I’m a well known burger fan. I eat a lot of burgers. Burger me. Gim burg. My current plan — don’t tell my doctor — is to eat all the burgers. Last year (2017), I began burger-binging my way through downtown Asheville, eating them here, there, and everywhere. I’m going rank each burger as I eat them, from BEST to WORST, fitting every burger I eat throughout the entire year into its appropriate ranking on the survey. I will also rate each burger on a five star scale, 5 being awesome, and zero being a complete shit show. Please enjoy!


2018 ASHEVILLE BURGER SURVEY
Part 3: So Many Burgers

Holy crap… I might be a little late turning in my burger survey, but I have not been slack in carrying out my sworn duty to eat burgers… lots and lots of burgers. Lots and lots and lots… and lots… and…

IF I had a Doctor, they would be very upset with me right now.

Thankfully, there are no pesky medical professionals in my life to hold me back from… oh wait.. my sister is a dang nurse… but she’s a wound care nurse, so as long as I don’t grievously injure myself while packing untold numbers of meat patties into my bottomless pit-face and heart-arteries, she should be cool with it, right?  It’s called achieving some dang goals, Nursey! Leave me be. Anyhoozles…  my goal, as you know, is to eat all the burgers. Here are just some of the latest…


PACKIN’ ‘EM IN!

★★★☆☆ Pack’s Tavern Buffalo Burger
Angus beef burger, LTO, pickles, blue cheese, buffalo sauce & shaved celery.”

Good ol’ Pack’s.  It used to be one of my JAMS, Yo. I was there once a week during the height of my Pack’sing days.  I loved sitting in the cool, dark , comfortable booths inside, or even in the dappled, sun-shady patio outside, enjoying life, and what were the best chicken tenders in Asheville. One of my very first reviews on Ashvegas was of Pack’s, and it consisted of three words: “Chicken Tender Plate,” so, obviously, I loved the chicken tender plate back then, but I was also a huge fan of one of their specialty burgers. I forget the name, it was something like “The Jalapeno Popper,” because it had cream cheese, fresh jalapenos, and a ginger barbecue sauce on it, and good gahd, I ate the shit outta that thing all the time. Then they took it off the menu, and some other things changed at Pack’s as well, and in the meantime, the rest of the Asheville food scene pretty much blew the fuck up, so I didn’t go to Pack’s Tavern as often as I once did #notatall although I still and always will recommend it for large parties, families, and sports fans.

Then along came Burger Survey, so I was honor-bound to return to Pack’s, where I ordered the closest thing #notevenclose to my old favorite: The Buffalo Burger. It had all the right ingredients (see list of ingredients above) to be classified as something “Buffalo,” and I enjoyed it. More or less. I mean… was it good? Yes. Did it blow my mind? No. It was a solid three-star burger, which is still a good score! In other cities, it might be a four or even a five star burger, but here in Asheville, it’s a good, solid, three, which is nothing to be ashamed of. The presentation was a little lack luster, and… blunt.. I might say. The celery wasn’t exactly “shaved” as described on the menu, and the other toppings were just piled on, unevenly, without finesse, which doesn’t really matter, but the burger patty was slightly dense and over cooked as well. All of that did affect their star-rating, but as I said, I enjoyed it well enough, it was good enough, and I will still recommend Pack’s for large parties, families, and sports fans.

Now, if they ever bring back that jalapeno popper burger, get me on the fuckin’ hot line.

Pack’s Tavern
Modern tavern in a vintage building with over 35 rotating taps, live music & eclectic eats.
Address: 20 S Spruce St, Asheville, NC 28801
Hours:
Sunday 11AM–11PM
Monday 11AM–11PM
Tuesday 11AM–11PM
Wednesday 11AM–11PM
Thursday11AM–11PM
Friday 11AM–1AM
Saturday 11AM–1AM
Phone: (828) 225-6944


JOINING THE CLUB

★★★★☆ Asheville Cheeseburger Club Regular and Cinco de Mayo Burgers
Angus beef burger, LTO, pickles, blue cheese, buffalo sauce & shaved celery.”

