Woodfin – “I’m as thirsty as a white-face mule!” That was a saying that Sam Jones used to say to Anthony Randolph when out on the golf course in Yancey County. Anthony said Jones looked like he’d be more at home with famous WNC moonshiner “Popcorn” Sutton than out on a golf course. “He’s a great golfer,” said Randolph.
The saying arose when farmers used mules to do the farm work, and the mule would sweat so much that the salt would turn the mule’s face to a white crystal look. That’s where the name for Woodfin’s newest restaurant was born. “I told Sam 30 years ago that, ‘I’m going to use that one of these days.'”
Randolph has now fulfilled his promise with the Salt Face Mule Brewery and restaurant, and you can read about Sam Jones as you enter the establishment. The Salt Face Mule is near Weaverville’s southern border. Randolph, a Yancey County native, is partial to Weaverville as it is home to a couple of his other ventures (Twisted Laurel, The Prescription Pad of Weaverville).
As you go into the brewery and look up on the right, Randolph’s family pictures with mules are on display, along with those of his partners’ family pictures from yesteryear.
Randolph describes the food as Southern Appalachian comfort food with starters like Chicken Fried Cauliflower, Smoked Chicken Wings, and Heirloom Tomato and Burrata, which are a couple of the appetizers.
Under Handheld, you find a number of selections, including a Cucumber Sandwich, Fried Chicken Sandwich, Pork and Peaches, and a Meatloaf Sandwich. If you’d rather use a fork, try one of the plates and such items, which include, but are not limited to Cornmeal Dusted Catfish, Grilled Cabbage “Steak,” and Smoked Brisket Mac ‘N’ Cheese.
Of course, there are several sides to go with your meal, like BBQ Chips or Fries, Summer Cucumber Salad, Braised Collard Greens, Grilled Cornbread, Pinto Beans (and onions), and Pork Rinds.
While there will be staples on the menu, Randolph said the menu will be seasonal as much of the food is locally sourced. He also said that the menu was over a year in the making.
Asked if he had ever been in the brewing business before, Randolph admits no, but that’s where another partner comes in, Ray Dobens.
Dobens does know about brewing. Dobens started at Harpoon (Maine) and came to the area by way of Oskar Blues. “One of the beautiful things about Ray’s history is that he’s been in many high-production breweries where you have to have consistency,” says Randolph.
Asked what attracted him to Salt Face Mule, Dobens told the Tribune, “The partnership with people who think the way I do. From the word go when we started talking about the [brewing] floor…and what it was going to cost. Anthony and his team asked all the right questions.”
Randolph said their beer’s alcohol content runs between four and six percent and has unique names like Plott Hound Dry Irish Stout, Mosey on Over Pilsner, and Sit a Spell Tropical IPA. On their website (saltfacemule.com), Randolph told the Tribune that they have allowed people to suggest names, with over 200 names awaiting a beer.
Fun and benefit for the community needs
Let’s not forget the 36-hole mini golf course just outside the Salt Face Mule’s backdoor for the patrons’ fun, but the course can also be scheduled for fundraising events. Randolph said the mini golf course has new carpeting and a fresh coat of paint.
“Part of the uniqueness of the mini golf that I truly am excited about is the potential to fundraise,” explains Randolph. “A golf tournament is hard work. It takes a lot of time…I think we can do the same thing…for any good cause that has a following for their cause. I think we can raise the same money that a golf tournament raises in two hours instead of all day in a golf tournament. Not everyone plays golf. Almost everyone plays mini golf.” He says the calendar is already filling up with events.
Another partner is Chris Luce, Salt Face Mule’s general manager, who lives in the area, and his kids attended school in the area. Luce was also a partner in Yellow Mug and worked with Randolph at Twisted Laurel.
“I was talking to Anthony, who was doing the catering for my wedding…and I said, “You know what would be cool? Doing something with that property.'” Now, the rest is history.
Randolph says Phase 2 will be an over 21 event space where the old go-cart building is, and which will include a remote control car racing track. He hopes that will be in by next summer. Phase 3 is to turn the batting cage into a beer garden area where “you can get some elbow room.” In the meantime, Salt Face is open for business and even has a pick-up window for take-out orders.