The Night Time Stoobies are here at last! If you haven’t read about The Morning and Noontime Stoobies you can do that HERE, and HERE, and if you STILL don’t know what the Stoobie Awards are, here’s the basic scoop: I give out some “Best of Asheville” accolades to food and beverage venues every year, and because my name is “Stu,” I call them the “Stoobies.”
Why not the “Stubies?” Well, as I once explained to Jason Sandford (AKA Ashvegas), the word “Stuby” is jehhhst a little too close to the word “stubby” for me. Keep in mind that I am only two feet tall, and about a foot and a half wide, so, yeah…
Here’s the nighttime Stoobies.
• Best Late Night Bite – Y’know what I mean by “late night bite”, right? Like, when you’re out at night, after the dinner hour, mostly having cocktails and social interactions, but you want some food — jus’ a li’l sumthin’ — to soak-up the booze? Or in my case, when you’re out with your friends who are having cocktails and social interactions, but you don’t drink, and you’re half-deaf so you can’t hear jack-shit, and you’ve already had a 15 cups of coffee that day, so your very last pleasure in life is food… thank fucking god the late night food is fucking good at the following places…
- Sovereign Remedies – Anyone who follows me on FaceBook or Instagram knows that I ferkin’ lerv Sov Rems. Dawn has awesome cocktails there, they have the best water in town, and the bites are always super ferkin’ yermmy!
- The Imperial Life -Located discreetly above Table on College Street right downtown, The Imperial Life is one of Asheville’s coolest spots, in my opinion. If Asheville was the cast of Happy Days, The Imperial Life would be The Fonz. No? Nobody remembers The Fonz? “Heyyyy?” Really? He was the epitome of… Never mind. I’m old.
- The Nightbell – The atmosphere at The Nightbell is the best in town, and the food is made by Chef Katie Button so… y’know.. it’s pretty good. That’s sarcasm. Because it’s really fucking good. Duh.
- MG Road – To me, “late” is past 9pm. From 9:01 on. If I’m out by myself past 9pm, I usually just wanna be left the fuck alone while I place food in my mouth compartment. I love MG Road because it’s one of the few places in town where I can eat alone in the dark, pay my server, and leave, unseen, unheard, unknown. A shadow. With a really fucking tasty arepa in its shadowy fist.
And the winner is…
IT WAS SUPER HARD TO CHOOSE, BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL SO AWESOME, BUT IN THE END I WAS LIKE, “WHO YOU TRYING TO KID, STU HELM, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT KATIE FUCKING BUTTON HERE,” SO, THE NIGHTBELL… COME ON DOWN AND CLAIM YOUR 2015 STOOBIE AWARD FOR BEST LATE NIGHT BITES!
Seriously. Living in the same town as Chef Katie Button is like living in the same town as some young, genius musician, who plays a show for the locals every night, and as the young musician grows professionally, she also grows creatively, and as she gains national recognition for her talents, she remains rooted in her home town, playing for her adoring home crowd night after night. Chef Katie Button makes culinary music for us here in Asheville, not just at one venue, but two: Curate remains a top-notch downtown restaurant, and The Nightbell has likewise become one of the crown jewels in the ring of eateries that make-up the downtown dining scene. When people ask me where they should go out with friends for a cocktail and a late night bite, I will recommend all four of the venues nominated above, but I will advise them that The Nightbell is a particularly unique treat, and a special experience. Like catching Blondie at CBGB’s in 1979.
Not only is the food at The Nightbell incredible, as one might expect, but as she did with Curate, Katie has surrounded herself with some of the best of the best in terms of kitchen and front-of-the-house staff. Anita Elliot, sommelier Joe, and 2014 Server of the Year nominee Lisa Marie, along with the rest of the bar crew and servers, keep the front running like a clock, and Katie’s kitchen is one of the calmest, most efficient, fastest, and smoothest in town. They serve a full menu of apps, entrees, and desserts these days, but this Stoobie Award is specifically for their small bites, served late. They also make excellent coffee, and the pastry chef, Carmen Vaquera is one of Asheville’s very best. Dawn and others will confirm that they also make really tasty cocktails and serve great wine.
