2017 STOOBIE AWARDS! Best of Asheville Food Scene pt 1: SUNRISE / SUNSET



Yeah, Man! Stoobie Awards time! It’s one of my favorite / least favorite series of posts to write every year, because awarding “Bests” to the friends, acquaintances, associates, and even casual strangers that I know in the local food industry is fun and satisfying of course, but it is also fraught with anxiety out the fucking ass for me. Don’t forget #TrueStory my father was a preacher-man, so I am a neurotic mess of extreme people-pleaser-ness, a deep-seeded fear of being judged, as well as a pious penchant for meting out judgement to others — aaand, of course I have a God complex, a Jesus complex, and a Satan complex, so I’m telling you what. I’m a freakin’ bouillabaisse of swirling emotions and psychosis when it comes time to do the Stoobies, and whenever I’m done with them, I’m ready for a bottle of Xanax the size of a whiskey keg… except that I don’t take Xanax, so I’ll have to settle for just the whisky keg… except I don’t drink either, so… fuck!


If you wanna read the rules and regs of the Stoobie Awards, click HERE. Otherwise scroll down to read the nominees and winners in the first set of categories, “Sunrise / Sunset,” a title that should become self-explanatory immediately…

As is the case every year, I don’t eat a ton of breakfast, so I’m not the world’s biggest expert on breakfast in Asheville. Also, I don’t drive, so I’m not going out to eat breakfast in fucking Fairview and shit. I’m eating breakfast downtown, and only, like, 10 times a year, tops. Okay, so, that being said, here are the nominees…

67 Biltmore – It’s conveniently located right on Biltmore Ave (as the name suggests), it’s big, not cramped, the food is great, the breakfast is great, the service is fast, it’s quick, efficient, delicious, and healthy. In and out. Done. Yes. They have taken home the Best Breakfast Stoobie for 2 years in a row. Can they do it for a third?
Past Stoobies: Best Breakfast 2015, Best Breakfast 2016, Best Pastries Nominee 2015

The Rhu – Maybe you remember The Rhu’s apple galette from my Asheville Advent Calendar of Downtown Sweets. Maybe not. Anyhoo, they do savory versions of it too, that are fucking awesome. Made outta taters and turnips and such. Fuck yes. So buttery, so nummy, so good! Plus lots of other really wholesome and tasty breakfast treats. Cruffins, doughnuts, toad-in-a-hole. YUM!

Early Girl – Wait for a cold, rainy Wednesday, when the tourists are all inside of the Biltmore House, and head downtown for breakfast at Early Girl, which is usually swamped, with, like, a 45 minute wait, but when the clouds come out, and the streets are empty, you can slide right in, and it’s just like old times. When I first moved here, downtown was deadsville 1/2 the time, and Early Girl was my domain! I loveit still. When I can get in.
Past Stoobies: Best Service 2013, Best Breakfast 2013

Aaaaand the winner is…


67 BILTMORE AVE DOWNTOWN EATERY AND CATERING you’ve got a super-long name that I couldn’t even fit on the award graphic, but the wait for breakfast at your venue is never long, and the food and service are always on point, and you do the basics — ie: bacon, eggs, taters — just right, plus you make and offer healthy happy hippy food and fruity sides, plus awesome pastries, and… good god damn! As mentioned above, I don’t get out of the house early enough to eat breakfast most days, but when I do, 67 Biltmore, you are first on my list of places to make a bee-line for, and that is why for the third consecutive year in a row, YOU are the Stoobie Award winner for BEST BREAKFAST IN ASHEVILLE! Also, you’re owned and staffed by really nice people who give a shit about other people, and your dining room is big and sunny, but not too sunny. Bonus: I always see a lot of folks I know at 67. Which is nice. “Hi, Trip! How’s it going?”

