Asheville Bluegrass Brunch at Mojo Kitchen and Lounge


Hello Asheville,

In my “Best of 2015” Stoobie Awards, I have listed three “brunches of note,” along with the winner for “Best Brunch 2015!” That high honor went to my friends at The Junction, with The Grey Eagle, and Buffalo Nickel also receiving the nod. In my piece I admit that I don’t eat a lot of brunch, because my GF Dawn doesn’t do brunch, but that I have a new brunch-mate, in the form of one Mr. Jonathan Ammons, whom I often describe as Asheville’s best Food Writer and Adventurer. I also call him “J-Dawg.” Jonathan writes for the local papers (Mountain X, Citizen Times) and also has his own awesome blog, which is called The Dirty Spoon. You should check it out!

Anyhoo… When I announced that Jonathan and I would be doing a lot of brunches together in the following months, the co-owner of Mo-Jo Kitchen, Autumn Bomb, popped-up on FaceBook and asked:

Have you ever stopped in Mojo for Sunday brunch? We don’t even start serving til 11am…live music, bloody mary bar, tasty menu full of variety…we aren’t fancy but I guarantee you will sit and eat in no more than 15 mins. I hope to see you one of these Sundays!

I responded, Thanks for the heads-up, Autumn! I haven’t been to your brunch, but I can only imagine that it ROCKS, so I will be there this Sunday with my nephew and Jonathan Ammons, and possibly even Dawn if I can convince her to join us.

Well, Dawn didn’t join us, but J-Dawg, my nephew Asa, and I hunkered down at a festively decorated table inside the night-club-like atmosphere of Mojo Kitchen and got brunchy wid it.

Mojo Kitchen and Lounge on College Street in Downtown Asheville is all decked-out for X-Mas!

In general I really like the food at Mojo Kitchen, and I put Chef AJ Gregson on my “Top 5 Up-and-Coming Chefs” list for 2015, so I was looking forward to enjoying my meal, and I did!

I was amused to see that Mojo offers a Monte Christo sandwich, which is funny chimera of a thing, that I like to call by the English translation, “Mountain of Christ,” and is traditionally something of a grilled cheese meets ham sammich meets french toast… sometimes there’s also turkey… and jam. Popularized at Disney Land in the 1960’s this freaky-deeky delight is usually associated with children, and I think I was a child the last time I ate one. Overcome with nostalgia, I ordered Mojo’s Mountain of Christ sandwich, and I was glad I did!

At Mojo, they do it with turkey, bacon, brie, and apple butter on french toast. When given the choice of hash browns or cheese grits, I ordered the grits.

Jonathan got the huevos racheros, and Asa got the Red Neck Benedict, with hash browns.

Asa said his brunch was awesome, and he ate every single bite, except for the one bite that I took of his hash browns.

Chicken, biscuit, gravy, eggs, cheese, and hash browns a la Mojo.

One bite of those hash browns was all it took for me to be filled with regrets about my choice of cheese grits… regrits if you will… because the hash browned potatoes were really fucking good. They looked and tasted like they were hand-cut from real potatoes, and they were cooked just right, so that they were neither too hard nor too mushy. They were full of really good flavor, but not full of “weird stuff” as my step-dad says about typical Asheville hippie-hash browns. No chunks of green pepper, or under-cooked carrots here, just good, solid, tasty-as-fuck taters. My grits were somewhat bland by comparison, until I added salt ‘n’ pepper, and then they were a lot better, and I did enjoy them. I just wish’t I’da gotten them taters is all.

As I sank my teeth into my Monte Christo, I was immediately reminded that good turkey should taste like turkey. The turkey on this sandwich tasted like turkey, not just some bland, turkey-textured protein product, like on some turkey sandwiches I’ve met. Later I inquired as to the specifics of the sandwich and learned it was roasted turkey breast meat from Coleman Natural Foods. Yeah, Man. Just as I suspected, real turkey from a real turkey farm, and guess what? It was real good. The Heritage Farms bacon was high quality, thick, and cooked just the way I like it: Thoroughly, but not too crispy. To me, a well done, nicely cooked piece of bacon is crucial on any given sandwich. If it’s too crispy, bah, it’s no longer meat, it’s a garnish. If it’s underdone? Ew. Gross.

