WXYZ LOUNGE • MG ROAD • ZAMBRA • SOVEREIGN REMEDIES • IRON HEN • PILLAR • DIVE @ BUXTON HALL • BEST RUBEN IN OVER A DECADE
I hope you’re doing good! The hot weather and extreme sunshine gets me down, but otherwise life is fucking great! Let’s talk about where the fuck I ate in the last couple of weeks, because I went to some new places, and some old faves, and ate some special dinners, and even had a Ruben that almost made me cry. True story!
If you only see my writing on Ashvegas, you might think that I eat nuthin’ but brunch these days! Well, the truth is that I eat between 1 and 5 meals a day, every day, and most of them I eat at restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and bars. I don’t have time to write full reviews of everything I eat, but you can follow me on Instagram and FaceBook to see pictures of nearly everything I put in my mouth. In in lieu of full reviews, hash tags like #yum, #iwanthemall, and #fuckyes might indicate my enthusiasm for the food in the pics. I post raw pics on FaceBook and I clean up the best o’ the bunch for Insta.
Anyhoo, I do wanna give some special attention to a few of the great places around Asheville that Dawn and I have been to lately, so here we go…
OUR FOOD TOUR OF ASHEVILLE BEGINS AT THE WXYZ LOUNGE AT THE ALOFT HOTEL.
We’re starting at Aloft because that’s where I meet the food fans who sign up for my new walking food tour that I’ve been doing with Asheville Food Tours every Sunday. It’s fun as fuck, and of course we have great food along the way, and coffee, and cocktails, and beer, and we even make an art ‘n’ wine stop too!
I took both of the walking food tours offered in Asheville, Eating Asheville and Asheville Food Tours, and enjoyed each of them tremendously! I think they are a fun, and filling way for locals and visitors alike to get a lot of food from various places and see what’s what along the way. After taking the Asheville Food Tours brunch tour back in May I asked tour guide extraordinaire Paddy Reils if there was a job in the company for a slob like me, and he said Hell yes! So I worked on making a route for myself and added some unique aspects that I thought would appeal to my fellow food fans. My tour is called the Food Fans Foot Tour, and you can sign-up for it here.
Yes, we always start at the Aloft, and here are just some of the reasons: It’s cool, dark, and awesome inside, so we can all escape the heat while we convene before the tour begins. They have a bar that seats 12 and that’s how many people are on my tours. They make a drink called a “Tall Dark and Handsome” that uses locally made ginger ale that was started by two of their employees. Chef Ian is a local guy, who sources their food regionally whenever possible, and makes one hell of a grit cake. (It’s one of the best I’ve had, for real.) Also, they have an adopt-a-dog program, and the puppies are always in the lounge, so, y’know… SQUEEEE! Also, parking. Parking is a big deal. The tour begins and ends at Aloft so that folks can find their cars afterwards. It’s all good yo.
Along the way we stop in Bhramari Brewhouse, Local Provisions, PennyCup Coffee at the YMI, French Broad Chocolate + Milk, Sovereign Remedies, The Night bell, and more! I’m adding new venues, and I’m hoping to expand my tour into weekdays as well. I’ll keep you posted!
THEY LIVE, THEY DIE, THEY LIVE AGAIN!
Dawn and I went to the media opening for the newly re-decorated MG Road and it was bangin’ as always. MG closed for 5 days, and re-did the decor in a redder, more party-lighty way that looks like something straight outta Bollywood… or my acid days… or a 1990’s VW commercial with a Nick Drake soundtrack… it was cool. I dig it. Things were a little too cray-cray that night for me and Dawn, however, just in terms of the crowdedness (I hate everyone), and the loud music (I’m old), and the buffet style food (I don’t like to share), so we only stayed a second or two. But I love the new decor, and I love MG Road, so I’ll be back to check it out, and I’ll report in on it when I have a few meals under my belt. They have a Koren BBQ pop-up thingy coming really soon, and more stuff planned for the future. If there’s food, I’m there!
GOOD GOD DAMNBRA, WE SURE LOVE ZAMBRA!
We showed up too early for the MG media dinner, so we went to Zambra to eat a li’l somethin’ and relax. Zambra is our very first favorite restaurant in Asheville, we fell in love with it back in 2005 when I first moved here, and it remains at the top of our list to this day. The decor and atmosphere haven’t changed one bit in all that time, and the food has remained consistently awesome. I honestly can’t remember one disappointing meal, dish, or bite at Zambra in all the years we’ve been going, and this most recent visit was right in keeping with that. We ordered a cheese plate, and the kitchen sent us a plate of scallops. Both looked and tasted great as always. Yay, Zambra! We love you!
EAT ALL THE FOOOOOOD!
After the MG media dinner thingy, we were still a little hungry, so we went to Sovereign Remedies for a late night bite, which for me ended up being an enormous piece of cheesecake and some “pork buttered toast.” Holy fuck. Both were amazing. Dawn got the house made ricotta with house made crackers. By then it was so dark, that I couldn’t get decent pics of the cheesecake or ricotta, and BARELY managed just one half-way workable grainy-ass picture of the pork buttered toast.
The cheesecake was creamy, and hearty, and dense, but not too dense. Neither was it too sweet, and even though my calorie-count was going through the roof, at, like 10pm, I did not give a shit. But I’m a tiny person with only so much room in my body for food, so I did split half of it with bartender Ben. By then, I was so full I wanted to POP. Aaand that’s when the kitchen sent out a piece of pork buttered toast. Holy fuck. I don’t exactly know what-all was on this awesome piece of Farm & Sparrow toast… meat, pickled stuff, fresh veggies, and more. It was insanely good! I ate every bit! It was very porky in flavor, and greasy as fuck, but so yummy! It tasted kind of like the “speck” that I ate in Bolzen-Bolzano Europe last Summer, which is their version of bacon, kinda. It’s good! This pork toast is fucking good!