Biscuits ‘n’ gravy for breakfast at 67 – photo by Stu Helm

Next category…

Uh, yeah, I drink an TUHHHN of coffee…

I go to all the cafes downtown, as well as some in West Asheville. I don’t get out to Haw Creek, East or South AVL, Hendo, Black Mountain etc often for a cuppa joe, because… I live downtown. There’s great coffee out there! Especially in Black Mountain which is the home of two, back-to-back winners of the Asheville Coffee Expo‘s “Best House Cup” trophy, Dynamite Roasting and The Dripolator, but I’m mostly walking around downtown when I want coffee, and that’s when I pop into my favorite cafes. My criteria for Best Cafe is not just the quality of the coffee, but the over-all atmosphere, level of service, the kind of food they offer, how good is that food, what are the hours of operation, and even how much do I like the seats, and whether or not the tables wobble. I hate wobbly tables. POINTS OFF! So here are my top three cafes in Asheville…

Trade and Lore Coffee – Last year’s winners are still going at it, being awesome, and even getting steadily better and better over the past 12 months. Have they done enough to keep the coveted Best Cafe Stoobie award on Wall Street? They have more better seating, more better food, more better everything, but are they more better enough to stay BEST!?!
Past Stoobies – Best Cafe 2016

Double Decker Bus – Mock me if you will, but I frickin’ love the Double Decker Bus! It’s cute as fuck, and the coffee is great in my opinion. The courtyard is one of the most pleasant outdoor seating areas in all of downtown Asheville, certainly on Biltmore Ave, plus it’s a great place to meet people, because it’s easy to find, and centrally located. BONUS: You can drive the bus wherever you’re going next… in your miiind.
Past Stoobies – Best Coffee – Espresso / Specialty Drinks nominee 2015

Izzy’s Coffee Den – One of the ways I judge the Stoobies is by reflecting back on my year and asking myself, “Where did I always go whenever I wanted BLANK?” In this case the BLANK is “two cups of great coffee at a reasonable price, in a dark cave, where I can sit alone in the shadows, undisturbed by humankind… at… Izzy’s!

Aaaaand the winner is…


OH, TRADE AND LORE COFFEE, don’t act like you didn’t know all along that it was gonna be you for a second year in a row. It’s not like I’m not in there every other day, and sometimes, on some days, literally three times in one day. You lured me with your Bohemian setting, hooked me with your cortados and lattes, reeled me into the boat with awesome personnel, and whacked me in the head with great service all around. I’m not sure why so many fishing metaphors, but while I’m at it, I have been cleaned, gutted, deboned, & beheaded, by the cuteness of your decor and the strongness of your brew since day one, but in the past year, you have not just solidified your position as BEST CAFE IN ASHEVILLE by keepin’ on keepin’ on, but you have leaped ahead by adding more sweets, more savories, and more beverage choices to your daily offerings, by re-configuring your admittedly confusing counter set-up, and by hosting several really cool pop-ups of various sorts — from gift shops to brunch — aaaaand on top of all that… I really lerv the cute new party-lights on the stage area. <3 <3 <3

Even other cafes love Trade and Lore – photo by Stu Helm

Next category…

Okay, this might seem a little confusing, because a great cafe needs to offer great baked goods, and a great bakery needs to serve great coffee, so at a certain point, it’s like, what’s the diff? Well, it could be said that a bakery is baking the baked goods on the premises, while cafes are primarily selling a lot of coffee, but places like Pennycup bake their own baked goods, and places like City Bakery are selling more gallons of coffee than just about any cafe in town, I’d wager. Soooo… the lines between bakery and cafe are very blurred… except in my own mind, where there exists a very clear distinction based on a venue by venue assessment. Pennycup is a cafe. City Bakery is a bakery. There is absolutely no doubt about it. I have drawn similar lines and conclusions about every single bakery and cafe in Asheville, and have categorized them accordingly. Here are my top three nominees for Best Bakery in Asheville

OWL Bakery – Last year’s winners in the Best Bakery category are still crushing it, and getting better with each passing month. The baked goods coming out of this tiny house-shaped venue on Beacham’s Curve are incredible. Some of the best I’ve ever had anywhere, not just in Asheville. Chef Susannah Gebhart and crew are baking treats that are creative, yet traditional — you could almost say vintage — wholesome, hearty, beautiful to look at, and scrumptious to eat! They also have great coffee, great savories, a really nice and knowledgeable staff, and a wonderful light, bright, clean decor.
Past Stoobies – Best Bakery 2016