The brie added a nice, subtle, musty flavor and a creaminess that was pleasant and yummy. The apple butter, from a local company called Crooked Condiments, was neither too sweet nor was it too plentiful, and it was definitely treated like a condiment rather than one of the main ingredients, which I was glad for. Too much of it would have overwhelmed the rest of the sandwich, and taken it from savory-sweet, to sweet-savory. The bread was multi-grain from Annie’s Bakery. All-in-all, this was a great take on an old kiddie classic! Thanks, Mojo, I enjoyed my Mountain of Christ sandwich very much.

Monte Christo avec Grits.

As for the huevos rancheros, I can’t speak for Johnathan, except to report that at one point said something like, “That’s a lot of chorizo.” He offered me a bite, and yes, I agreed, very chorizo-y. I’m not a hugest fan of chorizo that ever lived, so I was like, “Meh,” but my nephew, who just might be the hugest fan of chorizo who ever lived, told me later that he would have crushed the huevos had he ordered it. So, the take-away re: the huevos rancheros at Mojo Kitchen and Lounge is this: If you like chorizo, you’re probably going to be psyched. If not, probably not.

All of the food I tasted was good, some of it was great, and even the chorizo-heavy rancheros were very well made and tasty. The company was fun — it amused me to see my nephew and J-Dawg Ammons at the same brunch table — and the staff was very nice. The coffee was good too. I’m not sure who they use. I should have asked. Dang it!

I know AJ and Autumn personally and I like them very much. They are nice people! AJ is a very good chef, Autumn often wears glitter… I love glitter… and whenever I see them, or taste their food, I leave wearing a smile. That’s why I hope that AJ and Autumn still like me, even after they read the following…

At a certain point of the meal, I turned to J-Dawg and said, “There’s at least five things going on right now that are some of my least favorite things ever.” There were actually six:

  1. There was cigarette smoke in the air, perhaps because people were smoking on the front porch area, and it was wafting inside. However it got there, it was killing me.
  2. There was stale cigarette smell in the atmosphere, as though a lot of smoking happens on that porch, and a lot of that smoke has wafted in over time.
  3. There was a distinct smell of body odor in the air. I don’t think it was a permanent feature of the room, but it was a definite presence that particular morning. I don’t wanna say for sure that the Bluegrass band was to blame… but… y’know… At a certain point there were very few suspects, and a very strong odor.
  4. There was live music.
  5. It was Bluegrass.
  6. There were children, lots of children, in the room, playing with toys and such.

J-Dawg Ammons eschewed his usual nappy attire and wore a black hoody in my honor! What a guy!

The music was outside, on the porch, so it wasn’t too loud, which was good, and I did find it to be pretty listenable for Bluegrass, bordering on Southern Rock at times, and not too heavy on manic banjos or twanged-out vocals. Also the children were very well behaved and did not become an issue at all. Kids can be a volatile element — so screamy — and I admit I’m a grouch about it, but if they’re good kids, I’m all good too. These appeared to be good kids. No screams.

The bad odors did subside, or were overwhelmed by better aromas as the place filled up with customers, and dishes were cooked and served, but that would be a deterrent for me if I found it to be the norm. THAT’S OKAY, THOUGH!

BO is a part of our lives in Asheville, and it will be encountered along the way. I have also been reminded by others that Smokers need places to hang out too — Battlecat Cafe, Izzy’s Coffee Den, and World Coffee Cafe — and if Mojo is the Smokers’ brunch jam, then I’m happy for them. They need a brunch jam. Everybody needs a brunch jam. Mojo might not be my regular brunch jam, but if Autumn and AJ don’t ban me from the store, I’ll definitely be back to enjoy their lunch menu, which is always really fucking good in my opinion, and doesn’t involve a Bluegrass band that may or may not be emitting more than just sounds. Again, only a hypothesis. I do not know the actual origins of said smells. Just guessing. Based on observations. Conducted with my eyes and nose.

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Above: Video from the Mojo Facebook Page. Below menu from their web page.

— END —

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.


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