Bacon happens. A lot.
Remember that time you gave up eating meat for a bunch of years? And remember how, when you finally started eating meat again, the very first thing you ate was bacon? And you were, all, like, “Holy fuck! Bacon! I love you! What the fuck was I thinking? I’ve missed you so much! Gah! Nom, glomp, grrrrrrr, chew chew chew.” Do you remember all of that? Stu Helm? DO YOU???
Oh, hi. You caught me talking to myself. Embarrassing. But, yeah, just like a lot of you, I was a twenty-something vegetarian who avoided eating bacon, and most other mammal and bird parts ‘n’ products for over ten years, and then, when I strayed, I strayed hard, right into the arms of bacon, and I have never looked back.
“Do you want bacon on that?”
Fuck yes I want bacon on that. I mean, daaag, Yo. Does The Pope shit in the motherfuckin’ woods, or what, because I’ve got some news for you, yes, indeed, The Pope does shit in the woods, all the fuckin’ time, and, so, hence, therefor, ergo, knowmsayin’? 2+2=4? Hello, is anybody home?!? In other words…
Yes, please, put bacon on that. And that. Aaand that.
Luckily, in my role as one of Asheville’s top sandwich researchers, I get a lot of bacon on my thats. Of the six sandwiches I officially ate in this last test period, five of them had bacon. The sixth had ham. Two also had turkey, one had chicken, and three came with pickles, salad, or a bowl of soup. The soup had bacon. There were also some corn chips, potato chips, and potato “crisps” involved, and of course, cheese was everywhere. Good lord, I’m making myself hungry. Let’s get started!
First Entry: I stopped into City Bakery as I so often do, and had a wonderful sandwich for lunch. I’ve written about the sandwiches at City Bakery several times, so you should know by now that I like ’em. City Bakes is one of my go-to lunch places, especially because they are open during that restaurant-death-time between 2pm and 5pm when I’m usually at my hungriest.
So, yes, I was starving my fucking face off when I walked up to the City Bakery counter recently and ordered their classic CB Club Sandwich, which is made with oven-roasted turkey, Virginia ham, provolone, cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, (hold the) onion, and mayonnaise, all stacked between three slices of traditional French sandwich bread, which is made in-house of course (it’s a fuckin’ bakery) from this short list of wholesome ingredients: Unbleached bread flour,whole wheat bread flour, salt, yeast, & water.
Boom. That’s bread, and that’s a fuckin’ sandwich.
Part of what I have always loved about City Bakery is that their sandwiches are not cray-cray, over the top, mind-blowing, chef-driven exercises in art, architecture, or modern theory. They are fucking sandwiches. Plain and simple. This turkey club, looked, acted, walked, talked, and tasted exactly like a turkey club sandwich ought to. The classic-ness of it was reinforced by the presentation: It comes cut into four pieces, each held together by a wooden toothpick that is wrapped in colorful, curly, cellophane on one end. That’s really the only proper way to serve a club sandwich. The bread was fresh, as were the lettuce and tomato, the turkey and ham were on the money, and the bacon was… bacon. I fuckin’ loved it.
Next on my report is the only sandwich that did NOT include bacon. It did have ham however, plus cheese, and an egg, and it was fucking awesome, so I can forgive the lack of bacon for sure. It was OWL Bakery’s, new fangled / old fashioned take on a very classic French sandwich, the Croque Madame!
Just in case you didn’t know, a croque madame is just a croque monsieur… with an egg on top. Get it? . _ . Whatever, France. And just in case you still think French people are sophisticated, “Croque Monsieur” pretty much translates to “Mister Crunch.”
A croque monsieur (French for “mister crunch”) is a baked or fried boiled ham and cheese sandwich. … A croque madame is a version of the dish topped with a fried egg. The name is based on the verb croquer (“to bite”) and the word monsieur (“mister”). – Wikipedia
Okay, so the Ms. Crunch at OWL comes with the egg on the side rather than on top, in the form of a super-cute soft-boiled egg, still in the shell, which has been “topped” (meaning that a tool called an “egg topper” has been used to remove a perfect circle from the top of the egg), then re-capped, so that you have to remove the wee lid, in order to dig out the delicious soft boiled egg inside with a tiny spoon. The whole presentation, including the very awesome and creative side-salad was so fucking cute and adorbs, that I wanted to squee out loud, and you better believe that I ate every single morsel on the plate.
The menu very humbly describes this beautiful sandwich as “toast, ham, gruyere, (and) bechamel” ( AKA white sauce), but there’s a lot more to it than just the list of its components. The bread at City Bakery is really good, I love it, and eat it all the time. The bread at OWL is some of the best bread I’ve ever had in my fuckin’ life, and I truly believe it is something special. Enjoying a house-made sandwich, while sitting inside the very clean and classy bakery located on Beecham’s Curve, in west Asheville, and knowing that every ingredient on my plate is sourced responsibly, prepared with expertise, and presented by people who take pride in the food they make is also something special to me.