• Best Dinner – If I tried to list all of the places in Asheville that are serving great entrees for dinner, the scroll-bar would be a million miles long. There’s too many, and they’re all doing such a great job, it’s actually totally literally completely and utterly impossible to say who’s doing it best, in the general sense, so I’ve tried to narrow it down to some special dinners and dinner specials…
- Sunday Dinner @ Sovereign Remedies – Every Sunday Farmer Sunil cooks and serves his family recipes, made with the absolute best ingredients imaginable and served in the cutest little dishes to boot. Sunday Dinner at Sov Rems is a regular jam with us now, and we often invite friends to join us. Good times, great food.
- Burger Night @ Bull & Beggar – The price is right: $6 for a double cheeseburger with fries and a crispy pork rind… chip… dealio… thingy. The burger is freakin’ amazing and of course, the drinks — with or without booze — are really tasty as well. The atmosphere is great, and the staff are among the best in town when it comes to looking sharp, being friendly and pro, and keeping that burger train rolling.
- Dinner Specials @ All Souls Pizza – Sometimes when I look at the specials board at All Souls Pizza, I close my eyes in a dreamy way, and drift off in a moment of anticipatory bliss. When Dawn and I are hangin’ with Chad, (get it?) and the rest of the excellent staff at ASP, we always listen intently to their knowledgeable descriptions of those specials. Do yourself a favor, when you go to All Souls, look, listen, eat, enjoy, repeat.
- Food Trucks @ The Wedge – Remember back in the olden days, when people lived in caves and stuff, and when you wanted some food, all you had to do was fight your way through a jungle of predatory animals and stab something tasty with a spear or whatever? Well, that’s kinda how I feel about the Food Trucks at The Wedge. If I want something really tasty, all I have to do is maneuver my way in the dark, over a dangerous, uneven terrain, through a crowd of beer enthusiasts… and corn hole games… and dogs… and children and then stab a taco or whatever with my spear. Yum!
And the winner is…
FARMER SUNIL, YOU HONOR US WEEKLY WITH YOUR FAMILY RECIPES, PREPARED AND PRESENTED WITH LOVE, CARE, STYLE, AND FLARE, AND THEREFOR I AM GIVING SOVEREIGN REMEDIES A 2015 STOOBIE AWARD FOR SERVING THE BEST DINNER IN TOWN!
For months on end I having been telling everyone I know that there is something super-special going on at Sovereign Remedies every Sunday night, in the form of Farmer Sunil’s Indian Supper. I give credit to my GF, Dawn, for kinda forcing me off my ass one Sunday night, a night that I usually sit, smoke grass, catch up on Z-Nation, Days of Our Lives, and UFC Fight Nights while I slowly melt into my couch. Almost nothing could pry me from that position… except food. Amazing food. Really fucking terrifically good and amazing food that’s only available one night of the week, which happens to be Sunday night. I went somewhat reluctantly the first time, but now, it’s almost a tradition for us, and I feel like I’ve missed out on something special if we skip a Sunday.
Farmer Sunil’s food is made in part with stuff that he grows himself, with his Patchwork Urban Farms programs (which is awesome and you should Google it) so it’s super fresh, and bright, and packed with nutrition as well as flavor. I sometimes lose track of nutrition in the pursuit of flavor, but with Farmer Sunil in the kitchen I don’t have to think about it, it just happens.
Oh, just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, Farmer Sunil’s Indian Supper is… Indian food. Thali, Vindaloo… saaaaaaahhhg… stuff like that. I’m a big fan of Indian food, and Sov Rems is not only serving the best Dinner of 2015, but some of the best Indian food I’ve ever eaten. Also: great drinks and coffee, a great staff all-around, and a really pleasant atmosphere all make Sov Rems a really nice place to be on any Sunday evening. Now, if I can just talk them into cranking up some UFC on the big screen! Punch, punch, kick, take-down, arm bar, tap out!!! Just kidding.
