Business Food Lifestyle

The Altruistic Spirit of West Asheville’s Historic Tastee Diner

Food pantry. Photo by Bellamy Crawford

By Bellamy Crawford

For more than a decade, Tastee Diner owner Steven Goff has served as the executive chef, head butcher or executive sous chef for several high-volume and/or fine dining restaurants across the Southeast. This extensive resumé has given him an impressive knowledge of culinary culture, history and technique, but it has also deepened his commitment to helping build a more compassionate, sustainable local community.

Tastee Diner chef and owner Steven Goff. Photo by Bellamy Crawford

Goff purchased the Tastee Diner in February of this year and reopened it under the same name with the intention of offering traditional diner menu items with an emphasis on lesser-known ingredients and preparation techniques. “Having been in Asheville for more than 75 years, the Tastee Diner has meant many things to many different people,” says Goff. “We wanted to build on what previous owners had done, but we also wanted to contribute something unique to the community while also making the restaurant accessible to as many people as possible.”

For Goff, accessibility means offering menu items that cater to classic diner loyalists and vegans at the same time, while also incorporating ethical decision-making in food sourcing, food waste practices and business culture.

“We are adamant about paying living wages and providing a sustainable environment for our staff,” he says. “And seeing the excessive amount of waste that happens in some restaurants has always really bothered me. It seemed like a slap in the face to all the hungry folks the world over.”

Perhaps most importantly, accessibility for Goff means implementing creative ways to make Tastee Diner’s food available to those who normally could not afford to eat there—or those who cannot afford food at all. “I spent quite a bit of time on the street as a young man, in and out of jail, dealing with substance use issues, among other things,” Goff says. “So, when I became a father, and really decided to get my life straight, I knew I wanted some aspect of my job to include social work, or in some way be helpful to my community, specifically those in most need,” says Goff.

Photo by Bellamy Crawford

An initiative Goff implemented at Tastee Diner to help make food available for people in Asheville experiencing food insecurity is his meal token program. “I sometimes work with Haywood Congregation downtown and really admire the work they do teaming up with local restaurants to provide a real sit-down meal for the homeless community,” says Goff. Taking further inspiration from a Canadian restaurant that had done something similar, Goff created a system that allows patrons to buy a wooden token that can be donated to someone in need. “That person can bring the token into the Tastee Diner to exchange it for food that can be a fully serviced, sit-down meal or take-out depending on what they want.”

Another goal of his wooden nickel program is to create frequent opportunities for people to have positive interactions with the homeless population in our community. “A lot of times in the hustle and bustle of life, people forget that folks on the street are people too, with wants, needs, personalities and families,” Goff says. “They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and not just be a part of a backdrop.”

Outside of Tastee Diner, on the edge of the patio, Goff placed a community sharing box the community can help stock with blankets, jackets, socks and canned goods. “There’s a large homeless population right here on Haywood Road, so with this box, I wanted to make sure they felt seen,” says Goff.

Tastee Diner (and its community sharing box) is located at 575 Haywood Road, in West Asheville. Learn more at


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