2018 BEST OF ASHEVILLE PART II – Eclectic Boogaloo

Welcome to Part Two of Three of the 2018 Stoobie Awards! If you unfamiliar with the Stoobies, that’s okay! They are basically a “Best of Asheville’s Culinary Scene,” honorific, that comes with an actual physical award, all based on one person’s opinion: Mine! Who the fook am I? Well, nobody, really, just an avid Eater. With a capital “E.” I go out to eat a lot,and then I write, blog, talk, and do social media about it all year long. At the end of the year — or technically the beginning of the next year — I drop the Stoobies here on Ashvegas, paying homage to my favorite food and food-folks in Asheville from the previous 12 months. 2018 marks the sixth year of my annual Stoobie Awards, and the first time ever that we’re throwing a party and doing a LIVE ceremony to give away the awards!

If you haven’t read Part One of the 2018 Stoobie Awards already, you can do that HERE, and see who’s been nominated in the first five categories. If you want to purchase tickets to the LIVE Stoobie Award Ceremony on January 28th at the Asheville Masonic Temple, during which the winners in ALL categories will be announced, and the physical awards will be presented, you can do that HERE.

Tickets are: $25 = Eat Food / $50 = Eat Food and Drink Drinks.

Good deal, yo. Shay Brown Events is curating an awesome food and beverage collection for you all to enjoy while DJ Molly Parti keeps the room lit, and I will emcee and announce the winners in all 15 categories from the stage, presenting them with the actual physical Stoobie Awards, custom made for us by MTN Merch!

Here’s who we have cooking and mixing drinks for the LIVE Ceremony night so far, stay tuned for updates!

FOOD: 50/Fifty: The Art of Dessert . AUX BarBuxton Hall Barbecue . Geraldine’s Bakery . Karen Donatelli Cake Designs . Manicomio . Melt Your Heart .Polanco Restaurant . The Nightbell . Sand Hill KitchenSovereign Remedies . Sunny Point Café . Table Asheville . Twisted Laurel Asheville Worthy Baker . Rolled and Roasted .  The Underground Café with DoughP Doughnuts

I’ve never been an Emcee for an award ceremony before. I’m sure I’ll be fine. “Hey, Everybody! So, check this out, I went to the Asheville Salt Cave the other day. Too salty.” (crickets chirping) #flopsweat See ya there!

BUY TICKETS >>HERE<<

Aaannnyhoodledeedoodles, let’s get to the nominees in the next FIVE categories of the 2018 Stoobie Awards, and start by asking the #1 question on every serious eater’s mind…

What’s the most consistent restaurant in Asheville?

Yeah, kinda boring I know, but for real, inconsistency is the most frequent complaint that people make to me about their eating experiences, and as a food writer and frequent restaurant  recommender, it can get dicy when I say, “Yeah, go to Pappy’s Crab Shack, it’s awesome,” and then Pappy Junior is in the kitchen when the readers go, and he fucks up the crabs, and I look like a fuckin’ idiot. I can not stress enough that Consistency is key. Every venue has only one chance to impress a new customer. Most casual eaters won’t return for a second visit if it’s not good the first time. Likewise, even solid venues will lose regular customers over time if inconsistency creeps in. Barring the occasional fuck-up, which is only human, being awesome every single time is crucial. Some of my favorite places do suffer from occasional inconsistency, and I still go back, but of course my most favorite places are also thee most consistent, and that’s no coincidence.

MOST CONSISTENT(LY AWESOME)

As I said above, a lot of eaters notice inconsistencies, but it’s really the Super-Eaters who really notice consistency. I met some of my fellow Super-Eaters at an art gallery on the South Slope last week, and we all agreed, without one note of descent, that the three restaurants listed below are The Most Consistent(ly Awesome)