My only minor complaint about this sandwich is that it could have used a little more… ok, maybe a lot more… bechemel sauce. But maybe that’s just me. I’m a sauce hound.
Other than that, the croque madame at OWL was perfect, awesome, and delicious, and one of the more refined entries in this report. The next entry is also of European decent, being a British buttie from Pete’s Pies on Lexington Avenue right downtown! You all know that I am a straight-up, fervent, die-hard fan of the meat pies at Pete’s Pies, so it takes an actual effort on my part to go to Pete’s and not eat meat pies. Especially now that he’s got some fuckin’ tiny, insanely cute, “pie flights” that he’s doing. Gah! So good!
Anyhoo, I did manage to tear myself away from meat pies long enough to eat and enjoy one of Pete’s English-style “butties,” which is just a weird English word for sandwich. This time, as promised [ LINK ], I ventured into new realms to try Pete’s Wessex Chicken Buttie. I was really glad I did!
It’s a pretty basic fresh, warm, grilled, marinated chicken breast sandwich, with English cheddar cheese, roasted red pepper aioli, fresh greens, and bacon on a City Bakery ciabatta. It was really good and I ate every gottdang thing on my plate, believe me. The chicken was cooked just right, all the way through. It retained its juiciness, but exhibited zero signs of pinkness or under-cooked qualities in the middle. That takes a little bit of skill in my opinion, so I appreciated the hand of the cook there. It’s easy to dry out a chicken breast, and it’s disgusting when it’s pink in the middle. The cooks on duty at Pete’s that day did not err in either direction, but nailed it right on the head. The marinade on the chicken was tasty as fuck, and the pepper aioli was likewise flavorful. The greens were crisp, snappy, varied, and plentiful. The cheese was cheesy, and the bacon was baconny. This buttie was a winner in my opinion, and I would most definitely get it again!
Also, my buttie came with potato crisps, which are actually just potato chips, unless you’re in England — or at Pete’s — where crisps are chips and chips are French fries. It’s a very confusing world we live in. Speaking of the world, and how much I hate it… the courtyard at Pete’s Pies is one of the most lovely little hidden hide-aways in downtown. It’s a bit of a challenge to find, but once you do, you’re in for a treat as far as pleasant atmospheres go, as well as in the pies ‘n’ butties department.
My next and final destination this month was one of my all-time favorite spots to hide from this horrible world in while I eat, where lo-and-behold, they have a ton of great sandwiches! DUH! My friends at Mojo Kitchen and Lounge have been blowing my mind with tacos and burgers and daily specials for years, but oddly, I hadn’t tucked into one of their most famous sandwiches, ie: The Sugaree! Named after a Grateful Dead song… of course… Mojo.
Mojo’s co-owner, Autumn Pitman told me that people actually travel from far and wide just to get this sandwich… fuckin’ deadheads… which seems pretty simple at first glance, being made from turkey, sprouts, sweet chili, mayo, pickles, & and of course, our old friend, bacon, on Annie’s organic multi-grain sourdough.
I opted for what Autumn calls their Lucky 7 Lunch Combo which is described on the menu like this:
“Choose: ½ sandwich with choice of soup or salad w/ house chips OR Soup and Salad combo w/house chips $7.77 Available Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 3pm.”
I chose the “loaded” potato soup to go with my ½ sandwich. The soup had cheese on top… and bacon…
This sandwich was awesome. Mojo is cooking the perfect combination of two of my favorite culinary genres: Hippy Food and Stoner Food. And please, don’t make the mistake, Nerds, of conflating the two and thinking they are the same. Oh. Hell. No. Sprouts are Hippy Food. Bacon and anything “sweet chili” flavored is Stoner Food. Put them together on one sandwich, add turkey and pickles, and then grill it up real good in butter and… holy fuck nuts.
I only wish I’d gotten blazed before I ate this sandwich… oh wait… I totally did. Yeah, Man!
I usually do. Especially before going into Mojo, where, in my opinion, Chef AJ Gregson is a genius at combining contrasting flavors that are exciting to the entire palate, without overwhelming it, muddying the waters, or creating taste bud conflict by trying too hard. He knows what he’s doing and he does it extremely well. The sweetness and the spiciness of the Sugaree complimented each other perfectly, and the buttery decadence of the bread was offset by the healthy, earthy crunch of the sprouts. The tang of the pickles was mellowed by the turkey and of course the bacon added exactly the right touch of… bacon! The loaded potato soup was also the fucking bomb.
“Who ordered the bacon and cheese with bacon and more bacon and more cheese?”