You guys know that Chef Steven Goff is back guest Cheffing at Sovereign for a limited time, and that Chef Matt Grush is now running a killer brunch over there, so I’m just going to go ahead and say that Sovereign Remedies has some of the best fucking food in the entire city right now. And that’s not even including Farmer Sunil’s Indian Dinners… well, what the fuck, let’s include those!
Farmer Sunil’s Indian Dinners happen on the first Sunday of every month, and Dawn and I were lucky enough to attend the first one. It’s a reservation-only, “family style” dinner, around one big table, with giant pots and dishes full of Sunil Patel‘s amazing family recipes for Indian food, made with the best ingredients available, including produce grown by Sunil himself through his Patchwork Urban Farms.
There are very special food things going on in this town, and this is one of them. You do NOT want to miss out on these, so make your reservations early and often. I’m not kidding. Shit like this don’t come along every day, and it sure as fuck don’t last forever, so pounce, Yo. Just save me a seat, and pass the rice!
SPEAKING OF SPECIAL STUFF…
Dawn and I attended the first Dive dinner at Buxton Hall this past Monday and WOW. It was awesome. The food was fanfuckingtastic, the atmosphere was on point… so long as the point is 1990’s Miami Vice inspired… and the service was great as it always is at Buxton Hall. Kelly, Sam, Kyle and the rest of the staff looked spiffy as fuck, all dressed in white, and everyone did a bangin’ job! We ate the fuck out of some fish and had a great time. The music was kinda killing me — Thompson Twins and other nightmares from my past — but I’m sure that 99% of the other people there were loving it. That’s okay, I’m mostly deaf anyways, so I tucked into the food and blocked out the world. My usual MO.
Chef Sarah Cousler totally nailed it with her amazing seafood offerings, and Dawn and I ate every bite of every dish we ordered. I even asked for crackers to scoop up some of the creamy, curry-y, crab stuff left in the bottom of the dish of crab and shishito peppers that we crushed. The flavors of that dish as well as the others we tried were deep and complex, comforting and new at the same time.In additin to the peppers, we also ordered crudo and a Mexican fish cocktail that was infuckingcredible. Very fresh fish, and shellfish, combined with the best ingredients and served in a visually appealing way. Taste, texture, and temperature were perfect in every instance! Gosh, I love this town, and these special dinners that happen in some of the best restaurants!
PS – The hot pink neon lights everywhere made it impossible to get good pics of the food at Dive, so there are none, sorry. Take my word for it: It looked great, it tasted great. You can see super-crappy pictures of the food on my Facebook page.
MEANWHILE: IRON HEN AND PILLAR AT THE HILTON HOTEL
I was lucky enough to get a sneaky peeky at the new Iron Hen restaurant that’s about to open on the first floor of the new Hilton Hotel on the corner of Charlotte and College street. It’s hard to keep-up with which brand new hotel is which these days, so just think of where the Tripp’s used to be. That’s where Iron Hen is.
I met with PR person Jen Gordon and Executive Chef Brandon Maynard, and they gave me the tour and run down. I’ll go back to try the food and let y’all know what’s up. For now I’ll just say that the space is huge and bright and gorgeously lit by natural light pouring through giant plate glass windows. The kitchen is HUGE, especially by Asheville standards, and the rooftop bar, called “Pillar,” was still being decorated, but seemed like it’s gonna be pretty cool looking, and it has a nice view of the mountains…. and the city jail… but ignore that and look at those beautiful mountains!
Chef Brandon is new to Asheville, coming over from Greensboro, where the Iron Hen’s original location is a local favorite. Using organic, locally sourced ingredients to make high-quality, farm-to-table food is a thing at the Greensboro spot, and that’s the idea for the one here in Asheville too. The Iron Hen is not part of the Hilton Hotel, FYI, but is an independent Restaurant, owned by a woman named Lee Comer from Greensboro.
The restaurant will be doing breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and will run one breakfast special right up until 10pm. They will have a full menu of course, as well as a truncated version for Hotel room service, and a bar menu for Pillar. Chef Brandon said he’d have me back to try the menu, and I’ll report back to you guys when I do. In the meantime, here’s a picture of the bar menu…
I was hungry after my tour of the Iron Hen and Pillar, so I stopped into Chestnut to get a burger, but instead I got a Ruben, and…
THIS RUBEN MADE ME WANNA CRY.
Seriously. I’m an emotional person, and sometimes, I like food so much, I actually, literally wanna cry. Chef Joe Scully, you beautiful goofball, your fucking Ruben was so fucking good, and was in fact the best Ruben I’ve had since I moved down South 11 years ago, that I was fighting back tears as I tore into the crispy, buttery City Bakery rye bread, sank my teeth into the perfectly prepared, incredibly flavorful corned beef, and savored the house made sauerkraut and 1,000 Island dressing. This sandwich was the perfect thing for me right at that momoent, and I kinda can’t wait to have my next one! Nom nom, thanks, Joe!
So there you go! That’s just a couple of random days here in Asheville, where the quality of the food is only exceeded by the quality of the people making it, and the enthusiasm of the people eating it! Fuck yeah! Give it all to meeeeeee! I did a ton more eating than I’m showing you here, I had cake and coffee and snacks and lunch and dinner and doughnuts and all manner of stuff! Gobble gobble oink oink oink! I ate a ton of animals, and vegetables, and I think I even got some minerals in there somewhere too. Salt is a mineral, Right?
Plus, I saw Pikachu.
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.