DEAR STU: Got a Bit of a Dilemma…

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An amazing eggplant appetizer from The Nightbell.

“After a Recent Great Weekend of Food in DC  with our son, I want to reciprocate”


Not long ago I got a FaceBook message from a reader asking me where he might go with his family for a birthday celebration. He used the phrase “best restaurant,” and I always have one or two… or seven… places in mind when folks ask me that, so I gave him several options.

K____ – Hey Stu, Got a bit of a dilemma that you might be able to help me with. My son is coming into town in a couple of weeks. He wants to take me to the “best restaurant” in town for my birthday. I really like Limones, but they are booked up, we are going to the Bull and Beggar tomorrow night with friends for the same occasion; so do not want to repeat so soon. Have a reservation at the Supper Club but read this mornings ACT weak review and although we like the ambiance there… I am concerned. Anyway after a recent great weekend of food in DC with our son, I want to reciprocate. My son and I love Buxton Hall but wife is a veggie.

Stu Helm: Food Fan – Hi K____! Thanks for the note, let’s see if we can solve this dining dilemma. :) “Best restaurant” is always a tough call, but The Nightbell springs to my mind whenever that term comes up. Great atmosphere, fantastic food, a very nice wine list, and high-end cocktails.

Table is at the top of my list too, as is Ambrozia up on Merrimon Ave in NAVL. Although they are pretty different, I’d say they’re both good for a birthday celebration. Table is open, bright, and somewhat formal. Ambrozia is cozier, and a tad more casual.

If you really wanna style-it-out, Vue 1913 in the Grove Park Inn is like nothing else in town, in terms of the views, and it’s more-or-less “Fine Dining” with food that is top notch and service that’s quite formal, in the best possible way. Dawn and I ate what turned out to my favorite meal of the year there in 2015.
Another special venue is the Red Stag Grill in the Bohemian Hotel. It’s very unique in terms of the decor, and the food is very good.

I would also recommend Cucina 24. I heard that they are booked months in advance these days, ever since Chef Brian Canipelli recently made it to the finals of the James Beard Awards. They recently expanded their hours though, so give it a try.

Finally, if you want great seafood, and good times, check out the Lobster Trap. The freshest seafood in town, and a great, fun-but-upscale atmosphere, with live music (that’s not too loud or obnoxious!) and people having a good time.

I think any of those would make for a great birthday dinner. I hope you find it helpful, and I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

K____ – Thank you Stu for a very kind and thoughtful response. Nightbell and Vue 1913 are the only places you mention I do not have experience. You have increased the anticipation of the meal. Thank You.

Stu Helm: Food Fan – Awesome! Nightbell is hipper, Vue 1913 is fancier. Both are awesome.

Oh, crap, I forgot to mention that all of the venues I mentioned will have veggie options for your wife, and most places in town will substitute Smiling Hara tempeh or No Evil Foods “plant meat” in at least some of their non-veggie fare. Also, I wanna say that Smoky Park Supper Club is a perfectly fine place to spend one’s birthday, especially if it’s a nice evening and you sit outside. It’s casual, has a good bar program, and the food is solid in my opinion! Happy birthday, K____, over and out!

If you have questions for me, about where to eat, or what to eat, just PM me through my FaceBook page!

— END —

IMG_0273Stu 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.


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