photo from Instagram, ©2018 Stu Helm

1. Cucina 24 – Walk into Cucina 24 on any day, at any time of day (that they are open) and you will have an excellent meal every single time without fail. NO FAIL! I swear, Chef Brian Canipelli and his stellar kitchen crew are gonna win the World fuckin’ Series one day, because they are constantly batting grand slam home runs straight out of the park. The Chef’s Bar is the spot to occupy when it’s available, because from there you can see all the action and even interact with the chefs and cooks on the other side of the counter. From that vantage point one also has a front row seat to the machine-like operations that result in the consistently excellent offerings being created by the folks back there. Each person has a job to do and they do it with the utmost dedication and focus, and the result is an ever-changing menu that remains as solid as a rock when it comes to being consistently awesome!
Past & Current Stoobies – Most Consistent(ly Awesome) nominee 2018, Best Bar Service winner 2017, Most Kick-Ass Kitchen Crew winner 2017, Chef of the Year Brian Canipelli nominee 2017, Restaurant of the Year nominee 2017, Best Dinner nominee 2017.

photo ©2018 Stu Helm

2. Table – Table. WTF? Could you get any more awesome? Could you be any more consistent? Every time I walk into Table, I walk out so happy and satisfied, and please with my decision to eat at Table, I could squee, and sometimes do. Take my most recent visit for example, I was just strolling past, when saw “Steak and Eggs” listed on the menu in their window. “Steak and eggs?” I thought, “That’s, one of my all-time favorite dishes, but how the fuck is Table gonna handle such a basic, diner-style plate of grub?” Well, the answer: With impeccable attention to flavor, ingredients, preparation, and presentation, AS ALWAYS, that’s how. Fahk. I hoovered that plate of steaky, eggy, goodness, and resumed my stroll full of yet another example of Chef Jacob Sessoms and crew’s consistently awesome fucking food. These folks take consistency to another level and they’ve been doing it for over a dozen years now! Throw in the Imperial Life upstairs, with a consistently awesome little bar menu of its own, plus Dawn’s favorite cocktails in town, and you’ve got a real fucking contender for Most Consistent(ly Awesome) restaurant in Asheville!
Past & Current Stoobies – Most Consistent(ly Awesome) nominee 2018, Restaurant of the Year winner 2017, Meal of the Year nominee, Chef of the Year Jacob Sessoms nominee 2017, Restaurateurs of the Year Chef Jacob & Alicia Sessoms nominees 2017, Best Shrimp ‘n’ Grits nominee 2017

photo ©2018 Stu Helm

3. Cúrate – From day one, Cúrate has delivered the same exact level of excellence in every bite of every dish of every meal I’ve ever eaten there, and I’m willing to bet that many of their regular customers have similar sentiments to report. Again, like Cucina 24 above, Cúrate is a machine-like operation, where everyone has a task or series of tasks that they are in charge of carrying out with a depth of skill, knowledge, acuity, and concentration that are a sure means to a perfect end. And every dish does end perfectly. From the basic lamb skewers (the first dish I ever ate there), to my recent love affair with the Pepito sandwich, Cúrate never let’s me, or any of their guests ,down. The are as consistent as can be and that is surely one of the reasons for their much deserved success. They have received many awards and nominations from me in the past, and that in and of itself is a testimony to their rightful place among the three contenders for Most Consistent(ly Awesome) restaurant in town!
Past and current Stoobies: Most Consistent(ly Awesome) nominee 2018, Sandwich of the Year nominee 2018, Restaurateurs of the Year Button Family winners 2017, Best Restaurant nominee 2017 , Most Kick-Ass Kitchen Crew nominee 2017, Best Bar Service nominee 2017, Chef of The Year winner 2016, Late Night Small Bite nominee 2014, Best Coffee winner 2013, Best Service winner 2013.

Which of the three venues listed above will actually win the Stoobie for Most Constent(ly Awesome) restaurant in Asheville? Find our on Monday, January 28th, 2019! Tickets are available HERE

