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Hello Asheville!

Have you guys seen Mad Max: Fury Road yet? Dawn and I caught it on opening weekend, and to be honest, I don’t think we should have had to pay full price… because we only used the very edge of our seats!  Wakka wakka.

On a more serious note: Holy crapperdoodles!!! Action? You bet! Explosions? Like, a million of them. Freakish fanatics, wasteland weirdos, and psychotic sickos of the strangest order?!? Out the wahzoo. Great acting… Nahhhht so much. Don’t care. There are so many other great things about this film that the stilted, stylized, at times wooden acting didn’t bother me a bit, and seemed to actually contribute to the over-all other-worldly context of this live-action cartoon cornucopia of death, destruction, madness and mayhem.

If you like action films, go see Fury Road right now. And try my “edge of the seat joke” at the box office. See where that gets ya.

Aaanyhoodles… in the spirit of that action-packed epic, I’m gonna write some exciting words about food and post pictures of it too! WHOOOO!!!

FRESH WEST PIZZA – Depot Street in the River Arts District

We aaalllll know that I had a particular bee in my muhfuckin’ bonnet about Pizza Pura taking-up valuable space in the RAD and only being open for a few hours a week. The fact that they were not open for lunch used to irk me into orbit, and when I heard that they didn’t allow take-out… as in, you couldn’t get your pizza to go… I just… I couldn’t… who could ever fathom such a… what?!?

Well, they went out of bidniss.

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342 Depot Street in the River Arts District is now the Home of Fresh West.

Soops fortch for me, and you, and everyone who lives and works in and around the River Arts District, Fresh West took over the empty space and wood-fired pizza oven left behind by the Pura people. Fresh West opened their doors recently, and I’m very happy to report that they are serving fresh, hot, delicious pizza for LUNCH and dinner, from 11am until 9pm Sun, Mon, Wed, & Thurs, and 11am – 10pm on Friday and Saturday. You can also get a pizza to go. The universe is right again.

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I like it that the pies come unsliced at Fresh West, served with a pizza wheel.

The pizza at Fresh West is old school: Thin crust made of good, salty, chewy dough, topped with a basic red sauce, and aged mozzarella. Nothing fancy, nothing schmancy, just good solid pizza. You can get any number of toppings, and there are other items on the menu as well, like soups, salads… a meatball sandwich. Stuff like that.

Fresh West is the second location for Fresh Wood Fired Pizza AKA “Fresh” in Black Mountain. People seem to really dig it out there in (the awesomely doom-metal sounding town of) Black Mountain, so I hope that people will cotton to it here in the RAD as well, because I selfishly want this place to be successful and stick around, strictly so that I can EAT PIZZA FOR LUCH. Is that too much to ask of life?!?

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CJ Pulls a pie out of the bejeweled pizza over left behind by Pizza Pura.

I’ve been to Fresh West three times already and I’ve had three pizzas. I will be back for their pizza time and again, I’m sure. It is exactly like the pizza I grew up eating in and around Boston (similar to NYC style pizza), so it has a good nostalgia factor for me, and I may even start to crave it after too long. Hmm… kinda craving it right now. Hungry allasudden.

The pizza comes in one size, and I’d say that it is perfect to split with one other person for lunch. If you are a very large, or very hungry individual, you can pack a plain cheese away all by yourself. I’ve done it, and I’m tiny, so I was extremely full afterwards.

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Chester, the manager is a local product, born and raised in Asheville, although he spent time living in New York City, where he… made pizza! Man, that oven really is something else. Very Asheville

Fresh West is going to be one of my main jams, and I hope that you guys will give it a shot. It’s located on the lonely South end of the River Arts District, where my friends at The Junction are located, not too far from where Blue Kudzu recently closed their doors. 🙁 That end o’ the RAD could use your patronage in general. And now here’s something I know you’ll really like: There’s plenty of free parking.

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Beautiful outdoor seating at Fresh West. Chester told me they plan to add more.

THE JUNCTION – Depot Street in the River Arts District

Speaking of The Junction… I’m working for them a little bit these days. Doing branding and promo.

Just in case you didn’t know:

• I sometimes do branding and promo for restaurants, as part of, and in addition to, my regular life-long professions of art, illustration, graphic design, and marketing.

• Since I also write about restaurants, and sometimes review them for you (see above) I like to give you guys full disclosure whenever I get a gig working for a local food vendor. That’s what this is. Full disclosure.

• I have a rule: I only work for eateries where I like the food, and actually, so far I’ve only worked for places where I frickin’ LOVE the food: Grey Eagle Taqueria, King James Public House, Mamacitas, and now, The Junction.

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Shrimp ‘n’ Grits, Junction Style. At first, I was like, “WTF?” After I took a bite, however, I was in love.

The Junction is my neighborhood fancy jam, and has been one of my top 5 joints in Asheville since I first ate there a year or so ago, long before they hired me. The food is daring and adventurous, while remaining accessible, and even comforting. It’s a mix of  Southern cookin’ and cutting edge cuisine.

Chef David Van Tassel is a super nice guy, born and raised here in Asheville, who is really really really into cooking.