• Meal of the Year – This is a Stoobie for the single most impressive meal that we ate all year. By “we” I mean me and my GF, Dawn. There is no way I’m enjoying any meal alone as much as I do with the GF, so all of the meals nominated below include her, at the very least, and a few other special people as well. As is often the case with “best meals” they are based on good memories as much as good food…
- Birthday Dinner @ Ambrozia Bar and Bistro – Dawn took me to Ambrozia for my 49th birthday in July this year, and we ate our way through an array of amazing dishes, from amuse bouche to dessert. There was everything from sausage to sorbet, all sourced, prepped, presented and served in style. We agreed at the end that this meal was a contender for the Best of 2015. I think we even did a fist-bump.
- Family Gathering @ Buffalo Nickel – Two of our beloved family friends, Warren and Denise from Massachusetts, came to town and took my whole fam-damn-ly out to dinner. I think there were 12 of us. Denise asked me to pick a place, and I chose Buffalo Nickel for the following reasons: The food, the atmosphere, the people who work there, and the fact that it is huge. It’s one of the largest venues in town that has great food and beverages, and they are very accommodating. I warned ’em we were coming, and they handled it perfectly. all twelve people, ranging in age from 13 – 73, enjoyed their food very much! Quite a feat. Thanks, Buff Nick, and Warren and Denise!
- Anniversary Dinner @ Vue 1913 – Dawn and I spent our 10 year anniversary of un-wedded bliss together at the Grove Park Inn last January and ate several meals on the grounds, at more than a couple of their food venues, including a fantastically wonderful dinner at their fanciest eatery, Vue 1913. It kicked some serious anniversary ass!
- Black Sheep Dinner by Blind Pig – A late entry, the final installment of the roving supper club, Blind Pig, was called “Black Sheep,” which was kinda perfect for us, and was excellent from bite to bite to never-ending bite. One highlight dish after another, presented with flare and served fresh, hot, and delicious. Plus, some poor ticket-holders (Hornbuckles, was it you?) couldn’t make it, so Dawn and I got our very own table in the darkest corner of the room. Double-flip-offs to the world!
- Cuban X-Mas Dinner @ MG Road – Another late entry… like super-late, was the Cuban Christmas Dinner that we were invited to at MG Road. It was a buffet style affair, and when the line started to form, I did have a little bit of my “food panic” that there wouldn’t be enough food for everyone, but those fears were forgotten as soon as I started shoveling rice and beans and pork and plantains and empanadas and croquetas into my bottomless face pit, all washed down with a tall, house-made, raspberry cream soda, and topped-off with a super delicious coconut milk flan for dessert. Dawn also had two cups of punch. There was good music playing, and it was dark and even though we had to talk to other people, they were super nice and interesting and had fun things to say. Yay! A party! I hate parties. But as far parties go that was a good party.
And the winner is…
VUE 1913, WE WENT IN WITH MIXED EXPECTATIONS BECAUSE, LET’S FACE IT, YOU’RE LOCATED INSIDE OF AN OMNI HOTEL, BUT YOU NOT ONLY EXCEEDED THOSE EXPECTATIONS, YOU MORE OR LESS CRUSHED THEM, AND EVEN THOUGH THIS MEAL TOOK PLACE NEARLY 12 MONTHS AGO, IT HAS REMAINED THE BEST MEAL OF 2015 SO GET CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS ON THE PHONE BECAUSE I KNOW THEY WILL BE SUPER THRILLED TO LEARN THAT YOU JUST WON YOUR VERY FIRST STOOBIE AWAAARRRD!
I wrote an extensive review of our 10 year anniversary meal at Vue 1913 for Ashvegas that you can read HERE. In that review, I broke it down, item by item, describing every dish, as well as the decor, ambiance, level of service in detail, even the mountains and sunset, so I’m reluctant to do all of that all over again here. Please go read that review if you want the B.I.D. because it’s still relevant, as the Chef — James Lumely — remains the same, and so do the mountains and daily rotation of the sun.
If you don’t want to read that review… for whatever reason… you can just take my word for it here: When you have a super-special, once in a lifetime occasion to celebrate… do it at the Vue 1913 and you won’t be disappointed in any way shape or form. Of course, book your date ahead of time and let them know that it’s a special occasion. Don’t be a dumb-ass. They ain’t gonna write “Happy Anniversary” in chocolate on your plate of complimentary truffle cubes if they don’t know it’s your anniversary.
