Since moving to Sylva just three and a half years ago, Don and Cecelia Panicko have opened a cafe and sweatshop, had a child, and got married, all while resisting a global pandemic and diseases. persistent economic fallout in the restaurant industry. at national scale.
And yet, more recently, they’ve launched their latest business – Jame, a dining experience showcasing the essence of Mediterranean cuisine, which also includes a specialty market to boot.
âThe timing is interesting, for sure. Having a child alongside the pandemic and opening a restaurant – it’s been a struggle at times, but we’re here to stay, âDon said, leaning back in a chair at Jame with a humiliated smile. âAnd there are a lot of things we aspire to do to complement the community. We want to keep doing different things and give people other options that are not here. ”
As a preface, the Panickos also run the White Moon cafe on Mill Street (with the Dark Moon underground bar at the back of the cafe). Located near the corner of West Main and Walnut Street in the city center, Jame (an old Arabic name meaning ‘picker’) opened last month and has already become a foodie hit with locals and tourists alike.
In terms of the menu, the Mediterranean style of the ingredients and presentation focuses mainly on herbs and vegetables (which turns into several vegetarian and gluten-free offerings). There are protein options, such as shrimp and chicken (lamb will be available soon).
Don and Cecelia Panicko with their son, Dante.
âWith the menu that we have, the products and the meat aim to give your body a feeling of vitality and not to be exhausted like you can feel when consuming processed foods,â Don said.
So besides the fresh factor, the salty ingredients and the nutritional value, what really sets it apart from Mediterranean cuisine?
âWith Mediterranean cuisine, it’s all about dishes meant to be shared, to try a bit of everything with everyone at your table – it’s like a choose-your-own adventure book,â Don said. . “Each dish is this journey of flavors, these refreshing and warming sensations in one bite, where it’s cucumbers with chili peppers or grilled seeds with green vegetables.”
Right next to Jame is âThe Market at Jame,â a take out place where you can buy pre-made items and other ingredients found on the menu.
âWe’re constantly working on what we want to sell at the market to the people who work here downtown or to passing visitors,â Don said. âWe see what’s selling there and make sure we can deliver what our customers are looking for, whether it’s a fresh sandwich for lunch or something to take home to cook for dinner. “
Jacques’ interior. (photo: Nick Breedlove)
Sitting in Jame, we soak up the cozy and intimate atmosphere of the establishment. It’s meant to be welcoming and welcoming, but also one-on-one with that sort of “stumbled upon this place by a happy accident” chance that the Panickos are aiming for with the word-of-mouth approach. Heck, if you didn’t notice the little neon “Jame” in the window, you could still go on your way, no wiser.
âWe love when people walk around and stop to look out the window. Their curiosity is aroused and they come to see who we are, âsaid Don. “There is this really great energy of discovery and new experiences through food here that a lot of people may not have had before.”
With Jame now up and running, one can’t help but be impressed with the growing food scene in the small mountain community. For a town of just under 3,000, the quality and number of fine dining options in Sylva are astonishing – something that was noted and recently addressed by this newspaper with the opening of Ilda. (fine Italian / Appalachian cuisine) a few blocks from the main drag. by Jacques.
âThere are a lot of progressive people in Sylva right now looking to do great things, and it all feels genuine,â Don said. âPeople aren’t just opening new restaurants, they’re doing a good job of not oversaturating the food scene with the same themes and menu items. Everyone is doing something different – it’s an exciting time in this city right now.