Gosh, I love a good sandwich…

Y’know who makes a good sandwich, dontcha? CITY BAKERY. Yeah they do. It had been a long-ass muhfuckin’ time since’t I tucked into a good ol’ fashioned City Bakery sandwich, but recently I’ve been going back to this ol’ favorite eatery of mine a little more often, and I think that’s partly because I’ve got sandwiches on my mind, and when I think of sandwiches I think of City Bakery. Their “Turkey Day Turkey” sandwich was a nominee for Sandwich of the Year back in 2014 [ LINK ] and they are always on my list when I think of really good stuff placed in between two pieces of quality bread.

Chicken salad with cranberries and almond.

I eat a lot of deep fried stuff.

Because my diet is so effing horrible most of the time [ LINK ] I appreciate that City Bakery offers lots of delicious food that is not deep-fried, or dripping in pork fat. My subconscious must know the food there is healthy, because it has recently over-ridden my hedonistic super-ego twice, and lead me away from the usual bacondoublecheeseburgeriness of my lunch choices, taking me down Biltmore Ave, where before I knew it… I was at the counter of City Bakery, ordering a dang healthy sandwich from a charming young person with flour on their nose. Both of these recent times, despite the knuckle-dragging burger-fiend inside of myself, I was very happy with my subconscious’ decision. Yay! After so many months of being away, eating a City Bakery sandwich again was like eating an old friend… and… um… a side of crinkle chips… or something like that. It was really great is what I’m trying to say.

Now, THAT is a sandwich. photo by Stu Helm

The first sandwich I got was chicken salad (pictured above) on house-made multi-grain bread, and before I say one more word about it, I just wanna to put this out there: YAY! No fucking raw onions. Holy shit. It’s a miracle! You guys might know that I find raw onions to be slightly… totally… over-powering, and in my opinion, quite over-used here in Asheville. I don’t know why this city seems to be on a rampant raw onion kick, but good God, I found it really refreshing that this chicken salad sandwich did not contain even one raw onion. Thank you, City Bakery! What it did contain was some nicely chopped chicken, some plump little dried cranberries, some sliced almonds, a little bit of diced celery, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and I’m sure a pinch salt and pepper. This sandwich wasn’t trying to re-invent being a sandwich, or shock the shit out of my face with crazy flavors… it was happy being a plain, old fashioned, damn good chicken salad sandwich. I ate it all, along with every crinkle chip on the plate, and I was entirely satisfied.

The next sandwich I got at City Bakery had grilled citrus marinated chicken, sriracha slaw, avocado, and bacon. It was supposed to come on a toasted baguette, but it was towards the end of the day, and like any authentic bakery, they were runnin’ out of stuff, so they asked if they could put it on a hoagie roll… or sub roll…  something like that. I guess I suck at identifying breads based on pictures I took of a sandwich I ate two weeks ago. All I know is that I said yes, and it was house-made bread, and the whole sandwich tasted fucking great. It also came with crinkle chips, and as you can see in the picture below, I bought a whole loaf of bread to take home. Mmmmm… brehhhd.

I’m not sure why this picture came out so yellowy. It looked better in real life. yellowy photo by Stu Helm

So, obviously, I recommend that you try the sandwiches at City Bakery, especially if you haven’t had them yet, but also if you haven’t been to City Bakery in a while, go back, as I recently have. They’ve added some new choices, and I’m sure I’ll eat my way through most of their sandwich menu eventually.

Another sandwich to cross my radar in recent days is the Cuban sandwich offered to me by Chef Crystal Pruett over at THE YACHT CLUB.

Crystal, Sundance, and James Browne (best staff names ever) invited me to come in and sample their food & hospitality! Avast, me hearties! I was impressed. Crystal is doing a lot with a very small space, and I’m gonna go ahead and say that she’s also battling a very specific type of atmosphere… can you say dive bar... that is not exactly the most inviting to the average tourist, or your typical Asheville “foodie,” but if you don’t mind a waft or two of cigarette and/or vape smoke coming your way through the wide-open front of the house, you can get some damn good eats in there, including the Cuban.