• Server of the Year – I realize that the title of “server” is inadequate by a long shot to describe what these folks do, as they are also likely to be mixologists, baristas, students, and professionals in other areas. For the purposes of this Stoobie Award, however, the title of “server” refers to those awesome people in this awesome town who bring me awesome things to eat and drink. Also, I decided that last years’ nominees and winner in the Server of the Year category are not eligible this year. Cliff from Curate, Chad from All Souls Pizza, Lisa Marie from The Nightbell, they still rule, of that there is no doubt. Sky moved to the West Coast. Bye, Sky! This year we have all new contenders, and they are…
- Mithran @ Ambrozia Bistro – Whenever Mithran has been our server he has hit every single nail on the head. Lets start with: Handsome. I know, I know, I’m completely shallow, but I am a sucker for a handsome face. Mithran is also very smart, well-spoken, polite, professional, and knows a LOT about the wine, the cocktails, and the menu at Ambrozia.
- Ben @ The Imperial Life – I swear, the gentlemen of The Imperial Life are the best-dressed, most handsomest emeffers in all of Asheville’s professional night life scene, and my guy Ben is right at the forefront in that regard. Always well coiffed, sharply attired, and bringing it service-wise with professionalism and style, Ben is intelligent, with a twist of humor, and a shot of friendliness, Ben is as inventive as he attentive. Dawn and I often sit at Ben’s bar (as opposed to a table) so that we can chat with him, watch him in action, and place our drink requests directly to him. Not drink orders, but requests. The other night I asked for “something creamy and awesome, no booze,” and he busted-out a tall glass of frothy awesome that he dubbed a “Flintstones Push Pop.”
- Naomi @ The Imperial Life / Sovereign Remedies – I used to work with Naomi back when MoDaddy’s was around. I designed their monthly music calendar posters, and she was my contact. Although I’d never met her in person — we did it all by email — I really appreciated her professionalism and no-nonsense approach back then. Then one day I walked into Imperial Life with Dawn, and our server asked, “Are you Stu Helm, the graphic designer?” 20+ years of doing graphic design, and no one had ever asked me that before. Apart from all of her other very awesome qualities, I will always love Naomi for that. She’s at Sov Rems these days. Visit her for Sunday and Monday Brunch, and see what I mean about awesome.
- Thistle @ Sovereign Remedies – I lerv me some Thistle. It is a well known fact that I am a huge Tolkien geek, so it doesn’t hurt that Thistle is an Elf. Like, a for real Elf. From Mirkwoodand ‘n’ stuff. Squeeeee! Dwarves and Elves sometimes fall in love, Yo.
- Ben @ Sovereign Remedies – I’m from the 1970’s so I think it’s perfectly legit for me to say that my friend Ben is “up-tight and outta sight,” and mean that as a big compliment. To me being “up-tight” is like, being cool, and Sov Rems Ben is the coolest cat in Ashetown, Mang, but is being cool enough to win Best Server? Scroll scroll scroll scroll!
And the winner is…
SOV REMS BEN, YOU BEAUTIFUL STONE-FACED GOD AMONG MEN, I FEARED AND LOVED YOU FROM THE FIRST TIME WE MET, AND YOU, MY FRIEND, ARE MY 2015 STOOBIE AWARD WINNING SERVER OF THE YEAR!
I once told Ben that Sov Rems has the “best water in town.” He looked at me for 1/10th of a second, a tiny glint of confusion in his eye, and then a slanted, half-of-a-smile-type-thing skewed across that graven face of his for the other 9/10ths of the second, before he composed himself and responded with a polite nod and a, “thank you,” before walking away. Ha ha ha!!! That killed me! This guy KILLS me. I have to admit that I was slightly intimidated by Ben at first — tall, handsome, 100 percent pro — I loved him as a heathen might love a wooden idol: With trepidation and wonderment. Once I started warming-up to his dead-pan style, and his wry sense of humor though, I came to regard Ben as one of the great “Personalities” of the Asheville food scene, and I don’t hand out accolades like that lightly.