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Chef David Van Tassel of the Junction essplains his Porchetta di Testa.

I met him for the first time when he came out to our table to explain how the porchetta di testa on The Junction’s cheese and meat board is made.  I’ll let him explain that to you in person, because I can tell that he delights in doing so, even though he never breaks from his deadpan expression during his entire presentation and explanation. The Junction is small, and intimate, and yes, the chef regularly runs food to the tables. He enjoys meeting the diners, and talking about his ingredients and cooking process.

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My Sunday Brunch partner Jonathan (AKA J-Dog, AKA The Dirty Spoon Guy) looks on while Junction Co-owner Charles enumerates all the reasons that one should order Chef David’s famous iron skillet corn bread.

The owners, Charles and Tanya are also super nice, friendly people. They are almost always on-site, working the host stand, seating customers, even taking orders, and running food. It’s basically a friendly, local, family-run restaurant, with one of the best chefs in Asheville working the kitchen.

The rest of the small staff always has a pleasant demeanor, quiet charm and style, knowledge of the menu, and a level of friendly professionalism that I appreciate very much. The atmosphere is cozy on the inside, and there is a patio area as well for those of you who like to dine outdoors.

I personally think that the cheese ‘n’ meat board at The Junction is one of the best, if not THEE best of such offerings in town. It is also fairly substantial, and one of the better values in town for any “board.”

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The meat and cheese board at The Junction is big and awesome. I’m super hungry right now just from looking at this picture. Gim!

As with many of my top restaurants, I can’t afford to eat at the Junction as often as I would like to. The food is not cheap, but as is also the case with those other fine establishments around town, I happen to think that the food at The Junction is well worth whatever price they put on it, and I can generally get a delicious small plate for around $10 – $12 pretty much whenever.

Anyhoo, I don’t wanna do a whole blow-by-blow of The Junction right now — I’ll write more in the future — I just wanted to let you guys know a little bit about them, and kind of re-assure you that I’m not endorsing their food because I work for them, I work for them because I love the food! It’s really good.

Here are some Instagram pictures that I took during one of their Sunday Brunches. Nothing makes food look quite as awesome as Instagram. Please follow me there @stuhelm33.

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You can see for yourself that there are indeed several reasons to order the cornbread.
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There are also many reasons to order the house-made strawberry fennel “pop-tart.”
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I used to think I didn’t like scrapple. Then I tasted Chef David’s scrapple. Now I like scrapple. This is biscuits and gravy with scrapple, succotash, and a deep fried pork rind. That rind is a trip.
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BACON!

If you want to check out The Junction, they are open Wednesday through Saturday at 5pm for cocktails and the kitchen starts serving dinner at 5:30. Sunday Brunch is from 10:30am – 2:30pm.

It might be smart to call ahead and make a reservation, because, like I said, it’s a small place and it fills up fast.

Oh shit, I almost forgot, they also have excellent Dynamite Roasting Co. coffee and award winning mixologists in the howwwse!

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Coffee in a big, bright yellow, ceramic mug. Yeah, Man.
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Jen is the mix master at the Junction these days. She’s awesome.

Alright. I’ll give it a rest now… No I won’t! JUNCTION!!!

SOVEREIGN REMEDIES – Market Street, Downtown Asheville

I know this is the third or fourth time I’ve written about Sov Rems on Ashvegas, but they have a special thing going on every Sunday that I wanna let you know about: Guest “Star-tenders” from other venues around town make awesome drinks,  and Sunil Patel from Patchwork Urban Farms cooks a Sunday Supper of home-style Indian food. Dawn loves the cocktails, and we both love the food and the people at Sov Rems. It’s quickly becoming our regular Sunday Night jam.

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Chaat!
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Saag!
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Tasty beverage!
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Ben and Brooke! Brooke was “Star-tending,” on loan from 5 Walnut Street wine bar.

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Bonus 5 second video of Brooke shakin’ that shaker within an inch of its life!

BUXTON HALL BBQ at BURIAL BEER CO – South Slope

Finally, last thing I promise, I want to report that I’ve been eating Chef Elliot Moss’s Buxton Hall BBQ every chance I get, and it is insanely good!

While we all wait for Chef Moss and company to open Buxton Hall’s actual doors, I feel damn lucky that I’ve been able to preview his BBQ at other venues three times already: First at [RE]Happening and twice at Burial Beer Co. which is located on the South Slope of Downtown at 40 Collier Ave.

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It’s coming!!! Just not for a little while yet.

Chef Moss sets up his smokin’ stuff in the gravel area in the back of Burial, and starts slingin’ chicken’, pork, lamb, and sides that are to die for.

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Lamb Kebab and Smoked Chicken with sides. Good lord. Amazing.

I won’t go into a ton of detail, just take my word for it, this food is fucking good.

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“Oink!” said the pig… no more.

Plus, you get to see the smoking process, in all it’s gruesome glory

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Chickens dance in a circle of death… delicious, smoky, mouth watering death.

It’s a horror show of haute cuisine, Y’all!

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stu_helm_2013Stu 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 about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook. 

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