbecue and other foods, Miller has been in the restaurant business since 2009 when he originally opened Luella’s in Skyland. A couple of years later he relocated the restaurant to Merrimon Avenue in north Asheville. And in May 2016 he opened a second Luella’s in Biltmore Park Town Square.
“Basically, our whole goal is to offer delicious food in a comfortable environment,” Miller says.
Many of the recipes used to create foods in Luella’s kitchen are Miller’s originals, some of which he learned from his grandmother Lue, the namesake of the restaurant.
“It’s in her kitchen that we learned how truly great food is made,” he says.
A native of Iowa, Miller initially planned a career in forestry. However, while in college, he found himself spending most of his time reading cookbooks and trying recipes. After traveling for a while and working in restaurants, Miller settled in Asheville in 12 years ago.
While still working from original recipes that include homemade barbeque sauces, Miller says that in the years that he has owned restaurants he has also learned from kitchen managers who work him.
The main menu at Luella’s features chopped pork barbecue with a touch of vinegar sauce in the Eastern Carolina tradition, pulled free-range chicken in Pisgah sauce, chili-rubbed beef brisket, smoked turkey breast, Andouille sausage and a barbeque version of tempeh.
Diners also can select a full or half rack of ribs and a variety of side dishes including spicy vinegar slaw, mac ‘n hoop cheese, French fries, potato salad, fried okra, green salad, calico baked beans, Collard greens and hush puppies.
Banana pudding and chocolate peanut butter pie are on the dessert menu. Appetizers include smoked wings, sweet potato chips, Brunswick stew and a triple meat sample plate.
Beverage offerings are tea and soft drinks, including traditional Cheerwine and orange and grape NEHI. Beer, wine and cocktails also are available at the restaurant.
Along with restaurant offerings, Luella’s also has a catering service, providing foods for parties and events.
“We do that all the time,” Miller says of the catering side of the restaurant.
Luella’s Bar-B-Que, 33 Town Square Blvd., is open Sunday – Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For more information, visit the website at https://luellasbbq.com or call 828-676-3855.
By Sandra Barnes