Geraldine’s – Well well well, Geraldine’s Bakery up on Merrimon Ave in North Asheville has made it to my top three list in the 2017 Best Bakery category, and here’s why: Lately, it seems like 9 out of 10 great sandwiches, burgers, or subs that I eat are made with Geraldine’s bread. I’ll eat a cheese steak, for example, love it, post a picture on Facebook, and few minutes later the Geraldine’s Facebook page will comment: “Made on Geraldine’s sub roll.” I’ll post a picture of a kick-ass cheeseburger, and Geraldine’s will comment, “Bun by Geraldine’s.” It’s almost to the point where I’m surprised when Geraldine’s DIDN’T make the bread. No food maker can pop-up on my radar that often and not be at least considered for a Stoobie Award, so congrats to Geraldine’s for making the top three through sheer pervasiveness of product.

The RhuChef John Fleer, Chef Kaley Laird and the hard-working staff at The Rhu are making the most decadent, yet wholesome, baked goods in all of Asheville. Their cruffins, galettes, cookies, pastries, and breads are all to die for. Words like: Rich, buttery, flaky, chewy, fluffy solid, substantial, filling, and GAH! can all be used to describe the baked goods coming out of The Rhu on a daily basis. Plus, the atmosphere is lovely, and the aroma is one of the best sensual experiences downtown.

Aaaaand the winner is….


GERALDINE’S BAKERY you’ve been winning my heart since the day you took over that insanely cute little glass box of a building  on Merrimon Ave, and starting slinging super-traditional North East Coast style baked goods, at a reasonable price, during reasonable hours of operation, on a consistent basis, without fail, day after day after day after day. Yes, being a work horse gets you noticed in this town (by me, anyways) but that’s not the end-all-be-all of course. One need also make excellent food, and serve great coffee in a great setting to even be considered for a Stoobie, and Geraldine’s has all three of these criteria covered. The doughnuts, cookies, cakes, and other specialty pastries, are awesome, and exactly like the one’s I grew-up eating as a kid living on the East Coast of Massachusetts, so there’s a high “nostalgia factor” for me, which is one of the ways that I enjoy and rate my food experiences. The smell of Geraldine’s alone is enough to trigger me back in time to the bake shops of my childhood. The coffee is Dynamite Roasting, who are one of my personal faves, and won the popular vote for best coffee at the 2016 Asheville Coffee Expo. Any establishment serving Dynamite coffee is already ahead of the game. The price-point at Geraldine’s is also one of the factors that went into my decision to give them the Stoobie Award for BEST BAKERY IN ASHEVILLE, and I often think of something that co-owner and head baker Fred Dehlow said to me when we first met. I’ll paraphrase him here: “When I moved to Asheville I saw that there were really high-end expensive bakeries, and then the Ingle’s bake shop, and there was nothing in between.” Fred is a very astute person, and he and his wife / partner Rose and their very capable staff are filling that niche big time. Speaking of Fred and Rose, they are super-duper-nice people, and that is always a factor when awarding Stoobies. They participate in local food events, they support local charities, and they really care about their customers and employees. They are always smiling and ALWAYS working. Except for when they are riding around on motorcycles. (points for that too) Finally, as I mentioned in the intro, Geraldines is wholesaling the fuck out of some bread, buns, and rolls to the other local restaurants in town and that is not just good for me and you, the eaters, but it is an incredibly valuable service to the restaurants themselves and the food scene in general. The ability to order locally baked, high quality, super-consistent, bread from a Geraldine’s, rather than order it from US Foods or another big food broker, is pure “value added” to every sandwich, burger, and sub made with Geraldine’s bread in Asheville.

