John and Julie StehlingNat Damm

John and Julie Stehling

Owners, Early Girl Eatery
Asheville, N.C.

In 2001, John and Julie Stehling, now 42 and 39, had a radical idea: Let’s start a restaurant that sources as much as possible from its foodshed, and let’s serve simple, diner-style fare at accessible prices. At that time, most local-minded restaurants were foodie temples, with the menu prices to prove it. (Think Chez Panisse.) Today, with the sustainable-food movement focusing more on broadening access and with the economy in the doldrums, restaurants that combine eco-consciousness with affordability are all the rage. At the the Stehlings pioneering Early Girl Eatery in Asheville, N.C., a huge proportion of the restaurant’s produce, meat, and condiments comes from local producers—even the fiery table-top hot sauce and salt. And the hearty breakfasts inspire Asheville residents to queue up down the block.