I apologize for this grainy photo. It was dark in the Yacht Club, & this is the best that my iPhone could do. photo by Stu Helm

Now, I have to admit that Cubans have never been my most favorite sandwich of all time, but this one was very tasty and well executed, and I give it a solid thumbs-up, so now I wanna go back and try the rest of the sandwiches Crystal has on her menu. I did try some of the other, non-sandwich food items at The Yacht Club that same night, including some ponzu tuna, chicken wings, and the mac ‘n’ cheese pictured with the Cuban above and below. It was all great, especially that mac ‘n’ cheese, which could be some of the best in Asheville, no joke. I suggested to Crystal that she should enter it in the Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest Mac ‘n’ Cheese contest if that happens again this year. It was that fuckin’ good, and Chef Crystal was proud to tell me that she makes the cheese sauce fresh to order for each individual customer, and she can add anything to it, as long as she has it in her kitchen. She told me a great little story about a customer who ordered it with hot dog slices mixed into it, and then cried because it was just like how her mama used to make it!

Cryin’ Over Hot Dogs in a Dive Bar… Asheville, NC.

Crystal is exactly my kind of people. She’s straight-forward, comes at you with no BS, and she’s proud of her menu, kitchen, and staff. She herself has what I would call a humble culinary background, and solid work ethic, having previously been in the kitchen of a dang Waffle House for a dozen years! When I asked her whether she’s a chef or a cook, she said with a mix of humility and confidence, “Well, around here they call me ‘Chef,’ so I guess I’m a chef.” Hey, she’s a complete fucking bad-ass, that’s for sure, so I’ll call her whatever the fuck she wants me to call her.

Chef Crystal Pruett in the kitchen at the Yacht Club. photo by Stu Helm

You won’t find a friendlier, warmer, more down to Earth bunch of people than those working at Asheville’s Yacht Club. I’ve known Sundance casually for years on end now, and I happen to think he’s a great guy. He’s been with the Yacht Club forever, and I like that about The Yacht Club. Long-term employees speak well of a venue, and Sundance is the kind of employee that makes a place feel like home to the customer… which may or may not be a good thing when you’re talking about a dive bar! Ha ha! I kid, I kid.  I’ve spent a fare amount of my lifetime in dive bars, and I can tell you from experience, The Yacht Club is a really good one. Nice people, good food, dim lights, tiki-esque decor, punk rock music, and absolutely no judgments at the door. Go in for a sandwich at 5:30, and you could end up making out with anybody by midnight… woooooo! Dive bars! I used to love ’em… so much. Sigh.

Pork, ham, pickles, mustard, cheese. Yep. That’s a Cuban. photo by Stu Helm

Even if dive bars aren’t your thing, I recommend The Yacht Club for Chef Crystal’s menu, as well as a slice of real life with some real people on both sides of the bar. You can see more pictures and read a few more words about this entire meal on my own blog. [ LINK ]

In between sandwiches, I ate another sandwich.

Apart from being my 2016 Restaurant of the Year winners [ LINK ], SALT & SMOKE on the South Slope have one more thing going for them: They are open exactly a 1/2 hour before Buxton Hall Barbecue.

I can never seem to dang remember that Buxton doesn’t open until 5:30. That’s five thirty, Stu. Not five. Five THIRTY!!! Gahd, I’m so dumb. I’m always showing up at 5pm sharp, starving my fucking face off, and ready to fly into a rage state from low blood shoogs. “Who the fuck opens on the half-hour!?!” I might rant to Dawn over the phone while I hot-foot my hungry ass one block over and one block down to BURIAL BEER, and the amazing offerings of Chef Josiah and crew at Salt & Smoke. I never know what the fuck they might be serving on any given day, but the small menu has nothing but excellent choices, so I’m always pretty fuckin’ sure I’m gonna get something awesome. Recently the awesomeness came in the form of a French dip sandwich.

Every single thing on this plate was fucking amazing. You see that one extra large piece of salt? It was fucking amazing.

My rage state began to subside immediately upon receipt of this sandwich…. ahhhh… fahhhhhk…. yahhhhh… Deep breath. Namaste, Yo. Served hot, with a side of warm, savory jus, the beef on this French dip sandwich was tender as fuck, and of a very high quality, with a subtle, almost delicate flavor. The bread was soft and white, and grilled perfectly. It is apparently a special bread, shipped in from a very special bakery, located out of state, that they told me the name of, and I promptly forgot. Sorry. Keep in mind I was really hungry, my brain was eating itself, aaand people tell me a lot of stuff about food that I can’t always retain. I try. I fail. The sandwich was great and it came with a side of house made chips that were the bomb. I ate every morsel.

