stuhelmthefoodcritic_logo_MXBO_2014_72DPIBy Stu Helm

Hello Asheville!

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me, “Do you read West Asheville Exchange?”

No I don’t.

._. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXiifFBHj5g)

Aaanyhoodles…

BISCUIT HEAD – Biltmore Ave & West Asheville

I went to Biscuit Head in WAVL once, a while back, right around when they first opened, way before I started writing these food columns.  I was not impressed.

I knew I had to give them another chance, however, before I wrote about them for you guys, so when another branch opened up on Biltmore Ave, not too far from Food Critic HQ, I hopped on Bikey and sped over to meet Jasvegas for a bite to eat and some catching-up on the scuttlebutt.

During that first visit to the WAVL location, I don’t know what I got. I mean, I literally, at the time, as I was eating it, did not know what I had ordered, because I could not identify what was on the plate in front of me.  There was a biscuit, that much I could see, and some eggs. There was hollandaise sauce, and…  protein…  some kind of protein. That’s the part I couldn’t figure out.

I’m known to order fake meat from time to time, and about halfway through what I thought was a big ol’ slice of ham, I started to wonder…  “Did I order vegan ham by accident?”  Y’know, like TVP  —  fake meat —  style “ham.” Then, I was like, “No, wait, this is canadian bacon… ” Then, “No…  it’s TVP. For sure. TVP…  No, fuck, I’m jus’ trippin’.  It’s fuckin’ ham. Duh.  Wait, no, it’s NOT ham OR bacon…  is it baloney? A big thick slice of house made baloney or some shit? TVP baloney?!? Good gawd, I have no frickin’ idea what this protein is!!!”

All of those thoughts swirled ’round my head as I ate the mysterious slab of dark-pinkness on my plate. Eventually, I decided it was too weird, no matter what it was, and pushed it aside. I mean, if it was ham…  no way.  If it was TVP…  FAIL. Canadian bacon? The worst ever  I also found the biscuit to be dry.

Okay, now fast-forward (or as I like to say fuhfuhwah) to the more recent events, with Jason and I having our little gab-fest over “Cat Head” biscuits, at the Biltmore Ave location…  up near Mission Hospital?

You know: where Tomato Jam used to be?

In that really weird location, that looks like an East Asheville apartment complex?

I’m sure you’ve seen the sign, and if you’re like me, you’ve thought, “Really? That’s is such a weird frickin’ place for a restaurant. How the heck are they gonna survive? Good luck to you, Sir and/or Madam.”

Well, now that I’ve seen it, I’m happy to report that it’s a perfectly fine location for a restaurant , with cute indoor and outdoor seating, and  —  at least on the day we were there  —  the place was bumpin’ with hospital workers the like, so I think Biscuit Head on Biltmore Ave is gonna do just fine. I can’t see how they wouldn’t.  Especially, because the food we ordered was really frickin’ good. No mystery protein this time!

I went for something hollandaisey again, and ordered the brisket biscuit. I also like that name. Brisket biscuit.

It was a stack that went like this from the bottom up:

• Bottom Half of a Cat Head Biscuit  – I learned from Jason, a true native of the South, that a “Cat Head” biscuit is bigger than a regular biscuit. About the size of a cat’s head, is the basic idea there. Okay.

•  Beef Brisket – Very well prepared and yum-tastic!! Stringy, juicy, and super umami-y, that was some dang good brisket as far as I can tell!  I mean, I’m no expert on such things, but yeah, Man, gimme.

• Cat Head Biscuit Top – This was the top half of the biscuit that I mentioned right above “Beef Brisket” in this list of bullet points…  Nomesayin’?

• Goat Cheese Crumbles – Nummers.  I love goat cheese, it went very well with the brisket, and made this dish something a little different and unique, y’know?  Like, I probably wouldn’t have thought to put goat cheese on there myself, so I was all, “Oooh, weird combo…  mmm, tastyyy.”

• A Poached Egg – Hell yes. Gittin’ poachy wid it. I love poached eggs, and this one was poached just right.

• Hollandaise Sauce – A goodly portion of this was poured on top, and it was great! Hollandaise sauce is not the easiest thing on Earth to whip-up, so I gotta hand it to these guys, they did a very good job.