So, I finally got my lazy ass on down to Broadway’s, and joined the Asheville Cheeseburger Club. If you don’t know already, The Asheville Cheeseburger Club is a long-standing Sunday night tradition at Broadway’s, the local favorite dive bar located on Broadway… and/ or Lexington Ave… depending on where you’re standing… and how much you’ve been drinking. By now, most of you know that I don’t drink alcohol anymore, but when I did drink, Broadways was exactly the kind of bar that I steered towards, which is exactly why I generally steer clear of it now. If you can dig what I’m saying. So, as much as I really really reeeaaallllly wanted to join the Cheeseburger Club, I had never been… because… y’know… ghosts. Then I got invited to a birthday party at Broadway’s, specifically for Cheeseburger night, and I couldn’t say no. I’m so glad I forced by my friends to go to bar! That’s not sarcasm. Or is it? Only I know for sure.

AVL Cheeseburger Club is now being run by two of my favorite people in the Asheville food scene, that’s Chef Christopher Lee Cox and trusty host/embassador of burgers, Lala! Chef Chris and Lala are both formerly of the Montford Pull-up (YUM CRY SAD MISS) and Chris is currently at the AUX Bar and Blind Pig, so I knew had to go say hi to my people eventually, even if it was at a dirty ol’ dive bar. Thankfully Broadway’s has a deck, so I could stand outside to eat my burger while I also smoked weed… WHAT?!? No!!! Absolutely not, Stu Helm, you did not smoke weed on the porch at the bar. Fuck no. Certainly not.

AAAAAANY…

I couldn’t decide between the “regular” burger or the special of the day, which just happened to be May 5th, AKA Cinco de Mayo, so the especial had queso and salsa and stuff on it. I took one look at the burger board, and one look at Lala, and I said, “I kinda want both.” Lala gazed back at me in knowing silence, a look in her eye that seemed to say in words unspoken, “You can have both.”  Actually, she may have said that out loud. Either way, I ordered both. And then I proceeded to eat both, and I was full. Very Full. Very very extremely almost painfully full. DON’T CARE! Worth every groan. Because fuuuuuck, Man, I love a good, old fashioned, greasy-ass, grill-top, sof’-white bun, muhfuckin’ BAR burger, and these burgers were everything that a bar burger could be, should be, would be in a perfect world made entirely out of awesome. Chris is a genius. Lala is the perfect liaison between kitchen and eater.  This was a really great burger experience all around in my opinion. So, get your lazy ass over to Broadways on Sundays and sometimes on Friday nights, and join the club. You might see me on the porch. Not smoking weed.

Asheville Cheeseburger Club at Broadways
Address: 120 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Hours:
Sunday 3PM–2AM
Monday 3PM–2AM
Tuesday 3PM–2AM
Wednesday 3PM–2AM
Thursday 3PM–2AM
Friday 3PM–2AM
Saturday 3PM–2AM
Phone: (828) 285-0400


Nuthin’ But Hits!

★★★★★ Sand Hill Kitchen’s Love Cheeseburger
Angus Burger with Swiss, Cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickled onions.”

As you may or may not know, Sand Hill Kitchen — which is located inside of a gas station — just won the first ever Asheville Fried Chicken Challenge, and has been crowned the 2018 Asheville Fried Chicken Champ. Needless to say, their fried chicken sandwich is one of the greatest things ever, and so, my friends, is their Love Burger.

Chef / Owner Jamie Wade seems to really know what she’s doing, and as far as I can tell, from just the two items I’ve tried, and the more than enthusiastic fan-base that won her the Chicken Champ title, she’s making food that people like. That’s pretty much one of my highest terms of praise. Making food that foodies and food writers like is great. Making food that people like, that’s fucking gold. And I ain’t talking about pandering to some knuckle-dragging mass-marketed-to Johnny Asshat who eats at Hardee’s, I’m talking about making food that the real-good-food lovin’ people of Asheville embrace and support. When the people of Asheville show their appreciation for a particular food item or venue, you can practically bank on it being great. Y’all are spoiled as fuck, for one thing, so you don’t settle for bullshit.