Geraldine’s staff getting ready for the Asheville Coffee Expo – photo by Stu Helm

Next category…

Of course this one is really difficult to determine for me because I eat a LOT of lunch. Lunch lunch lunch. Lunch lunch! I am Mr. Lunch. The Great Lunchtini. Lunchy McLunch-a-lot. If I was the butler on the Addams Family, my name would be Lurnch. Soooo… How do I determine my 3 favorite venues to nominate for best lunch in Asheville out of all the places I frequent for lunch? The answer lies right within the question: I have picked the three venues that I go to most frequently.

Buxton Hall Barbecue – Three words: Fried Chicken Sandwich. I’ve been writing about this fucking fried chicken sandwich for, what, 2 1/2 years now? And I’m still completely enamored of it. I eat the shit out this chicken sandwich on a very regular basis. When I post a picture of the Buxton Hall Barbecue fried chicken sandwich on Instagram and I write the words “#yum,” and “#fuckyes,”  I am as serious as a heart attack… the heart attack I might have if I keep eating so fucking many of these fried chicken sandwiches! DON’T CARE! #gim Buxton’s fried catfish sandwich is also really fucking good, and so is their burger of course, plus they have awesome sides, great daily specials, and super-traditional Southern pies, all served in a big, bustling, very lunchy space, with quick, friendly service from some of my favorite front-of-the-house folks in all of Asheville!
Past Stoobies: Best Sandwiches 2015, Sandwich of the Year nominee 2015, Best Lunch Nominee 2015, Best Deep Fried Thing nominee 2015, Restaurant of the Year nominee 2015, Best Burger 2016, Best Hot Dog 2016

Mojo Kitchen – When I think of lunch, I think of Mojo, and I know a lot of you feel the same. Downtown workers, especially those with a moderate budget, and a streak of foodie in them, are all hip to the secret of Mojo Kitchen and Lounge. Great food, made by an amazing chef, A.J. Gregson, in a very unassuming atmosphere, prepared and presented with style and care, at a very fair price-point. What more could you want? One of my fellow food fans who I might be likely to run into when grabbing lunch at Mojo is Gina Smith, the food editor for the Mountain Express. That right there should tell you something.

Tastee Diner – I can credit my mother for this one. She is one of my most frequent lunch partners, and she often suggests Tastee Diner, because she loves it so. And because I know she loves it, I often suggest it too. So we end up going there together a lot and we both really dig the atmosphere, service, and simple-but-satisfying lunch fare. The price is right, the portions are perfect, the order-and-pay-at-the-counter-then-sit-down-with-a-number-then-they-bring-you-your-food system is perfect for lunch, because you’re in-and-out of there quickly with a minimal amount of interaction with human beings. And the one or two human beings that you do have to deal with are super-nice, so it’s all good.

Aaaaand the winner is….


TASTEE DINER, you freaky-deaky little throwback to a bygone era, you are the perfect place for generations of lunch fans to come together to grab a quick, simple bite of really fucking good food, served hot & fast, in the most classic American Diner style imaginable! Lunch will arrive at the table in a shallow, oblong, plastic basket, on top of a piece of paper with a checkerboard pattern on it… period. Nothing fancy, nothing shmancy. Napkins are already on the table. silverware and beverages are self-serve, which means you can skip the straw — please skip the straw — and like I said above, you pay at the counter then sit down with a number, which is my favorite form of lunch service about 80% of the time. (Sometimes I do like sit and order from a server.) Again, the food is not “fancy,” but apropos of the name, it is tasty as fuck. My mom almost never varies from her favorite Tastee chicken and waffles, and I get burgery wit it much of the time. Fries? Yes, please. To drink? I’ll grab myself a soda, thanks. One of the absolute best things about any great lunch venue is self-serve beverages. I’m one of those people who gets a little bit of several flavors all mixed together in one cup. A little coke, a little root beer, a little orange soda, a little mellow yellow. Perf. The Tastee has a long history that predates the current owners, and there was some grumblin’ when the new folks took it over. Personally, I thought the grumbling sounded like cheap-assery, because prices went up (gasp!), or stuck-in-the-mud-ness, because things changed a little bit. Everyone seemed to be freaking out over nothing, plus what can I say? I like it better now. In fact, when it all changed I had no opinion at all, and simply continued to not go for many months before my mom finally dragged me there, and boy was I impressed! When I met and talked to current owner Jonathan Robinson, I was likewise impressed. He was nice, soft-spoken, and very polite to my mom. This is a great lunch venue, Asheville, and I want to give it a tip of my hat and little bit of recognition for keeping the tradition of the original venue alive — changed though it might be — and providing a consistently excellent lunch at a great price. My mom goes to The Tastee Diner even more often than I do, she is your biggest fan, and yes making my mom happy did score you some extra points, and may have tipped the win in your direction for BEST LUNCH IN ASHEVILLE.

