Stu Helm’s 2018 Asheville Burger Survey Part 2: Fitting In with Others


I’m a well known burger fan. I eat a lot of burgers. Burger me. Gim burg. My current plan — don’t tell my doctor — is to eat all the burgers. Last year (2017), I began burger-binging my way through downtown Asheville, eating them here, there, and everywhere. I’m going rank each burger as I eat them, from BEST to WORST, fitting every burger I eat throughout the entire year into its appropriate ranking on the survey. I will also rate each burger on a five star scale, 5 being awesome, and zero being a complete shit show. Please enjoy!

Part 2: Fitting In with Your Peers

In Part One of my 2018 AVL Burger Survey, I set the high and low bars for the BEST and WORST burgers that I’ve eaten so far this year! Those two burgers — The Bhramari Burger and the BimBeriBon burger — remain in their respective top and bottom positions, and in the meantime, I’ve eaten four more burgers at four other venues downtown: 2 new joints and 2 older ones that I decided to try again for the first time in a long time. Let’s start with those two, and then do the two new ones, and see how these entries fit in with their contemporaries in the survey…

I Like big Buns and I Can Not Lie.

★★★★☆ Carmel’s Burger
Local free-range beef, cheddar [sub. pimento cheese], lettuce, tomato, onion, [add pecan smoked bacon, add slaw]”

I used to go to Carmel’s Kitchen a lot back in the day. I also used to drink a lot of beer, and I just luhhhved to sit outside on Carmel’s patio, on the corner of Page and Battery Park, and drink beer and eat pizza and watch the people go about their day while I dranked mine away. Just in case you didn’t know, Carmel’s had great pizza back then, and maybe they still do! I’ll have to try it again, because I recently had their house burger, twice’t, and both times it was the fucking bomb. The the first time I ordered t straight as-is from the menu, but the second time, I took the server’s advice and modified it with house-made pimento cheese instead of the default cheddar, then I added some of their pecan smoked bacon (of course), and as always, no onions. I asked for it to be cooked medium rare.

It came to the table cooked medium rare.

Fuck. Yes. God bless the chef who knows how to cook a burger to order. It’s just a wonderful talent, and deserves my praise, so I praise thee, whomsoever madeth mine burger that day! The flavor of the beef was great, the sear was there to give it that umaminess we all love, it was hot & juicy, and the pimento cheese was all tangy, creamy, and melty, so thank you, Server, it added tremendously to my enjoyment of this beautiful, decadent mess, as did the slaw, which I heaped onto the burger itself. The bun was large and in charge, soft, yet sturdy, and of exactly the quality that I would expect

I recommend this burger. I’m giving it four stars out of five, which places that it is well above average on the scale, and qualifies as what I would call a damn good burger. How does it fit in with the other burgers on the survey? Scroll down to see!

Carmel’s Kitchen & Bar
“Eclectic Southern-influenced comfort food plus specialty cocktails in a relaxed bistro with a patio.”
Address: 1 Page Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Sunday 11AM–3PM
Monday 11:30AM–10PM
Tuesday 11:30AM–10PM
Wednesday 11:30AM–10PM
Thursday 11:30AM–10PM
Friday 11:30AM–10PM
Saturday 11:30AM–10PM
Phone: (828) 252-8730

When in Roman’s

★★★★☆ Roman’s Pimento Burger
“House Smokey Pimento Cheese, Smoked Bacon, Vine Ripe Tomato & Organic Baby Spinach on a 6 oz. grass-fed beef from Hickory Nut Gap Farm, cooked medium-well.  Served on a whole wheat roll from Annie’s Bakery with choice of side & pickle spear”

As you can tell from the photo above, this burger looked pretty much picture perfect. It was all matchy-matchy in terms of the bun size, the burger patty circumference, and even the tomato wheels, which were all, like, exactly the same. Plus it had just the right amount of pimento cheese, not too much nor too little, the spinach was arranged neatly to fit, and the smoked bacon did not hide under the bun, or stick out obscenely from the side. It was a very self-contained burger, and was beautiful to look at. I could tell that the person who cooked it put a certain amount of thought and artistry into it, and I appreciate them for that. If this was a competition for most perfectly archetypal, idealized image of a burger in Asheville, Roman’s might be tough to beat. It was also very tasty!

