When I’m out and about in Asheville, there’s usually only ten things on my mind…
…and they’re all fooood!
Asheville is the greatest food city in America as far as I’m concerned, and I am out there eating it up nearly every single day, sometimes several times a day. Hell, man, it’s like living at Disney Land. You gonna ride the fuckin’ rides or what? Well, Yo, I’m riding the rides, and here are 10 rides I rode on recently…
1) HOT BROWN PO’ BOY – This sandwich from AUX Bar not only blew my mind, but also blew-up on Facebook, with an “organic reach” that far exceeded 5,500 people when I posted pictures of it. A wonderful po’ boy sandwich inspired by the famous Kentucky “Hot Brown” sandwich, which is usually served open faced, with mornay sauce, in this case, Chef Steven Goff has switched out mornay for brown gravy, but he let my readers on FB know that “we do have mornay there tho so if one were to ask….” The basic ingredients here are smoked turkey, bacon, cheese, brown gravy, onions ‘n’ stuff, all on a traditional Leidenheimer hoagy roll from NOLA, cut in half and skewered with bamboo toothpicks. (PS – No ancient forests were whittled down to make these toothpicks. Fuckin’ Toothpick Haters.) So, yeah this po’ boy rocked, AUX Bar is a KILLER lunch spot, and not for nuthin’ their french fries are the fuckin’ bomb. AND I had enough of everything left over to make an entire second meal later that day at home.
2) ALOHA BAHN MI – I like sandwiches, and I like to try new places, and I also like to order menu items that are named after the venue itself, so when Paddy and I went on an Asheville Food Tours lunch junket to the brand new Aloha Cafe on Battery Park Ave, I got the Aloha bahn mi, and I enjoyed it very much! It contains sliced ham, paté, homemade aioli, fresh carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, jalapeño slices, and something that dares to call itself “pork loaf.” Hey, now! Are those nouns or verbs? As a life-long slacker, I gotta love anything with the word “loaf” in it. The veg-matter on this sandwich was very fresh, and crunchy, and the various meat products were very tasty. The roll was soft, white, trashy, and good. While this sandwich was not blowing my mind, or changing my world view, it was very satisfying, and as I popped the very last bit of it into my mouth-hole, I remarked to Paddy that I would totally come back to Aloha just for this sandwich. Also: The price was right.
3) LEVI’S COUNTRY CLUB CREPE – So, Paddy and I like our lunch junkets, and we went on another one to Twisted Crêpe, where I ordered the “Levi’s Country Club” crepe and CRUSHED It! It was so tasty! I was really impressed, and Paddy was likewise impressed with his “Rusty’s Signature” crepe. My expectations were set pretty low, to be honest, but we were both, like, “mmm-MMM!… motherFFFUCK, this shit is fuckin’ gooood, Yo!” Well, actually Paddy doesn’t swear much, and he talks like a normal person, so that was just me, and he was all like, “This is outstanding.” My crepe had turkey, roast beef, bacon, tomato, Vermont white cheddar, and ranch, all folded-up neatly in a light, crispy, fun little triangular gift-package made out of fresh, warm, crepe-i-ness. Paddy and I both really enjoyed our meal, and agreed that we would come back to Twisted Créoe for shizz. We also wished that we could bring our Asheville Food Tours patrons in, but the space is very tiny, so we’ll just have to recommend it to them when we pass nearby. “Go there, Yo! Izzfuckingooooooood!”
4) BISCUIT FRENCH TOAST – So, I’ve been rekindling my love of Early Girl Eatery lately, going there more often than ever, and tucking into dishes that are old favorites of mine from way back in the day, as well as trying things I’ve never had there before. I’m basically eating my way through their current menu, which is largely the same as it ever was. Early Girl is one of the first restaurants I ate at with regularity when I first moved to Asheville, and for many years I was totally fixated on one meal: Pan fried chicken with mashed potatoes, vegetarian gravy, and mac ‘n’ cheese. I fuckin’ LOVED it, and still do, but it’s been really fun to branch out lately. I recently climbed WAY outside of my own box, and ordered the biscuit French toast, with seasonal fruit, and fresh whipped cream. Jesus. Fucking. Crippled. Christ. On a CRUHHHTCH!!! What an extravaganza of carbs, sugar, dairy, and happiness. For one thing: Just look at that beautiful beast in the picture above! When it arrived at my table, the two button-down business-dudes at the table next to me broke from their heavy convo about dollar bills to ask what the heck was on my plate. When I informed them of the deets, they expressed regrets in having already ordered their own meals. I bid them good luck, and began excavating this mountain of food with my teeth. Needless to say, it was awesome, I ate as much as I could, although I was unable to crush it entirely, due to its giant-sized nature. Oddly, my solution to that “problem” is to add MORE food to my plate next time, as the only thing that could possibly make this dish more awesomely, dangerously indulgent would be the addition of both a side of bacon, and an over-easy egg. Which is exactly what I’m going to do the very next time I go to Early Girl! The wait for breakfast at EG can be Hella long during the AM hours, but they do it all day, and the space definitely opens up in the afternoon, so a late breakfast at this old fave is becoming my brand new jam.