This Love Burger was prepped, cooked, served and presented with deft expertise. It looked great, and tasted even better. The meat was high quality. I added pimento cheese and bacon, both were killer. The house made pickles were cool, crisp, sweet, and tangy. Lettuce, tomato, hold the onions, put it on a butter-grilled trashy white bun, swaddle it in a cute-as-fuck li’l checkered piece of paper, and call is a five star burger. I did.

Sand Hill Kitchen
Thoughtful entrees prepared with love and kitchen know how.
Address: Located in BP, 491 Sardis Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
Hours:
Sunday Closed
Monday 7AM–3PM
Tuesday 7AM–3PM
Wednesday 7AM–3PM
Thursday 7AM–3PM
Friday 7AM–3PM
Saturday 8AM–2PM
Phone: (828) 633-6868


Are Those Oysters?

★★★★★ Oyster House Brew Burger
“Ruby Brown Farms grass fed beef,  finished with our beer grains, topped with white cheddar, pepper bacon, fried oysters, lettuce, tomato and onion on a brioche bun.”

What? Stu. Yet another five star burger? You’ve gone soft. You’re too easy. You would totally make out with every burger in town. No! Stop burger-slut-shaming me! So what if I love alotta burgers? That doesn’t mean I’m not discerning as fuck! Every one of these five-star burgers is a champ, I promise you that. There’s a lot of really really tasty burgers available in this town, that is just a plain and simple fact, and I’m not afraid to fall in love more than one… or twenty… of them.

Who’s doing the survey here? Me or you? Answer: Me.

I’ve got a pretty good handle on the burger scene out there in Asheville, and I am keenly aware that we are a city in which there is a strong sense among the restaurants that they’d better have an amazing burger on their menu, or they have failed. Of course, we have Kelly Denson and her annual Battle of the Burger to thank in part for the competitive edge to the burger scene here — yay Kelly! —  as well as just plain ol’ pride in product. Striving for excellence then trying to do even better is par for the course in just about every indie eatery in Asheville, and that holds true for the burgers as much as anything else. If you have a burger on your menu, and you want it to get some attention from the eaters in town, it had better be both delicious, and unique. Such is the case with the Oyster House Brew Burger, which, yes — strange but true — has oysters on it.

I was doubtful of this burger at first, but holy moly, the exceptionally well-seasoned, savory, crunchy yet soft & tender, deep fried oysters, in combination with the beefy umami of the burger, and the sweet & spicy goodness of the pepper bacon was fantastic! The white cheddar added the perfect bit of sharp edge to it, and the LT (hold the) O made it a basic bar burger, with a unique twist of course. The twist being the entirely weird, but contextually on-target, addition of friggin’ oysters to a hamburger. Gah! So strange. “No,” said my brain. “Well, maybe,” said my eyeballs, then my mouth and stomach both said,”YES!!!So fuck off, Brain! You’re dumb!

 

I’m slightly addicted to this burger, and  have been ordering it on the regs to be delivered through Takeout Central lately. It always shows up hot, delicious, and packaged in a biodegradable box! Yay, no plastics! I recommend this burger very much! In fact, I’m gonna say it…

This weird oyster-burger is an early contender for a 2018 Stoobie Award.

Oyster House Brewing Company
Cool neighborhood haunt with a patio serving oysters, seafood & sandwiches, plus housemade beers.
Address: 625 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
Hours:
Sunday 11AM–11PM
Monday 3–11PM
Tuesday 3–11PM
Wednesday 3–11PM
Thursday 3–11PM
Friday 3PM–12AM
Saturday 11AM–12AM
Phone: (828) 575-9370

 


 I Will be Back for Another

★★★★☆ Tupelo Honey Pimento & Fried Pickle Burger
Creekstone all-natural pasture raised beef, pimento cheese, fried house-made pickles

Now, for real, I don’t go to Tupelo Honey much. I just don’t. It ain’t about hate, it’s just that the lines are usually pretty long, and the food has never blown me away. As with Pack’s above, however, I was compelled by my oath as a burger surveyor to enter the doors of Tupelo recently, where I ordered-up one of their signature pimento cheese and fried pickle burgers, and you know what? It was frickin’ good. I would totally go back and order it again.

