By Taylor Boyd
The newest restaurant to open in Patrick County represents the culmination of a seven-year dream for four friends.
Pickle & Ash, a restaurant, market, bar, and community gathering place in Patrick Springs, was created to fill a hole that friends Chelsea Raby, Mitch Sheppard, Anna Lester, and Chris Lester felt was needed in the area.
Raby said Sheppard came up with idea of “Pickle & Ash” about seven years ago during a discussion of the restaurant the group would like to have someday.
“We’re very much into preservation of food, pickling, fermentation, and things like that, and Mitch also likes to cook with fire. There’s so many ways that you can cook with fire, so he was just like ‘it would be cool if we just called it Pickle & Ash,’ and it just developed as a concept,” she said.
The name also lends itself to the basis of the menu as many things are pickled, preserved, fermented, smoked, grilled, and barbecued, Raby said.
But it also showcases products that are made, grown, and raised locally, Raby said.
“There is obviously an outlet for sales at the Farmers’ Market. There are so many people producing food right now, and we felt like it was something that should be utilized in a restaurant format. So, fresh, from scratch, seasonal menus are what we focus on,” she said.
Because of that, Raby said the restaurant will offer a seasonal menu that could change more often.
“For instance, we opened in the end of March/beginning of April, so it was still kind of the tail end of winter, and we weren’t quite getting spring produce yet. We’re getting ready to make changes now because of what we’re getting” in terms of fresh produce, she said.
“As often as things come in, we’ll add and take away things on the menu just to be able to showcase things at their quality,” she said.
“We’re featuring as much as we can local, and when people realize that it just comes from down the road, it’s another connection they make with that. Mentally it tastes better” when you know it comes from local growers, Sheppard said.
The group also wanted to provide a gathering place to the community, a space where people would be able to come and hang out, be outside, and dine outside.
The plan for outside space includes a layout for six firepits and a food truck.
“The food truck will take care of guests in the yard if they just want to sit around the firepit, and they can enjoy food that’s made here, but that would be served off the truck,” Sheppard said.
Anna Lester said the group plans to develop this project hopefully by the end of May or early June.
Raby said items made in-house, like soups, salads, sandwiches, and dinners to go, will be available for purchase in the coolers. Fresh pastries will be sold in the pop-up bakery.
The market is slowly being built, she said, adding that it will include products made by local people, including some of the kids from the Youth Market.
“Pickle & Ash has a lot of moving parts. It really does. If you are here, you can walk around and see like between the outdoor cooking area, the patio, the yard with the games, the firepit, and the truck, and the inside, the market, and the bar, there’s a lot of moving gears. So, I think we’re going at the pace that we need to right now,” Sheppard said.
Although the concept has been challenging, Raby said “we’re committed to it and we’re excited about it. It just takes time to get it all completed and off the ground. We all just decided to take it in stages.” she said.
To help keep all the facets manageable, Raby said the restaurant will continue its reservation system.
“We want to be able to provide the best service and the best atmosphere that we can. So, rather than just letting people come in and wait outside for 45 minutes, or an hour, or however how long, we’d rather just to be able to have them come right in, sit down, and have a meal do it that way,” she said.
Anna Lester said this system is also twofold, because the group agrees it wants the consumer to have a pleasant experience while taking care of employees.
“We are a smaller team, and we don’t want to overwhelm some of these folks who have just started in this industry,” she said, adding it’s important to take care of both sides.
This is to help prevent industry burn-out, Raby said.
“We’re trying to create a good balance for them as well. We close each day from 3 to 4:30 p.m., and we try to sit down and have a meal together. Everyone takes a little bit of a break as some people are there for 12 hours a day. They are able to relax and communicate any issues regarding service,” she said.
Managers also maintain a constant lookout for opportunities to make more connections with local farmers, Sheppard said.
“For us to really showcase and do what we want to do and educate on utilization of products and what’s growing around here, we just need people to come forth” for a partnership. “You need to give us vegetables and we need to turn around and put them back on a plate,” he said.
In addition to supporting the local agriculture, Anna Lester said the restaurant also finds it important to support the artists in the county. She said the group is working with Bull Mountain Arts and artists to fill the restaurant with photography, paintings, and painted panels.
“We’re going to change those out as we want to keep it fresh. Change things out, and feature new photographers and artists, you know, just constantly. So, every few months, things” will be changed “and feature another talent in the area to celebrate the local creatives in our area. That is really an important part of what we’re doing here,” she said.
Chris Lester added the group will donate the replaced painted panels to Bull Mountain Arts so the organization can raise funds for its projects.
The restaurant is currently accepting walk-ins for lunch and reservations for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Reservations can also be made for Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The hours of operation are subject to change.
For more information, visit www.pickleandash.com, Facebook.com/Pickle&Ash, or call (276) 694-4405.