And it was cooked just right.

The meat was great, the bun was all good, the baby spinach instead of lettuce was a nice touch, and the smoked bacon was smoky, and baconny, and was that perfect texture which exists somewhere in the very subtle space between crispy and chewy. The over-all texture of the entire product was good from top-to-bottom, end-to-end, outer edge-to-hot juicy center, except the pimento cheese, which was not melty, unfortch, because it had been smeared on the inside of the top 1/2  of the bun, then the tomato slices were placed between it and the hot burger patty, creating a cold barrier. Other than that small — but important — architectural error, this burger was a solid four, and I recommend it.

Roman’s Deli & Catering
“Everyday lunch spot with a local focus serving sandwiches, burgers & craft beers on tap.”
75 Haywood St, Asheville, NC 28801
Sunday – Closed
Monday 10AM–4PM
Tuesday 10AM–4PM
Wednesday 10AM–4PM
Thursday 10AM–4PM
Friday 10AM–8PM
Saturday 12–8PM
Phone: (828) 505-1552

An Underground Smash Hit!

★★★★☆ Underground Cafe “Smash” Burger
1/4 lb. patty with lettuce, tomato, onion, ‘special sauce,’ choice of American, cheddar, or Swiss cheese served on Hawaiian roll. 1 or 2 patties” 

As you can tell if you read my posts regularly, or follow me on social media, or take a food tour with me, or even if you’re just a friend or frequent lunch buddy… or let’s face it… a perfect stranger, you’ve likely already read or heard me raving about the brand new Underground Cafe. Their “fast food” burger is done in the classic style of an old-school, family-owned, take-out diner, truck, or window, with a flat, wide, fatty, but high-quality patty (or two!), and served w/ LTO, special sauce, and buyer’s choice of cheeses on top. My cheese choice? American! I love American cheese the same way I love America. As in: I am well aware of the flaws, but I grew up with it, and it’s home damn it! One of Chef Jay Medford’s Underground “smash” burgers with American cheese is pure comfort for my face and stomach.

Double Patty? Yasssss Double Patty!!!

Made with fresh ground 8 month dry-aged beef from a local butcher shop, on a King’s Hawaiian roll, this burger is the perfect melding of high-end and low-end, which is something that I really love about it, and about the Underground Cafe in general, and the entire Asheville food scene in some ways. A large percentage of the cooks and chefs in this town enjoy bringing the best of  both worlds together. I want “trashy” food sometimes #always but I also don’t want to weigh 500 pounds and die of a heart attack this year, so I want high quality components to my trashy food in terms of the main ingredients of meat and vegetables. I want those things to be as local and organically grown as possible. Then, sure, toss it on a King’s Hawaiian bun for me!

I’m busy, I’m hungry, I want fast food all the time, but I’ve only eaten exactly one burger at a fast food chain in the past 25 years… and it was fucking disgusting. I’ll eat one of Jay Medford’s fast food style smash burgers any day of the week, and be back for more. It’s effing delicious! Four stars, I recommend it very highly, especially for downtown workers. Call in your order. Ask about delivery.

The Underground Café with DoughP Doughnuts
“Fun café located in the historic Jackson Building in Downtown Asheville. Serving up breakfast, coffee, and lunch featuring DoughP Doughnuts.”
: 3521, 22 S Pack Square, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 412-5718
Sunday Closed
Monday 8AM–5PM
Tuesday 8AM–5PM
Wednesday 8AM–5PM
Thursday 8AM–5PM
Friday 8AM–5PM
Saturday 9AM–5PM

AUX Bar for the Win!

★★★★★ AUX Bar Animal House Burger
“Fresh Ground HNG Beef & Pork, LTO, Pickles, Special Sauce, Hand Cut Fries (Single or Double)”

Of all the burgers I ate for part two of this survey, the one I had at AUX Bar was the most impressive. The picture does not lie. It was every bit as in-fucking-credible as it looks. The meat was local, and awesome, and seared until it was a little crunchy on the outside, but still juicy and greasy as fuck (which is a plus) on the inside. The bun was big and soft and grilled (in butter maybe?) so that it was a little bit black-n-crispy around the edges. The special sauce was tangy and creamy and comforting and surprising all at the same time, offset by the tartness of the house made pickles. I opted for the double patties, and the whole thing was one big messy, exercise in unbridled self-indulgence, teetering into overindulgence. I got a skillet of mac ‘n’ cheese as my side… because I’m bad at being good.