FANCY MEAL OF THE YEAR

I get invited to more than my share of fancy dinners, partly because I’m very likely to take pictures for social media, and spread the word about a good thing, but also, not fer nuthin’, I’m a pretty good dinner guest. I can talk endlessly about food, politics, Asheville, outer space, coffee, cats, Gritty, MMA, things I saw on YouTube, shoes, and several other topics of general interest. I’m also polite, well mannered, and a good listener. Plus I’ll eat just about anything you throw in front of me, and BONUS: I don’t drink, so A. More booze for you, and B. Less drunkenness from me! Win / win! So, I was invited to a bunch of fancy diners last year, and they were all so frickin’ good, it was really hard to pick the top three, but here they are…

photo ©2018 Stu Helm

1. Farm to Village, Dinner Under the Stars – Alright, talk about feeling out of place! Imagine me — black hoody, black baseball hat, black jeans, sneakers, scraggly ol’ beard, high all the fuckin’ time me — at a super-fancy, white table cloth, elegant, outdoor dinner, right in the middle of muhfuckin’ Biltmore Village and shit! Surrounded by rich people, fancy doctors and lawyers and scientists and shit, sharing food and rubbing elbows and chatting blithely under chinese lanterns as the sun sets majestically behind the Smoky mountains. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like a party crasher, an alien intruder, an unwanted guest… until… I didn’t. At a certain point of the evening, I realized, “hey, waitaminute, I’m having a fucking great time!” That’s how that went. It didn’t hurt that my friend Jeff from Urban Orchard happen to be there with his super-fun roommate, both feeling as uncomfs as me! Yay! Being socially awkward together is better!  The truth is, there’s usually one or two people I already know and love, even at the fanciest parties. By now, I even know some of the fancy people themselves pretty good too! They’s nice. So, like I said, this fancy dinner Under the Stars, hosted by the Biltmore Village Association, ended up being a great time. Food was provided by The Corner Kitchen, Rezaz, The Cantina, Village Wayside Bar & Grille, Doubletree Biltmore Hotel, and Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville. Ticket sales went to benefit MANNA Food Bank. It was so pleasant and delicious and fun in fact, that it is my first nominee for Fancy Meal of the Year!
Past & Current Stoobies – Fancy Meal of the Year nominee 2018.

photo ©2018 Stu Helm

2. “Drinking Like Ladies” Cocktail Dinner at Nightbell – Okay, so this time, I was not only in one of the fanciest restaurants in Asheville, but I was also one of the only men in the room, and, I as mentioned, I don’t drink, so WTF was I even doing there in the first place?!? Well, having a great time, it would seem, eating the shit out of some delicious food and enjoying the company of those at the table around me very much. Unfortch, Dawn was out of town, so I depended on the guest sitting next to me to tell me how the drinks paired with the food, and she was very nice about it, telling me that she was pleased with the pairings. She even let me smell her drinks, and they smelled fucking great! I know. I’m a freak. She was gracious AF. Each dish was paired with a cocktail and each cocktail came with a story about the woman it was named after, and the female bartender who invented it. The evening was in celebration of a book called “Drinking Like Ladies,” that features recipes for cocktails all created by female bartenders, including Asheville’s own Pheobe Esmon, who works at Nightbell. It was a great night, with really tasty food in a very pleasant atmosphere. Plus, as is usually the case with NIghtbell, a bunch of money was raised for a very worthy cause, so for all those reasons this fancy dinner is up for a Stoobie to be named THEE Famcy Dinner of the Year, 2018!
Past & Current Stoobies – Fancy Meal of the Year nominee 2018, Best Restaurant winner 2017, Restaurateurs of the Year Button Family winners 2017, Best Date Night winner 2017, Best Drinks nominee 2017, Best Table Service nominee 2017, Chef of The Year Katie Button winner 2016, Best Late Night Bite winner 2015, Best Late Night Small Bite nominee 2014, Server of the Year nominee 2014. 