• Buffalo Sauce – The whole thing was topped-off with a splash of Buffalo sauce. House made? I’m guessing yes. I mean how fucking hard is it to make Buffalo Sauce? Not very.

If all that sounds good to you, then you and me agree on something.  It sounded good when I saw it on the board, it looked frickin’ awesome on my plate, and it tasted amazewad to the maxballs in my mouth. I fucking CHOWED that muther down, and was stizzle-uffed by the time I hit the tin plate underneath it all.  OOF!  It was not the healthiest  — or event he most reasonable —  lunch I ate that week, but it might have been the most satisfying.

Jason got a fried chicken biscuit, I had a bite, it was also good, but I’ll have to go back to Biscuit Head on Biltmore to try more of their dishes and report back to you if anything really stands-out or fails in the future.

Here are my only two complaints:

• I hate tin plates.  Too “Summer Campy.” Plus the sound of metal utensils scraping a tin plate makes my brain hurt.

•  Despite all of the various sauces and such, the biscuit was dry, and I didn’t finish it. Maybe cat head biscuits are just  too big for me.  Something about the size of a Guinea pig head might work better?  Ferret-head biscuits? No.Too small. Hmmm, I’ll have to think about this and get back to you guys about exactly which household pet has the perfect sized head for a biscuit.  I welcome your thoughts.

VORTEX DONUTS – Banks Street, SoSlo

I had to keep telling myself “It’s only doughnuts…  it’s only doughnuts…”

Y’see, I like doughnuts.  And when you promise me doughnuts, I start to look forward to doughnuts, and then when the doughnuts are not there, the panic starts to set in.

“Doughnuts?  Doughnuts?  Are there doughnuts? You said there would be doughnuts. But there are no doughnuts. Where are the doughnuts? I want doughnuts! Dough. Nuts. Dough.  Nuts. Dough. Nuts. Dough. Nuts.”

Vortex has been promising us doughnuts for, like, ever? And I’ll admit, I was starting to get kind of resentful. They said they’d be open in June  August? September? The longer I waited, the more I hated.  I was denied time and again, as I heard rumors they were opened and rode Bikey to their doors only to find construction workers instead of creme-filled crullers!

They said there would be doughnuts.  But there weren’t doughnuts.

I mean, how the fuck am I supposed to just forgive that shit, Man?

I’ll tell you how:  I finally ate one…  okay three.. of their doughnuts and they were frickin’ awesome!!! All is forgiven and I love you now, Vortex.  You are going to be such a regular jam for me, that your employees will be sick of seeing my donut-fattened-and-sugar-encrusted face before the new year.

I chose these three flavors to start my Vortex doughnut eating career  with:

• Cinnamon Sugar – This was a cake style doughnut, slightly on the smallish side, but nice and dense and caky.  I had to brush a lot of the sugar off (too sweet for me) but otherwise the flavor was excellent.

• Peanut Butter and Jelly – I saw it on Facebook before I left the house (making sure that they were for REAL open and selling doughnuts to the public) and I snagged the last one. It was a raised style donut, and was likewise very good. Not as sweet as the other, but sweet enough, and very soft and fluffy.

• Apple Fritter – Technically not a doughnut, it looked really good in the case, so I got it and it was as tasty as it appeared to be.  The least sweet thing on my plate, it was slightly crunchy on the outside, and a pretty solid little guy. I enjoyed it very much, even though I was getting soops full by then.

I had coffee too, and it was also very good, and came in a nice, thick, ceramic mug.  The coffee was REALLY good, in fact.  mmmm…  I’m having memories of it right now…  yeah, Man.  It’s instantly in my top three drip cups in town.

I had a chance to meet Ben, one of the owners, who approached my table to ask how everything was, not realizing that I am “The Food Critic,” but just being friendly with a new customer. He explained to me how their espresso machine is American made and the only  one like it in Asheville. It’s some kind of wonder-machine that makes THEE best espresso ever, according to Ben. I’ll have to try an Americano sometime.

The design of the place is really nice, with very high ceilings, big, plate glass windows, and interesting art and fixtures. It’s roomy, bright, and open. It was busy while I was there. I think these guys are going to do a kick-ass business, and I give them very high grades on my first visit!