Came the question from a head that popped out of a tiny window connecting the kitchen to the lounge at Mojo Kitchen and Lounge. The head belonged to Sous Chef Collin Lee, who looked right at me and knew it had to be my order. Guiltyyyyyyyyy! I was back at Mojo for a second time in one week, on the hunt for another sandwich as awesome as that Sugaree. I allllmost ordered the “Shakedown…” fuckin’ dead heads… but it was raining outside, and I was all wet and slightly miserable, so I took Autumn’s advice and went straight for my comfort zone by ordering the grilled Pimento Cheese Melt with bacon & pickles. Good lord. It was one of the most insanely delicious things I’ve eaten for lunch, in like, ever.
Sprouts be gone. Turkey, take a hike. Bacon and Pickles, you stick around, because here’s a new sandwich-mate for you: A giant blob of pimento cheese! Again, squeeze it all between two slices of Annie’s multi-grain sourdough bread — made right here in Asheville, and delivered to Mojo twice a week — grill that fucker up in an ass-ton of butter, and whaddaya got?
You’ve got Holy Fuck, that’s what.
As in: HOLY FUCK, that’s a good sandwich! Imagine you’re me. You’re hungry, you’re cold, damp, and grumpy, you pretty much hate everyone and everything, and then this sandwich comes into your life. Hand held happiness. The culinary cure for depression. Hot Xanax on sliced bread. Now I’m ruined, and I just want to eat this sandwich always and forever in a never ending time-loop of bacon and pickles and cheese and butter and getting blazed and bacon and pickles and cheese and butter and getting blazed and bacon and pickles and cheese and butter and getting…
Calling Dr. Who. I need to borrow the fucking Tardis and make that time-loop shit happen, because now my life feels incomplete whenever I’m not actively eating this sandwich.
So, as we’ve seen in the past, sandwiches can be a conduit to exploring the vast possibilities of time and space [ LINK ], a jumping off point for endless discovery, so to speak. I haven’t even begin to scratch the surface of the boundless bounty of sandwich offerings here in Asheville. I mean, this ain’t like last year, when I wrote a series about brunch all year. This is different, because there’s actually a finite number of brunches, and yes, no, I didn’t get to them ALL, but I ate , like, thirty fucking brunches, and that’s plenty, and was in fact most of the brunches available in Asheville at the time. This year, because I’ve taken on the monumental task of writing these sandwich reports, I’ve already eaten and reported on 40+ sandwiches, and it’s only August for fuck sake. And like I said, I haven’t even come close to making a dent in the immense number of sandwiches that are on the menus out there in Asheville, let alone WNC.
Maybe this is what I’m doing with my life from now on. I’m that guy who eats a lot of sandwiches.
Good fucking lord. No. I’m eventually going to burn out on sandwiches, I know it because it has happened to me before. Too much bread. Too many carbs. And we all know that maxing out on carbs day after day tends to wear a person the fuck down after a while, so I will eventually slow my roll… get it? ROLL. As in Kaiser roll? Or bulky roll? A bublik? Cemita? Kummelweck? Nudger? Scottish morning roll? Scuffler? Pistolet? Surely you’ve heard of a stottie cake? Bread, Man, bread! I will eventually slow my intake of bread, and at that point my sandwich reports will end.
Either that or the reports will end when I die while stuffing a bacon & cheese & bacon & bacon & ham & cheese & bacon & cheese & ham & cheese & fried chicken sandwich, with bacon on it into my face hole.
Until then, below you will find a list of the venues who’s sandwiches I reviewed this time around. Please visit them all try these wonderful, delicious sandwiches!
~ END ~
City Bakery Asheville
“Artisan breads, pastries, organic coffees, desserts, cupcakes, lunch, breakfast, catering, specialty cakes, & wedding cakes.”
Address: 60 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 252-4426
“Cozy bakeshop offering pastries, naturally leavened bread & other small bites in spare surrounds.”
Address: 295 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
Phone: (828) 785-1770
“Gastropub serving traditional English comfort fare accompanied by local & imported brews.”
Address: 9 W Walnut St, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 505-2708
Mojo Kitchen and Lounge
“We have created a menu using many local, regional & seasonal ingredients providing quality food in a casual setting.”
Address: 55 College St, Asheville, NC 28801
Wednesday 11AM–3PM, 5PM–2AM
Thursday 11AM–3PM, 5PM–2AM
Friday 11AM–3PM, 5PM–2AM
Phone: (828) 255-7767
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.
ON THE RADIO: wpvmfm.org
Stu’s column’s should come with a health warning. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, just 1.7 ounces of processed meats consumed daily—less than two strips of bacon—can increase a person’s risk for colorectal cancer by 21 percent.
More info at http://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/facts/bacon-causes-cancer
Soooooo bacon enthusiastic!
“Speaking of the world, and how much I hate it… ”
One more reason I love Stu’s Reviews. Brilliant. In a Stu-y kind of way.