photo ©2018 Stu Helm

3. Braised & Confit Pop Up Beer Dinner – Now this one was different, and I like things that are different. I got invited by my buddy Stephan Pruitt, so I had him to talk to all night, plus there were a few other people I knew, and in general the crowd was in my own demographic of hipsters and weirdos who also happen to really love super high-end food. The setting is what made it really fun and different. It was in a store, after hours. The store is called East West Vintage Rentals, and they  provide eclectic, vintage table settings, furniture, center pieces, and such for catered events, so the table setting were really cool and quirky! The food was awesome and I highly recommend that you find the Braised & Confit crew on Facebook, so that you can attend their next meal. We had five courses of gorgeous, delicious, very expertly prepared food from Chef Christian Albrecht, who is usually a personal chef, so having a chance to sample his food in a public setting made this evening all the more special. As the name implies, this was a beer pairing, with the good folks from The Whale Beer Collective. Stephan enjoyed the pairing, and kindly let me smell his beers. They smelled fucking AWESOMMMMME!!!  Drool. Quiver… Don’t tempt me, Lord! Ha ha! Don’t worry, a drop of alcohol will never pass these lips. So, yeah, anyhoo, this was a really fun dinner, and it was different enough from all the other dinners that I ate all year, it stands out in my mind as a strong contender for my Fancy Meal of the Year Award!   
Past & Current Stoobies – Fancy Meal of the Year nominee 2018.

Again, you’ll have to come to the LIVE Stoobie Awards ceremony (tickets available here) if you wanna hear the fancy dinner winner announced, or tune into Facebook after the fact. Until then, it’s time for a…

New Category!

Food Maker of the Year

I tend to focus on the food preparers when I write my Stoobies. The restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and such. They prepare food and place it on a table in front of me, or in my hands to take home. Soups, sandwiches, entrees, small plates, a cappuccino, a biscuit. What have you. There are lots of people in Asheville who make food, though, and I want to pay some attention to them too. They make things like spices, sauces, candies, and snacks, just to list a few. Some are famous, some not yet! A few have retail spaces, where they do some food preparation and serve the public, but as with the three nominees in this category, I mostly think of them as food makers, rather than preparers. My top picks for Food Maker of the Year are…

photo ©2018 French Broad Chocolates

1. French Broad Chocolates – Yeah, duh, of course this staunch and stalwart member of our food community is on my short list. They have been making insanely delicious, high quality truffles, brownies, ice cream, and other treats for this town for more years than most of us can remember, and they keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger and BETTER! We all know that they just opened their big, giant, new factory down on Riverside Road, and if I heard correctly, they have increased chocolate production by TEN TIMES. Atsalotta chocolate! One of the owners recently told me that they feel pretty solid in their status as a “gift chocolate” provider, and now they want to be the “chip in everybody’s cookie.” Holy shit, that’s ambitious as fuck, but if anyone can do it, FBC can. I have nothing but absolute faith in them, and that is one of the reasons that they are strong contenders for Food Maker of the Year!
Past & Current Stoobies – Food Maker of the Year nominee 2018, Best Coffee nominee 2015.

screen shot from AVLToday.com

2. Sunshine Sammies – If you don’t feel a wave of excitement every time you see one of Chef Susie Person‘s Sunshine Sammies ice cream sandwiches, you’re not human. The bright colorful packaging calls out, and says, “Hi! Remember when I was only available out of a little solar powered push cart downtown? And then that really cool vintage ice cream truck started showing up at festivals and such? Well, now look at me! I’m all growed-up and in my own cute little outfit, available everywhere from the lobby of the AC hotel to the Ingles super market chain!” (Talkative sandwich) Made from locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, and featuring some super fun, creative, whimsical flavors on a seasonal menu, Chef Susie, husband Lucas, and their team are crushing it with their big, satisfying, delicious Sunshine Sammies, in my opinion. Nice people, making great ice cream, smashed between two giant cookies. What’s not to fuckin’ love? Food Maker of the Year? Maybe!
Past& Current Stoobies – Food Maker of the Year nominee 2018.

screen shot from Facebook, ©2018 No Evil Foods

3. No Evil Foods – Holy fuck with these folks. They are unstoppable. Their little mom-and-pop plant-meat company has grown, expanded, improved, and found tremendous success, even with non-Vegans! Selling something called “plant meat” can not be easy. Who the fuck wants to eat something called plant meat?!? Well, me, it turns out. And lot’s of other people. So many in fact that No Evil Foods has gone from a home recipe, concocted through trial and error by frustrated Vegans Sadrah Schadel & Mike Woliansky, to a nationally distributed, award winning product, widely recognized by Ashevillians as one of our best and favorite locally manufactured foods. Made mostly from Groot and other plant-based proteins, it comes in chorizo style, Italian sausage style, and pulled chicken style. Because they make great vegan products, that have won the hearts of many a meat eater like myself, plus they have a really cool name and awesome graphics, No Evil Foods is my third and final contender for Food Maker of the Year 2018!
Past& Current Stoobies – Food Maker of the Year nominee 2018.

