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Hello Asheville!

Do you guys like to do stuff? I like to do stuff. A lot of stuff. As a way to make money, occupy my hands, or just pass the time in a remotely interesting fashion, using the limited skills that I have, until I finally go belly-up and die. I like to write. About food and flip flops and such. I like to draw pictures of pretty girls and monsters and cartoon animals and goofy shit like that. It’s fun. I am also the editor of the world’s greatest free paper just for kids, and sometimes I even dress up like a whistlepig and harass people on the streets of Asheville. Hey, whatever it takes to keep from being paralyzed with soul-crushing boredom while I live out my weird little life on this weird little planet.

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Banjo the Whistlepig bathroom mirror selfie with bottled water.

Anyhoodles… When I’m not sweating certain large round parts of my anatomy off inside of a whistlepig costume, I have been living one of my other dreams… specifically, my hot dog dream… a dream that I’ve been dreaming for years. I am of course talking about Punk Rock Hot Dog Nights at the Clingman Cafe. Oh, you say you don’t know about Punk Rock Hot Dog Nights at Clingman Cafe? Well let me tell you all about Punk Rock Hot Dog Nights at Clingman Cafe!!! It’s my thing, Man.

A bunch of years ago I came up with a concept that I called “Punk Rock Hot Dogs,” which involved 3 crock pots and a logo. I always start with a logo. I mulled the idea over and over, thinking about the possibilities and logistics of serving hot dogs to the public. Push cart? Brick and Mortar? Pop-ups? Being busy as fuck for about 8 years in the meantime, I semi-shelved the whole concept, but never stopped thinking about it entirely.

Well the next thing you know... I write a few restaurant reviews, I use a few (hundred) swear words, and ba-da-bing-ba-da-boom, I’m the fucking Food Guy all of a sudden. People are stopping me on the streets, chatting with me about food, and some are even saying, “Man, you REALLY like hot dogs!” I guess I write about hot dogs a lot and people noticed. Well, like any good, red-blooded, American opportunist, I naturally thought to myself, “now’s the time to finally live this dang hot dog dream of mine!”

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“The Pub Hound” has pub cheese, bacon, worcestershire ketchup, and Funyun crumbles.

Hot dogs came flooding back to the front of my mind, poking at the inside of my forehead. Trying to squeeze out of my eye sockets. It was starting to bug me, Man. I had to do something about these obsessive hot doggitty thoughts! I sought professional help. From a chef.

My friend, Chef Steven Goff gave me some of the best advice I could ever ask for when he essentially told me to find an existing venue that had space in their schedule to accommodate a Hot Dog Night, and work with them, just to get me started. He’s a fucking genius, that one.

I next turned to my friend Trip Howell, the owner of the Clingman Cafe. I knew that he’d tried to stay open past 5pm a few times, but with foot traffic in the River Arts District what it is (or isn’t) he wasn’t able to sustain evening hours. As is my way, I wrote-up a Hot Dog Night proposal, showed it to Trip, he liked it, and these are the results:

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• Clingman Cafe will stay open until 10pm every Friday night.

• The regular kitchen closes at 5pm.

• Beverage service continues uninterrupted. Beer, wine, Nobel cider on tap, coffee, espresso, soft drinks, and something I invented called a “Night Owl.” The night owl is strictly for bad-asses. If you’re not a bad-ass, don’t even try it it.

• Punk Rock Hot Dogs are served starting at 6pm.

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“The Picnic” has baked beans, creamy cole slaw, and a pickle spear.

• The service also switches from counter service to table service, so please come in and be seated.

• And the music switches from quiet whateverness, to slightly louder, mid-tempo, upbeat, juvenile punk rock music in the style of the Ramones, Misfits, Spits, Queers, Groovie Ghoulies, Agent Orange and the like. If you enjoyed Punk Rock Sundays at the King James Pub, you might dig Punk Rock Hot Dog Nights at Clingman Cafe. You won’t be as likely to hear GG Allin, Flipper, or The Groinoids, but don’t worry, fans, I’ll find another venue to do that in sometime soon.  (When I posted that last part on FaceBook, the Groinoids “liked” it. SQUEEEE!!!!)

