Farm to City: Uptown’s new restaurant Haymaker serves up local seasonal ingredients in a stunning urban setting

Uptown’s newest restaurant, Haymaker, is serving up local seasonal ingredients in a stunning urban setting.

When it comes to farm-to-table fare, Chef William Dissen is the real deal.

Haymaker’s owner and chef hails from the mountains of West Virginia, where he grew up spending time on his grandparents’ farm and in his grandmother’s garden-fed kitchen. He attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York and most recently was at the helm of his locally-focused Asheville restaurant, The Market Place. He’s been a featured chef at James Beard House, spoken before Congress about sustainable food, and hosted the prestigious Outstanding in the Field dinner series—six times.

And the 39-year-old chef is serious about bringing food straight from local farms to your plate. “A lot of people are doing it, but not a lot of people are really going all in,” says Dissen, who chose his new restaurant’s space in part because of its location inside a LEED Silver building facing Romare Bearden Park, at the corner of West Third and South Poplar streets. He’ll be opening up sidewalk seating this spring, and hopes to eventually have a teaching garden in the park. “We’re a farm-to-table restaurant,” he says. “It makes sense to be right on a beautiful green space in an urban environment.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the interior space is also spectacularly beautiful. Two-story wall-to-wall windows overlook the park and the sparkling skyscrapers beyond. Inside, the stylish décor is inspired by the outdoors with rustic wooden tables, earth-toned pottery dishes, green plants, and gold and navy accents. Servers wear crisp gingham shirts and jeans, and trendy Uptown diners settle into supple leather seats.

For Dissen, much of his menu creation is about paying respect to the people behind the ingredients. Even the name, Haymaker, is another word for farmer. When Dissen talks about a dish, it’s always with a reference to its origins. “We’re getting some beautiful heirloom carrots from Harmony Ridge farm,” he says of the restaurant’s roasted carrots, which are cooked sous vide in their own juice, then roasted in the brick oven before being served in a buttery orange glaze. “The menu changes based on what we can get in and what’s best that day or week,” Dissen says.

The dishes at Haymaker are beautifully plated. The roasted lamb shoulder for two, which arrives in a large red stoneware dish filled with the fragrant meat and vegetables, has an almost startlingly rich flavor. A vegetaria farro dish features the grains and colorful pickled vegetables over bright orange carrot hummus atop a blue pottery plate.
But Dissen is especially good at comfort food. Fist-sized heirloom cornmeal hushpuppies, served warm with a sweet tomato jam, have been a fast favorite on the menu. And the simple local ingredients speak for themselves on the lunch menu’s cheeseburger, which features local beef and melted smoked cheddar on a housemade potato bun.

The bun was created by the restaurant’s pastry chef, Ashley Anna Tuttle. Formerly a head baker for Amelie’s French Bakery, Tuttle really shines on the restaurant’s breakfast menu, where she crafts fresh muffins, croissants, and bagels for pairing with its lattes and fresh-squeezed orange juice. “We’re creating a coffee shop in the morning,” says Dissen. “We’re in the bottom of a 300-unit high rise. I like the idea of these folks stopping in for a latte to go.”

There’s not a bad time of day to visit Haymaker. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, as well as weekend brunch. But the best time to stop by may be cocktail hour as the sun sinks over the park and the space is awash in golden tones.

Snag one of the seats by the U-shaped bar and sip one of the craft cocktails like the icy Haymaker Punch made with rye whiskey and ginger shrub, or order a bottle of wine to share. General Manager Brad Grubb is an advanced sommelier and the curated wine list reflects his deep knowledge. But sip slowly—and perhaps order the house-cured charcuterie and artisanal cheese board to nibble on as well. Stay until the sun disappears and the city glitters against the night sky through the tall windows. Because from its creatively prepared fare to its rustic urban ambience, Haymaker is an experience you’ll want savor.

All photos by Rémy Thurston.