Asheville BBQ Star Elliott Moss Fries Up a Winner with Buxton Chicken Palace

A BBQ icon turns to the bird.

Buxton Chicken Palace
Buxton Chicken Palace | Photo by Tim Robison
Buxton Chicken Palace | Photo by Tim Robison

It took a pandemic for Asheville, North Carolina’s acclaimed chef and pitmaster Elliott Moss to finally open a chicken shack. And if you’ve had the pleasure of witnessing Moss’ monstrous fried chicken sandwich at Buxton Hall Barbecue—yes, fried bird at a smokeshow—this news is far from unexpected. Enter Buxton Chicken Palace, a fast food-inspired joint with a menu reflective of Moss’ sharply honed skills via an eight year stint at Chick-Fil-A, where he rose from a line cook to assistant manager. “I’ve been working on this concept mentally since 2005,” Moss says. “I have had a menu written in my head for a long time.”

The South Carolina native first crossed the northern border to open the Admiral, a West Asheville neighborhood spot marked by a seasonal menu. “My barbecue profession came about from the Admiral,” says Moss. But, truth be told, barbecue has been in his blood for generations. “My dad is a welder, his dad was a welder, so I grew up around barbecue cookers,” he adds. “As a kid, some of my earliest memories were cooking hogs with my family for Christmas and Thanksgiving—we did that for a long time until the family got too big.”

Meherwan Irani and Elliott Moss
Meherwan Irani and Elliott Moss | Photo by Tim Robison

Back when Moss entered the scene, 12 Bones ran the only barbecue game in Asheville. “Working at the Admiral, I’d hear tourists night after night asking, ‘Where should I eat BBQ?,’” recalls the chef. The unrelenting question prompted Moss to open Buxton Hall Barbecue in 2015 in conjunction with Meherwan Irani, owner of Chai Pani Restaurant Group, in an effort to offer Eastern-style barbecue to tourists and locals alike.

Fast forward a couple years, and while Moss was sweating it out to establish himself as a badass pitmaster, his fried chicken sandwich sneakily began to steal the show. The original recipe can be traced back to Moss’ time at the Admiral as well as the now-shuttered Bar & Lounge, but it wasn’t until Buxton Hall that the creation got its full due—and, even then, it came off the bench, slapped on the menu as a buffer when they ran out of barbecue. And, much like a late substitution slotting in the winning goal, it transformed into an overnight phenomenon.

“Once I started making the chicken sandwich here, I forgot how much of the information from Chick-fil-A was retained in my brain,” says Moss, nodding to his former employer. “Seven years ago, chicken sandwiches were getting popular and Chick-Fil-A was blowing up. I grew up eating cheeseburgers, but I think this generation is eating chicken sandwiches instead.”

Buxton Chicken Palace
Buxton Chicken Palace

Within one week of Buxton Hall’s opening, orders for chicken sandwiches were constantly crowding the counter. “Let’s open a chicken sandwich place,” he said to Irani, jokingly—but not really. A few more years and a global pandemic later, Buxton Chicken Palace is up and running inside S&W Market, Asheville’s new food hall housed in an eye-catching 1920s Art Deco building. 

“It’s the right time and the right place,” Moss says of the two take-away concepts joining forces. “It feels like the Wild West now—I just saw a Bojangle’s that’s drive-through only, no inside seating. I don’t know if big restaurants will be a thing in the future.”

At Buxton Chicken Palace, the classic fried chicken sandwich arrives in a slightly more compact form, allowing customers to house it solo for lunch (the OG version is enough for two… pending your appetite). Moss’ classic with cheese, a nod to Chick-Fil-A’s boundary-pushing gooey add-on, includes Moss’ sought-after pimento cheese—a recipe he’s been working on since the early 2000s. “The pimento cheese is one of the reasons our chicken sandwich is so popular,” he adds, not to mention the rich brine, 15-spice dredge ground fresh from Spicewalla, and locally sourced Joyce Farms chicken. “It’s chicken and mayonnaise and pickles and bread,” he says. If it ain’t broke, right?

Buxton Chicken Palace
Buxton Chicken Palace

Perfectly crisped nuggets, a hearty fried chicken salad, seasoned waffle fries, and a market salad round out the rest of the straightforward menu, giving hungry food hall-goers exactly what they’d expect—but, of course, with Moss’ personal touch. Elsewhere, homemade dipping sauces will give Polynesian Sauce and Chick-fil-A Sauce a run for their money, while the bourbon and Cheerwine slushy serves as the ideal cool-down libation. All that, and they’re proudly open on Sundays.

Moss kids that one of the chief reasons behind opening Buxton Chicken Palace was to get the chicken sandwich off his beloved smokeshack’s lineup once and for all—however, he doesn’t think that will ever be the case, given its supreme popularity at both operations. And as for all you barbecue fans out there, rest assured Moss isn’t giving up the pit—expect Buxton Hall to re-open for dine-in soon. 

Buxton Chicken Palace is currently open for counter-service Wednesday through Saturday from 11:30 am to 10 pm, Sundays from 11:30 am to 8 pm, and Mondays from 11:30 am to 10 pm. 

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Jenn Rice is a national food and travel writer who splits her time between the Southeast and the Mountain West. See what she’s up to @jennricewrites