I just happened to be walking past the downtown location, when I noticed there was no line and it was only half-full, so I popped in and got a great seat. Service was a little off — I had to request water, I wasn’t asked if I wanted dessert or anything else after my meal, the check just arrived while I was still eating my burger  — but that was fine, as the server and host were both friendly. Having had meh meals at Tupelo’s in the past, my expectations were set on low when I placed my burger order, and I’ll admit that I awaited its arrival with little excitement in my heart.

When it showed up, it looked a little janky.

You can see in the picture below that the bun is a little effed-up, the fried pickles had all slid out the sides of the burger, and that the ones on top were kinda like, “what the fuck are these doing pinned to the top of my burger?” They seem a little gratuitous.

When I first read on the Tupelo menu that their signature burger had pimento cheese and fried pickles, I kinda thought, “how trendy,” until I reminded myself that Tupelo Honey is one of the reasons those things ARE trendy. They kinda introduced the general public to some very southern and colloquial flavors and dishes, and even though everyone is putting pimento cheese on everything now (a trend I like and encourage BTW!), and fried pickles seem a little ubiquitous at times, this OG burger really served as a nice way for me to touch base with Tupelo Honey and pay it some homage as one of the first in this town to do these flavors right.

Despite any minor failures in service and presentation, the flavors, textures, and temperature on this burger were all spot-on, and I enjoyed it 100%. I really did! It might be the thing that finally gets me going back to Tupelo’s as a regular customer.

Tupelo Honey Asheville
An all-day menu of Southern comfort food with a creative twist, plus craft beers & cocktails.”
Address: 2803, 12 College St, Asheville, NC 28801
Hours:
Sunday 9AM–9PM
Monday 9AM–9PM
Tuesday 9AM–9PM
Wednesday 9AM–9PM
Thursday 9AM–9PM
Friday 9AM–10PM
Saturday 9AM–10PM
Phone: (828) 255-4863


Scott Owen Knows Things

★★★★☆ Universal Joint Steinbeck Burger
½ lb all natural angus chuck burger, pimiento cheese, bacon, pickled jalapeños

Do y’all know Scott? Scott Owen? If you don’t know Scott, you should get to know Scott, because Scott knows stuff, and it’s always good to know the stuff that Scott knows. He’s been a local reporter and radio host on Asheville FM for years, and has a great presence on Facebook, as well as in real life politics and social justice. He’s a hippie, a radical, a bad-ass, one of the smartest people I know, and also one of the most interesting I’ve ever met. When Scott told me that he’d noticed my burger survey, and invited me to lunch, because he thought I should try the burgers at The Universal Joint, I said “Hell, yes!” I’ve never had anything bad at U Joint, and I know it’s a West Asheville favorite, plus, lunch with Scott is always a pleasure, so off we went.

We seated ourselves, ordered our beverages and looked at the menu. I went with the “Steinbeck” burger, which has bacon, pimento cheese, and pickled jalapeño pepper wheels on it. I’m not sure why it’s called a “Steinbeck,” since none of those ingredients really brings to mind that particular author or his various works… but I didn’t dwell on it… I was much more concerned with shoving it into my face than figuring out the etymology. After consuming about half of it, I told Scott that I was impressed, and by the time I was done, I was a Steinbeck fan for sure. It was really tasty. The burger was sizable, well-cooked & seasoned, the toppings were very satisfying, and… yeah… let’s just stop right there, because that’s the perfect phrase for this burger experience: Very satisfying.

Scott was humble when he suggested burgers at U-Joint, saying something like, “Well, I think it’s pretty good, but I’m no expert,” so when we got up to leave I made sure to tell him, “Man, you weren’t lyin’, that was real fucking good.” He seemed very happy about that, although he’s not the biggest fan of my constant swear-wording. Sorry, Scott.

Bottom line, I’m with Scott on this burger, and I recommend it to you as well, my fellow burger fans of Asheville.

Universal Joint
Indoor/outdoor bar with a rotating craft beer list & a menu of pub grub with some Mexican options.”
Address: 784 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
Hours:
Sunday 12PM–12AM
Monday 11:30AM–1AM
Tuesday 11:30AM–1AM
Wednesday 11:30AM–1AM
Thursday 11:30AM–1AM
Friday 11:30AM–2AM
Saturday 11:30AM–2AM
Phone: (828) 505-7262


And that’s all for this month’s installment of the 2018 AVL Burger Survey! Bellow are the standings, ranked from top to bottom. I’ve fit the new entries in where they belong on the survey.