Stay tuned for the big announcement to hear which of these three makers will take home the Stoobie award at the LIVE ceremony on Monday January 28th, 2019, inside the beautiful and historic Masonic Temple! Tickets available HERE. In the meantime…

This next category is one of the BIG big ones!

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

You all know how it goes, for every restaurant that closes, two more take its place. It’s just like the horrible hordes of Hydra, only not horrible. As usual, a ton of new restaurants opened up in Asheville during 2018, and many of them are very good! I still haven’t made it to some of the most recent ones, I’ll consider those for next year’s Stoobies, but for now, here are my top three picks for 2018 Restaurant of the Year…

photo ©2018 Stu Helm

1. AUX Bar – I feel very fortunate every time I walk in the doors of AUX Bar. I feel lucky to have Chef Steven Goff living back in Asheville, after leaving town when King James Pub closed and cooking for STRANGERS in another city. I’m grateful that he was able to team up with Chef Mike Moore of Blind Pig Supper Club, and that they were able to find and share an incredible space, right the fuck downtown, on Lexington Ave, which is my OG stomping grounds. They took over a spot that had seen a business or two come and go in recent years. You know, the spot next to Mela where so may places opened and closed, people soon feared the room was cursed! Ha! The curse of flawed business plans and mediocre menus perhaps, or maybe… a GHOST! Yeah, no. No ghost, just a series of unexciting restaurants that couldn’t capture an audience in a town full of very spoiled eaters. Not so with AUX Bar. Their menu is fucking exciting and fucking delicious and fucking available all fucking day long, from 11:00 in the morning until late at night. The kitchen crew is awesome, the FOH is effin’ great, there’s a full bar with creative, tasty cocktails (from what I hear), and the food is just the titty-ass bomb of all bombs in my opinion. To me, AUX Bar’s menu exemplifies the “Asheville food esthetic” more than any other restaurant: Southern Food with a hipster twist. I love it. PS – Don’t look at the artwork while eating. PPS – Order the vinegar pie.
Past & Current Stoobies – Best New Restaurant nominee 2018.

photo ©2018 Stu Helm

2. Vivian – Technically, Vivian opened in December of 2017, but since I didn’t make it there until January, 2018, I’m including it in the “New Restaurant” category, because holy shit. What an insanely great restaurant, and a brilliant new jewel in the crown of high-end dining establishments that currently rings our city: Cúrate, Nightbell, Posana, Rhubarb, Jargon, Admiral, Bull & Beggar, Cucina 24, Table, and now add Vivian to that all-star lineup. It’s incredible. The number of truly top-shelf restaurants we have in Asheville, and I mean truly outstanding eateries, far exceeds any expectations that one might have of a funny little hippy town tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina. We are lucky as fuck. If you haven’t been to Vivian yet, it is classic French and Northern European food, no modern hipster twists, cooked and served with deep and obvious love, attention to detail, and deft professionalism. Friendly and quasi-casual, but also upscale and “fancy” at the same time, Vivian is a unique and delightful addition to Asheville’s upper echelon of restaurants, and a very strong contender for 2018 Restaurant of the Year!
Past & Current Stoobies – Best New Restaurant nominee 2018.