Classic American lunch fare at Tastee Diner. – photo by Stu Helm

New Category!

I’ve added a few new categories to this year’s Stoobies. I think “Date Night” is an expression we’re all familiar with, so I won’t bother explaining that, but I’ll just say that I have a certain concept in my head of what a perfect date night place includes, and that always starts with dim lighting… great food… excellent service… There are perhaps a dozen or more venues in Asheville that fit the bill for me as a great date night spot, and it was difficult to winnow it down to just three, and then one, but here we go, the nominees are…

Storm – Storm is sort of a hidden gem, even though it’s located right on the South Slope, near Bhramari, Buxton Hall, and other venues that are among my favorites and yours. What makes it slightly hidden is the fact that it doesn’t scream “look at me!” It’s tucked in the corner of a multi-use building, it has a small sign, dim lights, is enshrouded in plants, and is a very understated, though highly regarded and excellent member of our downtown food community. The Chef, Owen McGlynn is the man behind the subtle nature of Storm’s presence, because he himself is very humble and understated. All of those things contribute to the “date night” appeal of Storm to me, as well as the fact that the interior is dark and cozy, and just loud enough that you can have a private conversation at a normal tone, without having to strain or yell. Plus, of course the food is bangin’, there’s a full bar, and the desserts are fantastic. If I had a “Best Panacotta” category, Storm would win that.
Past Stoobies: Best Bachelor Chow 2013

The Admiral – I have to admit that the first time I went to The Admiral I was not impressed with the decor and atmosphere. As a former bar fly, night club denizen & worker, the Admiral’s “dive bar” quality and origins gave me “meh” feelings, and may have triggered some old punk rock thoughts stored deep in my cerebellum about all the “blue hairs and blue blazers,” (Google Translate: Old, rich people) slumming it… yadda yadda… obviously I got over it. When Dawn asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday this year, which is one of the three most important date nights of the year for us (her birthday and our anniversary are the other two), I didn’t hesitate for a minute: “The Admiral,” I asserted. That birthday meal was great, and every date that Dawn and I have had at The Admiral has been extremely enjoyable. Dark, private, friendly staff, great food, and yes, an atmosphere that is very familiar, and in some ways very comforting to me.
Past Stoobies: Best Desserts 2016

Nightbell – Have you ever wanted to impress the fucking shit out of your date? Like, impress the living fucking shit right out of them? Well, take them to Nightbell. Serious. The minute you walk in the door, your date will be, like, “Whoa.” Then when you enter the dining room, it’s pretty much game over right there, and you haven’t even tasted the food yet. By the time you’ve finished a meal at this incredible restaurant, experienced the level of service, witnessed the perfect, beautiful presentation, wrapped your mind around the fantastic desserts, and finished your last sip of one of Asheville’s very best craft cocktails, yeah, you’re date will be impressed to say the least.
Past Stoobies: Chef of The Year 2016 Katie Button, Best Late Night Bite 2015, Best Late Night Small Bite nominee 2014, Server of the Year nominee 2014

Aaaaand the winner is….