Add to the mix, the fact that he is an excellent mixologist and tender of the bar in a joint that is mostly bar, and yeah, Ben rules. He makes some of Dawn’s fave cocktails in town, as well as styling me out with the occasional mock-tail, and he knows that I’ll drink as many Americanos as it takes to get me through any given night of socializing. Ten PM? No probs. Ben asks me if I want another. I say yes. He doesn’t bat an eye.
Ben is super on-top of his game behind the bar and on the floor, never seeming to let life get out of hand, and never showing a bead of sweat. Whether he’s making drinks, taking orders, running food and flatware to tables, or cashing you out when you’re ready to leave, Ben never makes you feel ignored, unseen, or unwanted, and he never makes you wait. He’s the best. Simple as that. Thanks for all the great drinks, and service over the past year, Ben, and thanks for the hugs too. (I always make Ben hug me.)
• Chef of the Year – This Stoobie is always very difficult for me to decide, because there are soooo many wonderful cooks and chefs working in Asheville! In order to narrow the playing field, I come up with a lot of “criteria” in my mind that I factor into my decision making process. I could list those criteria for you, but… that sounds really boring and time-consuming to me… so here are the nominees…
- Chef Steven Goff – Steven is actually ineligible for this year’s Stoobies, because he is no longer an “Asheville” Chef. :( He’s living and working in Raleigh, NC now, after the personal and professional rift that forced him out of King James Pub. Still, he was here for half the year, and making some of the best, most adventurous food I’ve ever eaten in my life, so I wanted to at least nominate him.
- Chef Dano Holcomb – I always say that Dano is the best chef in Asheville without a kitchen… because he has a food truck. Dano’s food truck, Root Down, already took home a Stoobie for best thing on wheels. Will Dano grab the glory here as well? Only scrolling down will tell…
- Chef Elliott Moss – You can read all about my embarrassing crush on Chef Elliott here and it’s no secret that I frickin’ love his cooking, so what’s the point of pointing out all of that all over again? Of course he’s been nominated, but will he win? Roll the scroll… roll the scroll…
- Chef Katie Button – There’s an 800 pound gorilla living in Asheville named Katie Button. I could honestly hand this award to Chef Button year after year after year and feel good about that. Not only does she crank out some of the most consistently excellent food in town at Curate, but as I stated above, The Nightbell’s fare is just as impressive to me, and even more creative, nuanced, and exciting. Half scientist, half magician in the kitchen, she is also a well-traveled representative of Asheville, who has played no small part in the fame that our city has gained for its food scene.
- Chef Joe Scully – Hey, Joe, whaddaya know? My friend Joe is not just a great cook, but he’s also a great guy, and a very positive force in the food scene. Have you met Joe? He rules. Chock full of energy for one thing, he channels large amounts of it directly into doing good things for other people. Whether he’s cooking and serving food in his restaurants, or this or that charity event, or helping a young restaurateur with some practical advice, or even seizing the opportunity to spread a fun, positive message about the Asheville food scene with me on AVL Food Fans, Joe is just a super-helpful muhfuckin’ guy, who is always game for an adventure, and who’s very presence makes any situation more fun. All true.
- Chef Liam Luttrell-Rowland – If there’s one guy who could follow that glowing statement about Joe, it’s Chef Liam. I don’t think you’ll ever meet a more stalwart, earnest, hard-working chef, or a nicer guy, and I know that there are a lot of stalwarts out there in AVL Chef World, so I don’t make that statement lightly. Chef Liam works at Green Opportunities GO Ready Kitchen, where he helps people every day, and also serves a full-on lunch and dinner with his crew of students to whoever shows up. Check their website for the schedule.
And the winner is…
CHEF ELLIOTT MOSS… I’m still crushing…
When I asked Dawn her opinion about who I should give my Best Chef award to she said, “Why not Elliott Moss?” Well… no duh, right? Why NOT Elliott Moss? I mean, here’s a guy who helped to put Asheville’s food scene on the map, and then he was kinda “homeless” (restaurant-wise) for a while, but continued to stay vibrant and viable here throughout 2015 with pop-ups, and special events, taking part in this or that other culinary adventure, all the while working on the monumental task of starting his own restaurant, in the as-yet-untested market of the South Slope, and with the power of the Chai Pani group (and I’m sure a lot of other people) behind him, he was able to open a beautiful joint, with a massive kitchen, that is on full-view for the public to see the magic happen while we dine, and he crushes it every dang day of the week, serving a truly wonderful array of food that is creative-yet-traditional, with an inherent authenticity that is hard to match anywhere.