screen shot from Instagram, photo ©2018 Stu Helm

3. Haywood Common  – West Asheville’s food scene just keeps getting better and better, with Beecham’s Curve blowin’ up one end, and Sand Hill Kitchen and Galactic Pizza pioneering the hinterlands of Sardis Road on the other. While downtown has become more and more urbane with constant development, WAVL has stayed relatively quiet, still retaining a lot of the small town, olde school grittiness of days long gone for Downtown. And yet, the eats are just amazing as anything downtown! The Tastee, the Admiral, Sunny Point, Foothills Butcher Bar, and now add Haywood Common to the mix. I have only been a handful of times so far, but it has won a spot in my heart, and it’s always on my short list of lunch spots when my lunch partners with cars want to venture outside of downtown. The last time we tried to get in for dinner there was a prohibitively long wait list, so I know the rest of Asheville is enjoying Haywood Common too! It’s run by Chefs Hannah & Rob Starr, who have operated the Belly Up food truck for many years, one of Asheville’s favorites, and they are doing just as excellent a job with their brick ‘n’ mortar biz as they did on four wheels. The decor is really nice, and very West Asheville in my opinion, with a lot of wood and eclectic details. There’s outdoor seating. The service has been flawless in my experiences, the price was right, the food was delicious and inventive. I recommend Haywood Common highly, and they are solid contenders for a 2018 Best new Restaurant Stoobie award!
Past & Current Stoobies – Best New Restaurant nominee 2018.

And the winner is… Sorry, no, you’re gonna have to wait until the LIVE Stoobie Awards event on Monday January 28th to find out who gets named 2018’s Best New Restaurant in Asheville. and now it’s time for the…

Next category, please!

RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR

Holy shit, Yo! This is maybe thee biggest category of big categories, except maybe or Chef of the Year, or Restaurateurs of the Year, which I’ll announce in part three, coming soon! When I consider Restaurant of the Year, I kinda take a look back over the past 12 months and think about a place that just had a fucking stellar year, serving consistently excellent food, making huge strides, changing things up, improving, growing, fine tuning, getting better in every way. That describes a lot of restaurants in Asheville, so this was, and always is, a difficult decision for me, but I gotta decide, so here are my top three nominees for 2018 Restaurant of the Year…

photo ©2018 Stu Helm

1. Vivian Whaaaat?!? Can a restaurant be nominated for both “Best New Restaurant” and “Restaurant of the Year?” Yeah, duh, obviously, because that just happened. Why is Vivian up for this award too? Well, all the reasons listed above, plus they did it solidly in all aspects for one year, their first. They stuck to their posted hours for a whole year, not fuckin’ around and messin’ with our minds by being all mercurial about shit. They didn’t need time to “figure it out,” or get their shit together. Straight out of the gate, they were, like, “This is who we are, and this is what we do, and this is how we do it, and it’s fucking excellent.” (That’s not a direct quote.) “Sure,” you might say, “They ran Salt & Smoke for years, so of course they had it all figured out.” But I’ll tell you what, even the most seasoned veterans of the food game can stumble and fall, and even fail miserably, when trying something new. Not Shannon and Chef Josiah McGaughey. They had no such learning curve as far as this patron could tell. Day one: Crushed it. Day two: Crushed it. 28 weeks later: Still crushing it. I went many times, over the course of the previous 12 months and they fucking crushed it every single time. Hell, they could have been up for Most Consisten(tly Awesome), as well as Best New Restaurant, and Restaurant of the Year. They aren’t but they could be. Maybe next year. For now, they are a very strong contender in this category, Restaurant of the Year 2018.
Past & Current Stoobies – Restaurant of the Year nominee 2018, Best New Restaurant nominee 2018.

