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2 Guys Pizza & Ribs spices downtown cuisine, decor

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By Pete Zamplas –

This year marks a resurgence for bubbly 2 Guys Pizza & Ribs, in its new location on the edge of Downtown Hendersonville.

The non-smoking restaurant featuring scrumptious gourmet “creative and artistic” pizza (with fresh ingredients and hand-made dough) and tasty ribs, calzones and wings moved a year ago from 746 Sixth Avenue West, to Church and Barnwell streets. That is across Barnwell from Wells Fargo Bank. Samovar Cafe was there.

John and Melody Crawford own the restaurant, which takes up most of the leased mall building that includes Lux Salon and Sterling Edwards’ art studio. The Crawfords ran Cat Daddy’s on Main, among four prior restaurants. They bought 2 Guys Pizza in 2008, four years ago and two years after it opened. They kept the name and Sixth Avenue location, but sought more restaurant and parking space. They found it, in their new site.

So in early December of 2011, they moved. Business has been up substantially so far in 2012, compared to year-to-date of last year, according to John Crawford who is the business manager.

The Crawfords are back into space they renovated into an establishment named Church and Barnwell after the corner it sits at. Before that, it was the small Scats jazz club. This is now the lounge, part of 2 Guys. The Crawfords expanded the lounge area, adding what was kitchen space.

Dimmer lighting enhanced ambience, for a comfortable “Cheers” (TV show) atmosphere, Melody said. They modernized the full-service bar, installing a long counter around it that seats more than 25 people. John does much of renovation work himself. He said it feels “awesome” to be back Downtown, in a familiar site.

The overall zoned capacity for 2 Guys now is 250. Patio seating is in the mall hallway, between the lounge and kitchen. Next to the kitchen, the “get-together” private room seats 30. A game room for youth has 14 games, such as air hockey.

Melody’s vibrant folk art paintings stand out in the decor, a mix of art and pop art. Full-size cardboard cut-outs of actors Marilyn Monroe and James Dean are behind the bar. Customer-donated artifacts on walls include an original Woodstock ticket, on a framed festival poster. Images of The Beatles loom.

Classic rock, blues and R&B (with Elvis on Saturdays) hums on satellite radio, and may be played more by live acts as the economy revives, Melody said.

Bob and Kathy Davy of Fletcher, among others, like the atmosphere, service and food. On Thursday, they stopped by before seeing a Flat Rock Playhouse play. “The pizza is so good, with its crust and toppings,” said Bob Davy, the Fletcher councilman. “The best part is Melody and John, and others working here. We fell in love with them. Mel talks to all of the customers. That’s very unusual, these days.”

Melody “Mel” Crawford, 45, has been in restaurant management for 21 years. She worked at Expressions for Tom Young, the late great chef. “It picked me,” she said of her career. “I love the people that come in here.” She said of clientele, “it’s all about locals. Take care of your customers, and make them feel at home.”

She was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada but grew up in Matthews just beyond Charlotte. Mel is outgoing and “very positive,” noted bartender Carolyn Brogden. Supervisors are Mel at night, Debbie Katzenberger in days. John Crawford is the behind-the-scenes catalyst, and Melody’s husband for 21 years. She said, “we’re partners, in business and life.”

Their children also work at 2 Guys. Ryan, 25, is kitchen manager. Son Christian, 18, is a waiter. Daughter Lacy, 15, hostesses at times. And the boys’ best friends, Tyler Spurling and Chris Koepf, both work in 2 Guys’ extended family.

Mel said treating staff as “equals” and individuals, by not requiring uniforms, boosts morale and work ethic. “They do such a good job.” Efficiency is a key. “We can get your pizza in 15 minutes.” That is crucial for regulars who dine between work and seeing a play, such as in FRP’s Playhouse Downtown. She said 2 Guys is in the city’s “theater district.”

Thursdays offers custom-ordering of burger toppings, while “build your own” is always available for pizza. Sausage is ground locally, at M&M Freezer.

A pizza buffet is 11-2, Monday-Saturday. Best-selling 2 Guys pizzas are traditional Italian with a half-dozen meats, classic pepperoni and (among her favorites) cheese and country BBQ with grilled chicken and bacon. Primavera Pizza has yellow squash, zucchini, broccoli, carrots and marinara sauce. Shrimp Scampi Alfredo, Maui Wowee (baked ham, pineapple), Pesto and Broccoli and Goat Cheese are among other specialty pizzas. Mel said tasting pizza “warms the soul.”

Dessert includes homemade cheesecake and coffee liqueur-soaked Tiramisu cake.

For more information on 2 Guys Pizza & Ribs, call 693-6755 or check www.2guyspizza.net.

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