New restaurant hopes to pass Asheboro taste test

ASHEBORO – Jasmine Mohamed had a plan for a restaurant in Asheboro, but she tested it somewhere else first.

Now she’s up and running with Gather on MLK, an establishment that specializes in sushi and soul food.

“Sushi is the reason we’re here,” Mohamed said. “But we want to pay homage to where we are.”

The test run was in Denton, and it went so well that Mohamed went ahead and opened restaurants in Salisbury and Asheboro. The Denton restaurant was called Peacock Café.

“About 75 percent of our customers were from Asheboro and they begged us to come to Asheboro,” she said. “If we can make it in Denton, we’ll be OK in Salisbury and Asheboro.”

The Salisbury location – called Umani Downtown – is not a full-service restaurant as take-out tends to be the norm. That opened Nov. 1, though there was a three-week COVID-related pause.

Gather on MLK should provide a full dining experience, Mohamed said.

Six of Mohamed’s seven children have grown up, so this was the right time to venture deeper into the restaurant endeavors. Shawna Farmer is her business partner.

Mohamed, who’s from California, said she bought the buildings at both the Salisbury and Asheboro sites. The Asheboro location is at 746 Martin Luther King Jr. Road.

It’s the former Soul Food Country Kitchen location, with seating for 40 inside and, weather permitting, for 20 outdoor diners.

Mohamed said her top dishes involve sushi, which was somewhat of a surprise.

“We kind of fell into the sushi by accident,” she said. “We tried it and it went crazy.”

Because of the first of two wintry storms in January to strike Randolph County, it was a slow opening. The original first night resulted in just three customers, something Mohamed said was likely related to the weather.

So she considers Jan. 20 to be the first night.

“We were slammed,” Mohamed said. “We ran out of rice three times.”

Now knowing what to expect, she said smoother nights should be in the works.

Mohamed said meals are priced for less than $20.

So far, there are only dinner hours Thursday through Saturday and brunch Sundays until staffing issues are solved. Gather on MLK held an open house to hire staff and only one person showed up. Mohamed said the goal is to eventually offer lunch hours as well.

“We have to adjust and go with what we can,” she said.

By Bob Sutton