screen shot from Facebook, photos ©2018 Cucina 24

2. Cucina 24 – I honestly don’t get into Cucina 24 as often as I’d like to, but whenever I do, WOW. It’s amazing. I’ve mentioned many time that the bolognese sauce is as close to perfection as anything I’ve ever tasted, and has almost made me cry. #truestory. And yet, I don’t order the bolognese as often as I’d like either! There are too many other great options, including their amazing pizza made right in front of your very eyes in the wood fired oven if you sit at the very cozy and fun pizza bar. Everything is great: The sides, salads, desserts, and entrees are all frickin’ amazing. The extensive, ever-changing, Chef’s tasting menu, which is perhaps the most unique — as in one-of-a-kind-every-time — type of super special, coursed-out, soup-to-nuts meals that you can only get in the best restaurants in the country, one of which happens to be Cucina 24 in the Western North Carolina mountains of Appalachia. Who’da thunk? My pictures of Cucina food mostly came out crappy, so please feast your eyes on their own Facebook pictures to see the true magnificence of Chef Brian Canipelli‘s cooking, not the least appealing aspect of which is his beautiful plating. All of the kitchen team members at Cucina 24 are very skilled at what they do, and when their incredible food is combined with the lovely atmosphere, very professional service, good music, and of course consistency,  it’s hard to ignore how fucking lucky we are to have this particular restaurant right here in Asheville. I feel fortunate to be able to eat there, and I’m psyched to nominate them for a Restaurant of the Year Stoobie award for 2018.
Past & Current Stoobies – Restaurant of the Year nominee 2018, Most Consistent(ly Awesome) nominee 2018, Best Bar Service winner 2017, Most Kick-Ass Kitchen Crew winner 2017, Chef of the Year Brian Canipelli nominee 2017, Restaurant of the Year nominee 2017, Best Dinner nominee 2017.

photo ©2018 Stu Helm

3. Underground Cafe – What. The. Fuck. Stu Helm. How can you possibly put a place like The Underground Cafe in the same category as Cucina 24?!? Or Vivian for that matter! Well y’see, to me, a restaurant is a restaurant is a restaurant, no matter what that restaurant is doing, or trying to do, it deserves to be measured by the same standard as every other restaurant in town. From the James Beard nominated ones, to the ones located inside of gas stations, or as is the case here, in the basement of a very old building. Chef Jay Medford is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, so he’s no slouch. He also made his bones in New York City, before returning home to cook for the people of Asheville, where he grew up. After a bit of a bumpy start in the high-end dinning scene here in Asheville, he almost quit the biz altogether, but then he took a chance and bought the failing and miserably bad Jackson Underground Cafe, changed it to The Underground Cafe with DoughP Doughnuts, and retooled himself as Asheville’s greatest short order cook. Busting out some of the best burgers in town, a meatloaf sandwich that makes me want to eat meatloaf sandwiches all fucking day, and some of the best, most creative doughnuts in Asheville. He opened his doors last year in a notoriously hidden location, yet has managed to make a name and reputation for himself as one of the best venues for locals and visitors alike to get a GREAT bite to eat, quickly, with great service, and doughnut at the end. Hell yes. We needed a place like the Undrground Cafe, and Chef Jay gave it to us. I commend him and thank him, and he is a very strong contender for the 2018 Restaurant of the Year Stoobie Award!
Past & Current Stoobies – Restaurant of the Year nominee 2018, Burger of the Year nominee 2018, Sandwich of the Year nominee 2018, Best New Restaurant nominee 2017.

And that’s the end of part two of the Stoobie Awards!

Part Three, announcing the nominees in the final five categories, will be coming soon! Oh, and once again, be sure to get your tickets for the LIVE Stoobie Award Ceremony, happening on Monday, January 28th, 2018 at the Masonic Temple, right downtown. There will be food, fun, friends… other words that start with “F.” I’m proud and happy to be part of this super-team working on LIVE 2018 Stoobie Award ceremony…


Prt I – A New Beginning Pizza of the Year • Burger of the Year • Reuben Rumble • Fried Chicken Fight • Sandwich of the Year

Prt II  – Ecclectic Boogaloo Most Consistent(ly Awesome) • Fancy Meal of the Year • Food Maker of the Year • Best New Restaurant • Restaurant of the Year

Prt III – People Who Feed People COMING SOON! Food Person of the Year • Restaurateurs of the Year • Best Effing FOH • Cook of the Year • Chef of the Year

~ STAY TUNED! ~


From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O'SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM
From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O’SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

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. __________________ External links: PODCAST: avlfoodfans.com ON THE RADIO: wpvmfm.org ARCHIVE: ashvegas.com BLOG: stuhelmfoodfan.wordpress.com SOCIAL MEDIA: facebook.com/stuhelmfoodfan instagram.com/stuhelmfoodfan twitter.com/stuhelmfoodfan youtube.com/channel/stuhelmfoodfan __________________

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One Comment

  1. And we should care what he thinks…why?

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