5) PORKY BREAKFAST BOWL – Here’s another dish that I got at Early Girl Eatery, just last week, and enjoyed very much! The “Porky Breakfast Bowl” (also pictured at the top of this post) is a super-hearty pile o’ food consisting of home fries,12-hour roasted pulled BBQ pork, scrambled cage-free eggs, aged cheddar cheese, and smoky bacon gravy. It was really yummy and filling AF, and pretty much hit every comfort-food nail on the head for me in the moment. It was warm, deeply flavorful, well sourced with delicious ingredients, expertly made, and served in a massive pile! Like I do, I was able to make an entire other meal out of this dish the next day. Early Girl is two for two this month, which really makes me happy!
6) BENNE BENEDICT – Speaking of breakfast, did you know that Benne on Eagle does a full breakfast every day? I love this space and the folks who work there, and I’ve had some excellent bites, dishes, and meals there, so I wandered in the other morning for breakfast, and left feeling very full and satisfied after powering-down a plate of their “Benne Benedict.” It’s made using Benton’s ham (yes, the same Benton who makes the famous bacon), farm fresh eggs, something called “kitchen pepper Hollandaise,” all on a benne biscuit, meaning that the biscuit itself is made from the flour of ground benne seeds, which are similar to a sesame seed, and are in fact the antecedent of that more commonly known seed. The dish was salty, creamy, crispy, hearty, and as I said, very filling. Try Benne on Eagle for breakfast! Especially when you’re looking at a 45 minute to an hour long wait for the other breakfast options downtown, Benne is still relatively undiscovered. For now.
7) CORNED BEEF HASH – Speaking of breakfast… again… I was invited to media brunch at the newly branded Daphne at Twisted Laurel, featuring the wonderful cooking and concepts of Chef Mike Archberger. The event was actually the launch and screening of the pilot episode of new Asheville food news show that I have a segment in, during which I interview Chef Mike and BURN THE FUCK out of my mouth eating some of his food straight out of the oven. Brunch was part of the screening, so I ordered a giant bowl of corned beef hash, with cabbage, taters, and a poached egg on top. It was phenomenal! Chef Mike is one to watch, Asheville! He’s a rising star for sure.
8) LOX ON TOAST– “Fuckin’ hell, that’s a pretty plate of food!” is what I said to Gina Smith the food editor of the Mountain Xpress when this dish arrived to our table during that same media brunch at Daphne. She and I had each ordered our own dish (the hash mentioned above for me, and a breakfast burrito for Gina), but we also conspired to split the lox on toast, because the menu description just sounded so good, and wow, when it arrived the dish exceeded our expectations by a mile in terms of both presentation and execution. It looked gorgeous, and tasted incredible! It was light, yet not without some heft to that bread, it was both fresh and healthy, while also packing a punch in the flavor department. The lox was silky-smooth, and virtually melted in my mouth, and all those other toppings were just incredible. The ingredient list is long and impressive, which is par for the course with Chef Mike Archberger, and consists of: House beet-cured trout lox, arugula, dehydrated tomato, preserved lemon, charred allium ricotta, and something called “beet lace” all atop a slice of seeded sesame spelt toast from OWL Bakery. If you haven’t been to the new Daphne at Twisted Laurel to try Chef Mike’s food, do so quickly! It’s some of the best downtown in my opinion.
9) LASAGNA – “Stuey, you hungry?” That’s my friend Mike from Manicomio, every time I walk by the shop. First I hear my name, “Stuey!” And then I poke my head in the door, and Mike asks, “You hungry?” The other day I said, “Actually, Mike, I’m starving my face off.” “So, whaddaya want? Lasagna?” Hell. Yes. Lasagna. It was soooooo goooooooooood!!! Piping hot, super melty, thick, substantial, perfectly cooked pasta, bright, zesty sauce, and filled with meat! YOM! These guys do more than just pizza, Yo. Go say hi to Mike and Jon and their crew. Great guys, great pies, and awesome entrees too!
10) JUICE! – My mom’s been on a juice kick, so we’ve been going out for juice together, and have hit-up the new(ish) Simple Cafe and Juice Bar in West Asheville a couple of times in the past couple of weeks. I like juice, and this was great juice! Very fresh and flavorful, and jam-packed with nutrition. I got the “Liver Love” with beet, celery, carrot, lemon, and apple juice, and my mom got the “Dr. Feelgood” with celery, cucumber, pineapple, apple, spinach, lemon, and ginger juice, and turmeric. Hey, what can I say? It’s kinda hard to fuck-up juice, and these juices were great! The service was fast and friendly, the atmosphere is very “West Asheville juice bar” if you ask me, and we drank our juices in peace, harmony, and happiness, just like we wanted to. Good job, Simple! You’ve got two new regulars on your hands, for as long as my mom is on this juice kick anyways!
I hope you all enjoyed my first installment of “10 Things I Ate About Asheville!” I’ll post more of this series throughout the year. Please try the stuff I’ve listed above and come back here to see what I’ve eaten recently in my adventures out and about Asheville, the greatest food city in the world!
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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.