Nothing quite beats late afternoon natural lighting for taking super-clear iPhone pictures of food. photo by Stu Helm

Obviously, I can’t recommend this particular sandwich, because it may not be available ever again, since their menu switches up nightly. I can and do, however, strongly recommend that you go to Salt & Smoke, order just about anything on the menu, including whatever sandwich might happen to be available that night, and it’s gonna fucking rock. I guarantee it. You can see a couple of really nice pictures of the grilled shrimp that I got to go with this sandwich on my own blog. [ LINK ]

The next subject in this month’s Asheville Sandwich Report is an old favorite that I’m sure some of you will recognize.

Deep fried bird on a bun. photo by Stu Helm

Awwww… BUXTON HALL! I can’t stay mad at you! You can open at 5:30. I don’t mind. Hell, open 5:35 if you wanna, or 6:37! Just please don’t stop making your amazing deep fried chicken sandwiches. I lerv them so. [ LINK ] And y’know who else seemed to kinda lerv it too? Chef Steven Goff! Yeah, Man! This guy…

Steven & I talked about the importance of image control. Ha! I am in control of your image now, Steven! photo by Stu Helm

Last week Steven was in town for a minute, so we met at Buxton to grab a bite together. The lunch menu is somewhat limited, so we both went for the obvious choice of the now-famous [ LINK ] fried-chicken sandwich. This was Chef Goff’s first time at the rodeo, and he took one bite, raised his eyebrows, cocked his head to one side, nodded it slightly, and said something like, “Yep. That’s good.” Ha ha! That is high praise from this stern man, believe me!

Okay, very quickly, here’s what makes this dang sandwich so fucking great:

  • Start with a large, beautifully battered piece of high quality, all white-meat chicken.
  • Deep fry the fuck out of that shit until it is the perfect golden brown hue…
  • And insanely crispy on the outside…
  • Piping hot, thoroughly cooked, and moist on the inside.
  • Add the fact that it comes with American Cheese on it…
  • And house-made pimento cheese…
  • And house-made refrigerator pickles…
  • And a side of some sort of secret sauce or some such.
  • Then put it in a bun that is large, soft, white, and trashy… and… yeah…

…ain’t exactly pretty, ain’t exactly small…

Aaaaand there you have it! The Asheville Sandwich Report for Thursday, March 9th, 2017.

I’m on a sandwich hunt, and I’m not just looking for the best, but also the most interesting, the most comforting, the most daring, the most visually appealing… I’ll be rating these sandwiches on many levels, and passing my evaluations on to you. So far, no lame sandwiches have been encountered. At the end of the year, of course, I’ll be reassessing them all for the Sandwich of the Year Stoobie award, so… Sandwiches everywhere: Be on your best behavior! I’m comin’ for ya.

~ END ~

City Bakery
“…an independent, family owned Asheville bakery and cafe. …high quality, fresh artisan bread, pastries, & more.
60 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone:(828) 252-4426
Hours:
Sunday 8AM–4PM
Monday 7AM–6PM
Tuesday 7AM–6PM
Wednesday 7AM–6PM
Thursday 7AM–6PM
Friday 7AM–7PM
Saturday 8AM–7PM

Asheville Yacht Club
“Tropical drinks & smoked-meat sandwiches served in a lively bar with tiki-statue decor & live music.”
87 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC
Phone: (828) 255-8454
Hours:
Sunday 4PM–2AM
Monday 4PM–2AM
Tuesday 4PM–2AM
Wednesday 4PM–2AM
Thursday 4PM–2AM
Friday 4PM–2AM
Saturday 4PM–2AM

Salt & Smoke
40 Collier Ave, Asheville, NC
Hours:
Sunday 12–3PM
Monday Closed
Tuesday 5–10PM
Wednesday 5–10PM
Thursday 5–10PM
Friday 5–10PM
Saturday 2–10PM
Phone: (816) 739-2582

Buxton Hall Barbecue
“Barbecue & hearty sides pair with beer & cocktails in a high-ceilinged, open room with tall windows.”
32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC
Hours:
Sunday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Monday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Tuesday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Wednesday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Thursday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Friday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Saturday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Phone: (828) 232-7216

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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.

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