NIGHTBELL…  Ah, Nightbell… I’m telling you what. If I was “dating,” or trying to date, or in the dating pool, or however you wanna say it, I would save all of my money, work two jobs, sell my watch or even my long beautiful braided hair (random O. Henry reference) so that I could bring every date I ever had to you, fair Nightbell. As far as I’m concerned, the whole point of going on a dinner date is to enjoy yourselves (check), while eating amazing food (check), in a dimly lit (check), classy (check), cozy (check), comfortable, quasi private but crowded space where you can get to know each other (check, check, check, aaand check), Nightbell has got it covered on all fronts. Some secondary goals of dating might be to:

  1. Show your date that you know what’s up. If you take your date to Nightbell, I guarantee that they will know that you know what the fuck is up.
  2. Show your date that you are not a cheap-ass. Nobody likes cheap-assery. It’s very… how shall we sayyyy? Not sexy. Nightbell is what I would call “spendy.” Just suggesting it also suggest that you don’t mind spending good money on great food. Now, that’s sexy.
  3. Be treated like you’re important. Your date might already know that neither of you is actually important — I mean, who really is? No one, that’s who. Eff everybody — but at least for the precious time that you’re inside of Nightbell, you and your date will both feel super-important, because that’s how the people at Nightbell make you feel. VIMF’n’P, Yo, all the way.

And once you’ve finally met that special someone, and you’ve been with them for… oh, I dunno… 13 years… Dawn Roe… Nightbell is STILL ASHEVILLE’S BEST DATE NIGHT spot, for all the same reasons listed above, and you can take that to the motherfuckin’ bank.

You like steak. Your date likes… vegetables. Nightbell’s got you covered. – photo by Stu Helm

Next Category…

The “Best Dinner” category is not to be confused with the “Meal of The Year,” which will be awarded a little later on in this series. Meal of the Year is literally one meal. Best Dinner pretty much means, the best place to get dinner on a regular basis. Like , if someone asks me, “Where should we go for dinner,” I’m likely to recommend just about anywhere, depending on the person asking, but if someone asks me, “Where do you like to go for dinner,” I’m likely to say one of these three nominees…

Takeout Central – Whaaa? Curve ball! That’s right, Asheville’s steadfast food delivery service, Takeout Central (nee Valet Gourmet) is one of my all time favorite ways to get dinner. I’ve been using it for years, and in fact, I used it just the other day to order something from Thai Orchid, and it showed up piping hot, right on time, and was totally delish. Takeout Central is often on my mind when I’m wondering what to do for dinner.

All Souls Pizza – All Souls Pizza has never, once, in the entire time I’ve been going there — which would be the entire time it’s been open — let me down at dinner time. Every single time I go there, whether alone, or with Dawn, or a bunch of friends, it’s fucking great. New people that we bring there love it, and many of our friends are always game for All Souls, as am I, most of the dang time. Pizza? Sure, it’s great, and we get it fairly often, but actually, it’s, um, EVERYTHING ELSE on the menu that really kicks out the jams.
Past Stoobies – Restaurant of the Year 2015, Best Pizza 2013, Best Dinner nominee 2015, Server of the Year nominee 2016, Sandwich of the Year nominee 2014

Cucina 24 – One of Asheville’s fanciest restaurants is also one of the best bets for a kick-ass dinner, top to bottom, end-to-end, starting with the best bread sticks in town, and finishing with amazing desserts.  The food is creative, rustic & traditional all at the same time, the service is bar none, and the atmosphere is just right for dinner: Dim, cozy, comfortable, private yet bustling, and very easy on the eyes. Dinner at Cucina? Hell yes.

Aaaaand the winner is….


ALL SOULS PIZZA you are the best neighborhood restaurant that a guy like me could ever ask for, and I appreciate you so dang much, just for being there of course, but above and beyond that, you crank out some of the most CONSISTENTLY amazing food I’ve ever had the extreme pleasure to eat and enjoy in my entire life, and that is no joke! You regularly blow my mind with your daily specials, as well as your seasonal menu items, and there is never ever any question of consistency. You nail it every time. Without fail. Your staff is friendly, homey, and super-pro, and your space has it all: High-top tables and a bar in the front room, with a slightly “tavern-y” feel to it, for childless losers like me and Dawn; family-style seating in the back room for the larger groups that include squallers and crawlers, and plenty of outdoor seating for the dogs and hippies and other children of nature. I. Frickin’. Love it!!! All Souls pizza, you are one of the true joys of living in Asheville, and in my opinion you are well deserving of the accolade of BEST DINNER IN ASHEVILLE!