The Heart Attack Combo at AUX Bar

It’s called the “Animal House” burger on the menu, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because eating too many of them will make you look like Bluto Blutarsky and die young like John Belushi? Maybe it’s because when you’re done eating it, your plate, hands, and face look like you were just in a food fight? I guess I could ask the people who work there why they named it after that particular film, but I’m busy, they’re busy, everyone is busy, and who gives a shit. It’s a five star burger in a town full of great burgers, and it’s awesome.

It could be called “Gone with the Fucking Wind” for all I care.

The AUX Bar burger ranks at the very top of this month’s survey, and I recommend it 100%! In the over-all rankings of the 2018 Asheville Burger Survey, it is #2, a close 2nd to the Bhramari Burger, which remains my #1 burger in all of Asheville as of right now.

The Blind Pig Supper Club Expands To Produce ‘Restaurant Quality’ Catering Services To The Public And Opens The American Cuisine Brick & Mortar Restaurant Concept AUX Bar.
Address: 68 N. Lexington Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Phone: (828) 350-3741
Sunday 10AM–2AM
Monday 11AM–2AM
Tuesday 11AM–2AM
Wednesday 11AM–2AM
Thursday 11AM–2AM
Friday 11AM–2AM
Saturday 10AM–2AM

And that’s all for this month’s installment of the 2018 AVL Burger Survey! Bellow are the standings, ranked from top to bottom. I’ve fit the new entries in where they belong on the survey, and I’ve also placed some other burgers that I ate last year on the scale.

2018 Asheville Burger Survey Rankings so Far

★★★★★ = Awesome
★★★★☆ = Really Good
★★★☆☆ = Solid
★★☆☆☆ = Not that great
★☆☆☆☆ = Bad
☆☆☆☆☆ = Horrible

★★★★★ Bhramari Burger
“Spent Grain Fed Beef, Stout Wort Glaze, Crispy Onions, Oaked Mayo, Hop Smoked Black Truffle American Cheese, Candied Bacon, Pickles”

★★★★★ AUX Bar Animal House Burger
“Fresh Ground HNG Beef & Pork, LTO, Pickles, Special Sauce, Hand Cut Fries (Single or Double)”

★★★★☆ Carmel’s Burger
Local free-range beef, cheddar [pimento cheese], lettuce, tomato, onion, [add pecan smoked bacon, add slaw]”

★★★★☆ Underground Cafe Smash Burger
1/4 lb. patty with lettuce, tomato, onion, ‘special sauce,’ choice of American, cheddar, or Swiss cheese served on Hawaiian roll. 1 or 2 patties”

★★★★☆ Roman’s Pimento Burger
“House Smokey Pimento Cheese, Smoked Bacon, Vine Ripe Tomato & Organic Baby Spinach”

★★★☆☆ Rosetta’s Kitchen Vegan Cheeseburger
Signature house-made veggie burger served on a house-made whole wheat bun with lettuce, red onion, tomato and Vegenaise [+ vegan cheese]

★★☆☆☆ Juicy Lucy Burger
“Stuffed with American cheese and pick any toppings”

★☆☆☆☆ The Med Cheeseburger
“Made fresh daily from lean ground beef, + served with lettuce, tomatoes, mayo + a pickle spear [+ American cheese]”

— END —


Follow me here on Ashvegas, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and my own blog, where I post tons of food reviews, news, contests, pictures, funny stories, and #positivelists!

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.


chizzo April 5, 2018 - 10:20 am

two favorite burgers in town are Foothills and Copper Crown, the smaller options at each place. Check them out.

Jungle Love March 28, 2018 - 3:21 pm

I think the Animal House is their house burger, done animal style…when you order a burger ‘animal style’ from In-N-Out Burger, it comes with caramelized onions, mustard-grilled patties, extra pickles and thousand island dressing.

Ginger W Heskett March 27, 2018 - 6:05 pm

Yeah! Finding the best burger in Asheville deserves an award! I appreciate your efforts!

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