When I was hungry and mopey last Summer at the ReHappening art event in Black Mountain, a plate of Chef Elliott’s food lifted my spirits and made me feel whole and human again. When I brought my mom and her friend to Burial Beer for one of his pop-ups, Chef Elliott smiled and was nice to them while dishing-out some home cookin’ that the old ladies loved as much as I did. He once served Dawn the “best chicken pot pie ever.” His candied yams are… like… I can’t even… So yum…
I eat at Buxton Hall more often than anywhere else in Asheville. Part of that is proximity for sure. Buxton is the closest great restaurant to my front door, especially at lunch time when The Junction is closed. But believe me, I wouldn’t be there as often as I am if location was the only thing they had going for them, and I wouldn’t be eating my way through their menu if the food was anything but awesome. I go to Buxton Hall BBQ because Chef Elliott’s cooking is special, and unique. It tastes great and is made with great ingredients. It’s presented with style, and always cooked to perfection. I believe Chef Elliott Moss is a great chef living and working among us, and this was the year that it all came together for him, and that’s why he is my 2015 Chef of the Year!
• Restaurant of the Year – The last time I tried to iterate a list the best restaurants in Asheville out loud, Dawn said to me, “Well, that’s basically all of the restaurants in Asheville.” Yeeeah… I’m kind of a slut. I wanna make-out with every eatery in town, and tell every single one, “You’re the best.” Of course, there can really only be one “best,” and I’ve narrowed it down to one of these three nominees…
- The Junction – I can’t impress upon you enough how much of a treat it is to taste the food and beverages coming out of this place. It’s truly a unique, purely Asheville experience. The kitchen is whimsical, skilled, adventurous, traditional, intelligent, and adept. The beverage program is likewise excellent, the atmosphere is cozy, the front of the house is friendly, and the staff is professional and well-pressed. Toss in the fact that the chef actually runs food to tables if it’s busy, or he’s feeling chatty, and yeah, Man. Talkin’… Junction. Yo. Go there.
- All Souls Pizza – How’s the pizza? Who gives a shit. I mean, it’s good and all, it’s even great sometimes, but All Souls is so much more than just a pizza place. It’s a place… well, it’s a place where you go to eat good food. Really good food. Really really really fucking good food.
- Buxton Hall BBQ – Yeah yeah, how many accolades can one place get? Well, when that place is Buxton Hall, they’s gonna get more than a couple mentions, and maybe even a prize or two. Seriously. This place ain’t no fucking joke. It’s, like, BOOM, “We’re on the map and we’re the titty-ass-bomb of all bombs.” If you don’t like SC style BBQ, don’t fret. Try the sides, the daily special, or just the fried chicken plate. I had some mussels there once that I wanted to eat forever they were so good. Basically, close your eyes, spin your hand around and point at just about any item on the menu, and it’s gonna be effing good.
And the winner is…
ALL SOULS PIZZA, IT’S ALMOST LIKE YOU SHOULDN’T EVEN HAVE THE WORD “PIZZA” IN YOUR NAME BECAUSE YOU ARE JUST THE BEST FUCKING RESTAURANT IN ASHEVILLE RIGHT NOW AND I AM GIVING YOU A STOOBIE AWARD TO MAKE IT OFFICIAAALLLLL!!!
There you go. The big one. The 2015 Stoobie Award for Restaurant of the Year. What does that mean? For one thing, it means that when people ask me — as they do — “What’s the best restaurant in Asheville?” I will reply “All Souls.”