I ate at All Souls more than anywhere else in 2017, but I only took a few pictures. I don’t even know what this is, but I’m sure it was fucking goood! – photo by Stu Helm

New Category…

Yeah, so… I don’t drink, and that means this is going to be the shortest category of the 2017 Stoobies. I kinda do know what’s up with the cocktail situation here in Asheville a li’l bit, because Dawn enjoys cocktails, and she likes to mix it up in terms of where and what she’s drinking. She always orders different drinks, and we have a few different haunts, plus she usually has a cocktail before dinner, so we’ve tried them in a bunch of restaurants as well as “bars.” Also, as weird as this might seem, I smell most of Dawn’s cocktails. I do. For real. I will usually close my eyes, and breath in deeply through my nose, and it’s awesome. After about 6 years of this practice, I have developed a genuine appreciation for the aroma of a great cocktail. So, the nominees are…

Sovereign Remedies – Great atmosphere akin to a European brasserie, a sharp staff, and great traditional as well as creative drinks. They smell refreshing and Dawn abides.
Past Stoobies – Restaurateur of The Year Charles Hodge 2016, Best Dinner 2015, Server of the Year 2015, Best Late Night Bite nominee 2015

The Imperial Life – The room is small, the decor is modern chic, the limited bar menu is tasty AF, and the entire menu from Table can be ordered and served to you upstairs. The drinks smell and look great, and Dawn is a fan for sure.
Past Stoobies – Best Late Night Small Bite 2014, Server of the Year 2016, Best Late Night Bite nominee 2015, Server of the Year nominee 2015

Nightbell – Not only does Dawn approve of the Nightbell’s cocktail program, but I happen to bring between four and 18 food tourists in there once a week, and they frickin’ love whatever cocktail they are served. I promise you that I do not smell the tourists’ drinks, but I do smell Dawn’s when we go, and they smell fucking deep and complex and clean and smoky and magical and like whatever the bartenders want them to be.
Past Stoobies: Chef of The Year 2016 Katie Button, Best Late Night Bite 2015, Best Late Night Small Bite nominee 2014, Server of the Year nominee 2014

Aaaaand the winner is….


IMPERIAL LIFE, you knew it was coming, didn’t you? I mean, if you didn’t notice how often Dawn and I come in, that’s only because you don’t know how infrequently we go out! Once was the day… believe you me… when Dawn and I would be out drankin’ most nights of the week, and the bar-keeps would know us pretty dang good, but now days, we head out for a old-person… I mean old FASHIONED… night on the town a couple times a month, once a week at most. I mean, early dinners, yes, almost daily, 5:30 to 7pm, then home, on the couch, power-watching some POS on Netflix and tearing it to shreds. (Did you guys watch Godless? Fahhhhk. BOOOO! Horrible.) Anyhoo, the last time Dawn and I went out for a drink and a bar-snack, we hit up Imperial, and Dawn’s drink, made by one of our all-time fave bartenders, Jen, smelled sooooo fucking good, I’m not even kidding you: It was having a powerful aroma-therapeutic effect on me! Ask anyone at the bar, I was freaking out about how good that drink smelled. Dawn has loved every drink she’s ever been served there, she gets a different drink just about every time, and when I ask her who should win a Stoobie for BEST DRINKS IN ASHEVILLE, she said “Imperial Life, ” wiht no hesitation, so Imperial Life, you win!

