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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Ferguson’s favorite food fare: Cornerstone

Cody Ferguson
A view outside Cornerstone looking up at their building.

Over my first weekend back at UNC Asheville I decided to stop by Cornerstone, a restaurant that has been serving Asheville for 25 years. They’re located on Tunnel Road just off the corner of an intersection, hence the name. 

“The restaurant is owned by one of three brothers. The other brothers own Juicy Lucy’s and Stone Ridge Tavern,” said 10 year employee and current manager Leia Davis.

Davis said they keep a steady flow of young students through the restaurant as well, often during their breaks from school or during their studies for a little extra money. Their turnover tends to be high for younger employees, but it is usually because of them leaving for college or otherwise moving from the city. 

“It’s really a family business, and people tend to be here for a long time because of it. Most of the managers have been here longer than I have, and nearly all of the kitchen staff is pushing 20 years.” said Davis.

Atmosphere: It’s a beautiful location with a starkly southern flare to the construction. Large panel windows line almost the entire restaurant, and every accent is covered in varnished wood paneling. Walking in you’re greeted by a decently large seating area, with enough space to accommodate small parties. When it’s really busy there, you can expect the restaurant to be loud as their seating is fully utilizing the space given. It’s never bothered me in the two trips I’ve had, even with a small birthday party going on during my second visit to the restaurant. They have two sections of outside patio seating with one uncovered and one covered. I find this offers a good seating option for anyone wanting to look out to Tunnel Road or just enjoy Asheville’s weather. 

Service: During my two visits I went during breakfast and dinner. Breakfast led me to being sat outside while dinner had me directly in front of the kitchen window. In both cases I was seated promptly by the hostess, given a menu and almost immediately asked what I would be drinking. I appreciated the flow of the experience. It took me longer to decide what I wanted during breakfast as the menu was vast and included a brunch experience I was surprised to see, given I had showed up to the location around 9 a.m. Nevertheless, my waitress was around often enough that I never felt like I was waiting for service. The staff were suggestive with the menu while not feeling overbearing. It’s easy to say the service is pretty impeccable and very accommodating for anyone.

Pictured are the Cajun shrimp and grits. (Cody Ferguson)

Presentation: Cornerstone has upscale presentation with southern portion sizes, all the while coming in right around the average price for entrees in most of Asheville’s independent restaurants. For just around $15 a person you can have enough food for a meal in the restaurant and a take-away meal at home. The menu is vast for breakfast and lunch, but narrows down for dinner service. You can expect all of your southern favorites, and plenty of Americanized staple dishes from all around the world. All the plates were simple and exactly what I would expect.  White ceramic bowls and plates of various shapes and sizes were all I saw being used during my visits. Every dish was plated in an elegant way and had a consistent look.

Taste: What everyone wants to know. Presentation and atmosphere can lure a person in, but the only thing keeping a restaurant open is taste. I can’t speak for the 24 years Cornerstone has been open prior to my visits, but everything I’ve had has been delicious. During brunch I decided on the classic eggs benedict. I was greeted by a soft and toasted scone, two perfectly poached eggs, two slices of country ham and a wonderful hollandaise drizzled on top. Every element of that dish had good seasoning and flavor, and I believe the scone was toasted in butter or oil to give it a very specific ‘fried’ crisp. The largest surprise I came upon was the orange juice. Every menu will speak of “fresh squeezed orange juice” but I’ve never had a menu deliver anything that wasn’t just Tropicana in a rocks glass. Cornerstone takes the time to freshly squeeze oranges every single day just like you did it yourself at the table. It’s a simple thing, but for me it made the restaurant stand out as something that takes pride in everything they do. For my dinner visit, I had the shrimp and grits bowl while my partner had their chicken parmesan. Both came out steaming hot and plated beautifully. The shrimp were just a touch overdone, but not so much I wanted to send it back. Everything was seasoned perfectly and the cheesy grits had a very savory heat to them. The chicken was cooked perfectly, tender and juicy.

Pictured is the chicken parmesan over fettuccine alfredo. (Cody Ferguson)

Overall Impression: Cornerstone is going to be somewhere you can go every week and not feel like you won’t have the money for rent. It’s convenient to get to from anywhere in Asheville and you can’t beat the portion sizes for the price. I’d bring anyone there, parents, partners, friends and even a first date. The experience won’t blow anyone’s mind but it will be good, maybe even great. I would easily recommend this to anyone in the Asheville area, at any time of their service. Be sure to buy the orange juice because you’re not getting it fresh squeezed like that anywhere else.  Cornerstone is celebrating 25 years this year, and it seems like they’ll have 25 more ahead of them barring a tornado taking out Tunnel Road. I’ll give Cornerstone a firm Ferguson approval.

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