My only complaints are these:

None.

But I’m sure I’ll come up with one, because I’m like that, but for now, none.

HEMPEH – Smiling Hara Tepeh Company

QUICK!  Click THIS LINK, and support Hempeh!

For realz, I don’t have time to write it all down now, because the deadline is approaching, but you can read all about it if you click that link.

Here’s the basic poop:

• You can support Local Business, Sustainable Farming, AND Veterans all at the same time.

• It’s tempeh made from hemp.

• I want to make jokes about smoked hempeh in the future, so please support this product!!!

Thank you.stu_helm_2013

Stu Helm is an artist and writer 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 restaurant reviews strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook in 2013.

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20 Comments

  1. This might be the worst writing I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading

  2. jonathan wainscott says:

    Vortex Donuts:

    What- A new doughnut shop
    Where- 32 Banks Street, Suite 106
    When- Vortex is open 7AM until 4PM Monday-Saturday
    Who- The owner of Vortex is Ben Myers
    How- (This is the part where a journalist explains “how” his or her experience was, not how he or she got there, i.e. “Bikey”
    Why- This is the part where the journalist, in this case a reviewer/critic, will tell the readers why they should or should not try this place out.

    Okie doodoodly dooles?

    • What am I, the Yellow Pages? If you want reviews like that, it’s called Urban Spoon.

      • jonathan wainscott says:

        okie dooddly doodles Lil Stu. It’s called “journalism”. M-kay?

        • I totally agree, there is a reason that the format you mentioned is the journalistic standard.
          I guess we need to keep in mind that this series was originally pitched as “The Facebook Food Critic”, so we should set our expectations accordingly.

  3. Not to be picky, well I am actually, but one does not cook biscuits, one BAKES them.

  4. I agree about the dry biscuits, tried the WAVL once and had to leave most of the dish. The tin plate really makes me feel like a dog.
    Have not been back as the biscuit is still stuck in my throat, 3 cups of coffee could not get it down. Yes last time I drove past the line was ever longer, almost a block last week. Maybe I ordered the wrong thing or the cook was having a bad day.

  5. I had a horrible similar first experience at Biscuit Head, I’ve since given them another shot and I do like them, except the last couple of times there my biscuit has been overcooked/bordering on burned. I actually had to cut through my biscuit with a knife earlier this week. The gravies are banging, and the biscuits are good, until they’re burned. With a name like Biscuit Head, you gotta get the biscuits perfectly right.

  6. Agree big time on the dryness of Biscuit Head biscuits. I went three, maybe four times when they opened in WAVL, as many times as I had coupons. The biscuits got drier and more square each time,like they had given up on baking them individually and were stuffing the dough into a pan and cutting them out of one big biscuit. This made sense as faster production was needed to serve the lines that were stretching around the block each day, but when the coupons ran out and I had to pay full price, the biscuits were just not worth it.

    The tin camp pans are fun once in a blue moon, but I got tired of them after two runs.

    I also did not care for BH limiting their soft drinks to their home-made. Most sodas are too sweet for me, and there were no sugar-free options.

    For my $, the biscuits at Moose Cafe, which is just down Brevard Road from BH, are the best. If I am downtown and want cheap and simple biscuits, I just discovered The Mediterranean. I am kicking myself for having taken six years to find a place downtown that serves biscuits for less than $6. AND serves breakfast all day.

    • Best I can tell, they have basically modeled themselves after the 12 Bones set up. You wait in a long line, pay for your food, take a number, grab your own drink and silverware, hit the sauce bar, and by the time you sit down your food in the tin plate is waiting for you.

      Pretty damned efficient.

      I like their biscuits. As far as pricing goes, why on earth would you charge less when you have a line out the door?

      I will agree that Moose has pretty tasty biscuits and a great apple butter spread. Two completely different experiences, best I can tell – apples to oranges.

  7. Nice attempt at a dig (WAX comment) Little Stu. Let me ask you, do you say things like ‘Aaanyhoodles’ and ‘shoopes’ in real life? God, I can almost picture it. Anyhow, keep those sponsored reviews comin’, I’ll take care of the real ones.

  8. I’m already laughing over smoked hempeh

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