2018 Asheville Burger Survey Rankings so Far

★★★★★ = Awesome
★★★★☆ = Really Good
★★★☆☆ = Solid
★★☆☆☆ = Not that great
★☆☆☆☆ = Bad
☆☆☆☆☆ = Horrible

★★★★★ Bhramari Burger
“Spent Grain Fed Beef, Stout Wort Glaze, Crispy Onions, Oaked Mayo, Hop Smoked Black Truffle American Cheese, Candied Bacon, Pickles”

★★★★★ Sand Hill Kitchen’s Love Cheeseburger
Angus Burger with Swiss, Cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickled onions. [add bacon & pimento cheese]”

★★★★★ AUX Bar Animal House Burger
“Fresh Ground HNG Beef & Pork, LTO, Pickles, Special Sauce, Hand Cut Fries (Single or Double)”

★★★★★ Oyster House Brew Burger
Grass fed Hickory Nut Gap Farm ground beef topped with white cheddar, pepper bacon, fried oysters, lettuce, tomato and onion on a brioche bun.”

★★★★☆ Carmel’s Burger
Local free-range beef, cheddar [pimento cheese], lettuce, tomato, onion, [add pecan smoked bacon, add slaw]”

★★★★☆ Underground Cafe Smash Burger
1/4 lb. patty with lettuce, tomato, onion, ‘special sauce,’ choice of American, cheddar, or Swiss cheese served on Hawaiian roll. 1 or 2 patties”

★★★★☆ Tupelo Honey Pimento & Fried Pickle Burger
Creekstone all-natural pasture raised beef, pimento cheese, fried house-made pickles

★★★★☆ Universal Joint Steinbeck Burger
½ lb all natural angus chuck burger, pimiento cheese, bacon, pickled jalapeños

★★★★☆ Roman’s Pimento Burger
“House Smokey Pimento Cheese, Smoked Bacon, Vine Ripe Tomato & Organic Baby Spinach”

★★★☆☆ Rosetta’s Kitchen Vegan Cheeseburger
Signature house-made veggie burger served on a house-made whole wheat bun with lettuce, red onion, tomato and Vegenaise [+ vegan cheese]

★★★☆☆ Pack’s Tavern Buffalo Burger
Angus beef burger, LTO, pickles, blue cheese, buffalo sauce & shaved celery.”

★★☆☆☆ Juicy Lucy Burger
“Stuffed with American cheese and pick any toppings”

★☆☆☆☆ The Med Cheeseburger
“Made fresh daily from lean ground beef, + served with lettuce, tomatoes, mayo + a pickle spear [+ American cheese]”

— END —

 


Follow me here on Ashvegas, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and my own blog, StuHelmFoodFan.com where I post tons of food reviews, news, contests, pictures, funny stories, and #positivelists!

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.

3 Comments

  1. We have formed a club–no name yet but we’ll get back to you on that–and we are following your lead. Tonight Bhramari. Excellent meat and stuff on it. But way too much bread on that bun. Best French fries maybe forever but then they were piping hot and I do love hot. Next month the oyster burger. Can’t wait.

  2. Chris shirlin says:

    Bring back that Pack’s Jalapeño Popper Burger! That shit WAS the best! Place hasn’t been the same since that left and the buffalo tenders changed quality wise. The Bhramari Burger and UJ’s Steinbeck are my tops. Looks like I need to try out a few more. Another great article!

  3. I had a Tombstone burger from ABC on Coxe Ave. yesterday and it was great! I never would have thought to order a burger at place known mostly for Pizza and tasty brews but my wife noticed the Hickory Nut Gap farms logo…that was enough for me to give it a whirl!

    My favorite gourmet burger is still bull & beggar and the best old school burger is Tastee Diner but I will recommend the Tombstone burger from ABC to friends the next time anyone asks about a “real fucking good” option. I’m excited to check out sand hill kitchen as well after hearing all the hype…thanks Stu!

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