All Souls was originally slated to win in a category I decided to eliminate this year. At one point they were going to be “Most Improved,” but then I was, like, “That’s such a shitty, back-handed-compliment of a category, and seems entirely inadequate to describe All Souls, which is truly one of the best, if not thee best restaurant in Asheville,” and then I was, like, “What did you just say?” And I was, like, “I said it might be the best restaurant in Asheville.” “Might be?” I asked. “Is,” I replied. Here are some of the reasons that the voices in my head were able to agree…
• Food – I already described the dinner specials, and how frickin’ delicious they can be, but I didn’t mention that All Souls is one of the best, and most authentic farm-to-table restaurants in town. The ingredients are ever-changing, based on season and availability, grown, sourced, smoked, prepped, cooked, plated, and served with knowledge, skill, and style. And it all tastes friggin’ amazing. From salads and sandwiches, to fancy-pantsy polentas and such. I ate their pot roast with root veggies, like, twice a week while it was available last Winter, and I made a super-sad face when it was taken off the menu, but y’know, Mother Nature dictates at All Souls, and it was time for Spring and Summer fare.
• Service – Let’s start with… you know what to do when you walk in the door at All Souls, because there’s a hosting stand right there, and there’s always a person standing at it to greet you. There’s never a “should we” moment. As in: “Should we seat ourselves?” or “Should we order first and then sit down?” Even the newest newbie, out-of-towner, bridge-and-tunnel, tourist would know exactly what to do two seconds after walking in the door. Once you’re seated, the level of table service can’t be beat. Friendly, attentive, knowledgeable, and familiar. They seem to have locked-in some very good front-of-the-house people at All Souls, quite a few have been working there since the start.
• Location – Not quite downtown, but not NOT downtown, it’s kinda sorta but not really part of the River Arts District, and is almost like its own free-standing, autonomous zone down there on Clingman Ave. It’s easy to get to on foot or by car from either side of the river, and it has plenty of parking, plus a huge open field next to it that hosts the RAD Farmers Market during farmers market season.
• Atmosphere – It’s casual, but not pizza-joint-casual, it’s nice inside, and comfy. They have enough space that you can go ahead and hunker-down with friends and not worry about taking-up a table. They offer seating at the bar, at several hi-tops, regular dining tables, and they have great outdoor seating that is set way back from the street and is far far removed from the noise, smell, and irritation of traffic. Also, there’s a pasture for children to graze in, again, far far away from me.
• Dessert – Be sure to leave room for dessert at All Souls, because, wow. We’ve had more home-run, high-end, top-notch, filling, delicious, homey and just plain goood desserts at this so-called pizza place than just about anywhere else in town. They make creative in-house ice creams, and some of the best bread puddings I’ve ever eaten in my life, no exaggeration. They use bread and other baked goods from Farm and Sparrow, which is always killer, and they make a chocolate croissant bread pudding that I would literally walk over broken glass for. I mean, I’d keep my shoes on of course, because, y’know — ouch! — but still, that crunching sound of broken glass underfoot is so annoying… I’d totally endure that annoying, crunching, broken glassy sound for this amazing bread pudding. 100 percent true story.
All Souls, I’ve been eating your food since the week you opened, and I ate there for the billionth time just last week, and not only are you truly the Most Improved, but you adjusted your game until it was fucking perfect and that’s why you are my 2015 pick for Restaurant of the Year!
So, there you have it, Folks! Those are the 2015 Stoobie Awards! Just in case you need things to be super B.I.D. here are the bare bones basics:
• Pour-Over – The Coffee Pedlar
• House Cup – Vortex Doughnuts
• Specialty / Espresso Drinks – Vortex Doughnuts
• Local Roaster – PennyCup Coffee Co.
• 67 Biltmore née Laurey’s
• The Junction
BEST DEEP-FRIED THING
• Kale Pakoros @ Chai Pani
• Buxton Hall BBQ
SANDWICH OF THE YEAR
• Chicken ‘n’ Waffle Sandwich @ Sunny Point Cafe
BEST FOOD TRUCK
• Root Down
• Karen Donatelli
BEST LATE NIGHT BITES
• The Nightbell
• Farmer Sunil’s Sunday Indian Supper @ Sovereign Remedies
MEAL OF THE YEAR
• 10 Year Anniversary Dinner @ Vue 1913
SERVER OF THE YEAR
• Ben @ Sovereign Remedies
CHEF OF THE YEAR
• Chef Elliot Moss
RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
• All Souls Pizza
See ya next year!
— END —
Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.