I have no clue what this drink is called, but I’m sure I smelled it, and knowing me, I probably said, “Mmmm… flowery.” – photo by Stu Helm

Next Category…

Yeah, again, I don’t stay out super-late at night, and a really good argument could be made that I am, in fact, totally fucking  lame, so please berate me in the comments section below, and tell me where you go for your super-cool 4am bites. In the meantime, I do know some shit about where to get a great bite to eat past 10pm… oh fuck off, I’m old! 10pm seems late to me. here are the nominees…

Old Europe – Did you know that Old Europe is open until 11pm on the weekdays and midnight on weekends? True story, Yo. And along with some of the most insanely decadent pastries in town — all creamy and flaky and fucking gooood – they also have wine and champagne, as well as coffee, of course. I like coffee late at night. I’m a freak that way.
Past Stoobies – Best Pastries 2013, Best Pastries nominee 2015

Mojo Kitchen & Lounge – Oooftah! These guys are open until 2am most nights of the year, serving a bajillion rabid music fans from both the One-Stop and the Asheville Music Hall. You’re gonna see a real slice-o-life, in terms of the late-night crowd at Mojo, and the food is going to be killer. Some of the best any time of day, and definitely late at night!

Sovereign Remedies – Chef Graham House and crew will not only feed you amazing food late at night, but it’s going to be creative, fresh, pretty to look at, and you know what… some of it is actually healthy. Not long ago, we went there and ate an apple. Get out! YOU get out! It was the fanciest fucking apple ever, and tasted insanely good, all spiral cut, and mixed with a ton of great things… YUM! Now I want that apple again. How often does that ever happen? How often do YOU ever happen!?! Gahd.
Past Stoobies – Restaurateur of The Year Charles Hodge 2016, Best Dinner 2015, Server of the Year 2015, Best Late Night Bite nominee 2015

Aaaand the winner is…


SOVEREIGN REMEDIES, you are crushing it more and more every day, and every night, late into the night. Where can Asheville find chicken fingers and fried pickles at midnight? GROSS! Who cares?!? Anyone who wants real food, grown-up food, like, some of the most sophisticated, innovative, and craze-tastically delicious food in downtown, then Sovereign is their baby. It can get busy, that’s for sure, and crowded, yes, but especially during the nice weather, when the outdoor seating is viable, one can usually squeeze oneself in somewhere, and enjoy a very high-quality mixed drink for sure, but it’s the kitchen at Sovereign that’s more likely to blow my fucking mind with an apple for example, or a pile of carrots, or some ice cream made from sun chokes. I’m serious, Sovereign Chefs, you have got it all going on, night or day, but when it comes to thee BEST LATE NIGHT BITE in Asheville, you win the Stoobie award handily. Congrats!!!

Fresh apple with sauteed mushrooms, toasted sunflower seeds, green things, and a sauce of some kind. Best apple I ever ate in my entire life. – photo by Stu Helm

And that’s the end of part one of the Stoobie Awards!

Jesus eff! Every year I tell myself I’m gonna make these things shorter, and every year they seem to get longer and longer! There were 8 categories above, and there are still three more installments, and 26 categories to come!

Prt II – The Specifics

Prt III – People Power!

Prt IV – Best of the Best


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.


External links:

PODCAST: avlfoodfans.com

ON THE RADIO: wpvmfm.org

ARCHIVE: ashvegas.com

BLOG: stuhelmfoodfan.wordpress.com








Joe Sasfy January 2, 2018 - 7:34 am

Regarding your selection of All Souls Pizza, it would be nice if you mentioned that the “consistently amazing food” you write about is largely the work of chef Brendan Reusing.

Stu Helm January 2, 2018 - 8:45 pm

Joe. It’s annoying that you complain whenever I give you an award.

Joe sasfy January 3, 2018 - 8:06 pm

Stu, Such are the joys of old age and retirement, but, yes, thanks from everyone at ASP for the award.

Robyn January 1, 2018 - 3:35 pm

You know I agree with you about All Souls, and always enjoy you take on what’s “best”.
I’d love you to add one thing to lunch. Delivery.
I tell you most of the eaters in this town would flock to most of your bests, if they delivered, and JJ would be run out of town. No one ever says they like JJ. It’s that they deliver!!~

Stu Helm January 2, 2018 - 8:44 pm

I agree, Robyn! Lunch delivery is the only thing keeping Jimmy John’s in business. For real! If the indie restaurants hired a few bike delivery people, they’d be crushing it, and they’d put that trophy-hunting, turd-sandwich monger out of biz!

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