Here’s a few last bullet points about Hot Dog Night, and then I’ll let you live your lives…

• Our buns are fucking amazing. Fresh-baked Friday morning, by the ever-awesome Geraldine’s Bakery on Merrimon Ave, and served to you that very night! If you haven’t tried Geraldine’s, do yourself a favor and go. Best $1 donuts in town, fantastic baked goods all-around.

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The two pics of hot dogs above have our old, generic buns. These fresh baked Geraldine’s buns elevated our dogs to a whole new level. Our mascot, Bunny, is green with envy!

• One of our crock pots contains local Wedge IPA and the other has Asheville tap water, some of the best water in the whole dang country!

• Our dogs come in two tiers “regular” and “awesome.” Awesome dogs have stuff on top like pub cheese and funyuns, or pineapple and bacon. Cray-zay!!!

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Th is is a sample menu. I usually offer two new dogs every week, but The Picnic is super-popular, and the Buff Dog is really really really good, so they’re both recurring faves.

• Every dog comes with a ticket stub for our Hot Dog Sweepstakes. Keep it for a chance to win a $20 gift certificate to Clingman cafe! So far we’ve had three lucky winners! Congrats Bob, Libby, and Anna!

• We also have a coloring contest each week! A free dog is on the line. Congrats to 8 year-old Molly for winning last week!

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Contest winner Molly gave our mascot Bunny some historic rainbow colored hair last Friday! Thanks, Molly!

You guys know I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t absolutely believe it to be true: These are the best effing hot dogs in town. All certified Angus beef (yes, we do have a veggie alternative), boiled in local muhfuckin’ IPA, and served on a fresh baked Geraldine’s bun, with all manner of crazy-fantazy toppings? Fuck yes. I’m telling you what. The “Couch Potato”dog had, like, four different kinds of junk food crumbled on top. Plus “squeeze cheese.”

Punk Rock Hot Dog Night at Clingman Cafe is the most exciting weekly event in Asheville… that involves hot dogs… and ticket stubs… and isn’t a baseball game.

See you at the next one!

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Signage selfie at the Clingman Cafe in Asheville’s River Arts District

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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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6 Comments

  1. Curious, Stu. When you use an “existing venue that had(s) space in their schedule to accommodate a Hot Dog Night” do you operate under their ServSafe, Buncombe Dept of Health, Asheville Privilege License, NC corporation, liability insurance, etc?

    • Ok Vince…I am definitely not the biggest Stu fan. Have never particularly liked his style and cannot fathom the fascination for some people in his writings. Rarely even read him anymore, despite finding it cool and a good move that he stopped calling himself a “critic”.

      But come on man. Give the guy a break.

      He’s selling fucking hot dogs. He does not need to incorporate. That’s what Sole Proprietorship is for. He should be able to operate under the venue’s privilege license and liability insurance, I would imagine. ServSafe and Dept of Health? Again…fucking hot dogs. I’ve had some really tasty yet skanky dogs on the street in NYC from pushcarts that looked like steampunk nightmares. I doubt that Stu’s practices and presentation could be much worse.

      I do not anticipate a massive Listeria or E Coli outbreak from a few “Punk Rock Hot Dogs”.

      Stu will probably not get rich from this (although that would be great!), but damn dude, give him a break and let him earn a little extra dinero without grilling him needlessly (pun intended).

      If I am wrong about any of the specifics above, please keep in mind. He’s selling FUCKING HOT DOGS!

      • I just asked a single simple question. It’s hard to see how that is “grilling him needlessly.” It sounds like you’re an expert in the local food service rules and regulations so I defer to your knowledge of what’s legal and proper and what’s not. I am glad to learn that whether or not one might get rich from a business venture determines whether or not the rules should be followed. Cool beans (below 40F, of course)!

    • There are plenty of things to break Stu’s eggs about. But this? Just plain silly. Obviously he’s working out of a licensed food establishment.

  2. as a life long punker with a kid, THANX for ALL you do.

    this sounds so rad, we’ll be there.

  3. Alan in SC says:

    first,you gotta toast those buns then add the dogs, etc. Looks like they were just pulled from the bag. bon appetite, anyway

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