Stu Helm, Asheville’s Facebook Food critic, on Mayfel’s, Bull & Beggar, Blackbird


By Stu Helm

Hello Asheville!

If you’ve been following the FREE LUNCH contest, here’s an update: Santa had to cancel, so we’re rescheduling. Sorry, no review of The Oysterhouse Brewing Company this week. Instead, please find a review of the the oyster plate at Mayfel’s, two raw oysters at Bull & Beggar, and the oyster po’ boy at Blackbird.

MAYFEL’S – The Pritch, Downtown A-ville

I gave up on Mayfel’s a long time ago. Their hours are too fuckin’ weird. The hours sign even says “Gone Fishin'” on Tuesdays and Wednesdays? Boo.

After riding o’l Bikey over hill and dale just to get an oyster plate on a Wednesday afternoon, those words: “Gone Fishin’,” put me in the sourest of moods. More than once. Like, three or four times, probably… because… well…

How the fuck am I supposed to remember those fucked-up hours?!?

Holy fuck. Seriously? Do they even know how many other fucking things we have to remember these days?!? It’s too crazy of a fucking world for any restaurant to expect us to remember their random hippy-ass hours! Gone fishin’? Gone fishin’?!? A simple “Closed” would have made me less furious.

I will admit that unorthodox business hours are one of my all-time biggest pet peevs, so take my rant with a grain of salt, but I’ve “Gone Eatin'” elsewhere for years. There are plenty of choices on any given Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday, or Saturday, or Sunday, or Monday in downtown Asheville. That’s every day of the mother fuckin’ week. You know what I’m sayin’? Fuck Mayfish and their fucked up hours.

My mother is more forgiving than me. In fact it doesn’t bother her at all, and she goes there with some regularity. So, when my li’l Cuz, Alex and her friend Jordan were in town last month, we all went to Mayfel’s. Thankfully it was a Monday or Friday or whatever, so at least some of the staff had abstained from goin’ fishin’ that day, and was there to serve us. Yay.

I got my old fave from days gone by, the fried oyster plate, but… In my opinion… I’m just sayin’… Mayfel’s is slippin’.

Their oyster plate used to rule, but this one was weak. The oysters were not big, or plump, or juicy, and they were fried to within an inch of a cinder. I even wondered if they were frozen bullshit oysters. The fries were anemic and the slaw was a bore. The cornbread was okay, I guess. It didn’t save the day or anything like that, but it was fine. The worst offense was that there weren’t no remoulade sauce on my plate. Mon Dieu! Tres pathetique.

I can’t remember WTF everyone else got, except Jordan, who got a bowl of gumbo. He said it was good, but I noticed that he did not finish it. Make of that what you will.

I just know that it’ll be a long motherfuckin’ time before I go back to Mayfel’s. I’ll tell you what.

Sorry to harsh out, but seriously… GONE FISHIN’?!? Arrrrgh!

By the gods.

BULL & BEGGAR – In The RAD, Man.

I had two raw oysters at Bull and Beggar a week or so ago, and they were — what else? — NNNAASSTTYYY as FUCK!

Holy shit-sticks, I don’t know how people do it.

I will admit to you that until those two, I had never eaten a raw oyster before in my life, because… Well, they look and sound fucking nasty.

I will also admit, however, that I have always wanted to be one of those cool people who just loooves raw oysters, and lives on a yacht or whatever. I think if I got into them, I’d really like them. So, I tried two at The Bull & Begs.

Did they taste good? I couldn’t tell ya. They were in and out of my mouth so fucking fast, it was as if a ectoplasmic spirit had haunted my esophagus for a split second. There was a cold sensation, the brief pressure of a giant troll booger on my tongue, and then a hard swallow, and… nuthin’ but the faint aftertaste of vinegar and hot stuff. Phantom phlegm phood.

But ya know what? I still wanna be one of those people on the yacht, so I’ll keep trying. If anyone can give me any tips, or hints, or insights, I’d ‘preshriate-cha very much! Tell me why you like raw oysters. Why?!?

The rest of our meal at B & B was Effin’ Aye good, as always. Dawn got that chicken-in-a-bowl thing that I raved about a while back, and we all agreed that it is still one of THE best meals in Asheville. If you eat chickens, you have to eat this one.

Our adorable little friend Sebastian got the mussels, which came in a fantastic wine broth, that we crushed as a team.

The shrimp cocktail was great too. The waitress (who was very friendly, and fun, and super pro) said it was a special species of shrimp that tasted a little bit like lobster, and yes it did… a li’l bit. The cocktail sauce is worth mentioning, because it consisted of a homemade red sauce in one tiny dish, and some fresh shredded horse radish in another tiny dish. I’d never seen that before, and I loved it!

I got the veg plate as my main course, and I enjoyed it very much, even though it came on a prison tray. Seriously, like, a metal tray with little sections for the food. At least I had a weapon in case of a riot.

BLACKBIRD – Aloft Hotel – Downtown Asheville

Blackbird is not part of the Aloft Hotel, they simply occupy the space for rent on the first floor. I was confused about that, and the waitress explained it to me, so I thought I’d pass that info on to you.

I went there with my Mom, and was psyched to find fried oyster po’ boys on their menu. That’s one of my top 15 fave foods for lunch, so I ordered one up, and dug in!

I’m gonna give it 2 1/2 stars out of 4. It was Okay. I went back on my own and got it again, but I don’t think I’ll go back for it a third time. It had no “wow” factor (Did I really just say that? Please shoot me.) but my main complaint would be that the oyster-to-bread ratio was off. Too much bread, not enough oysters. I think that a proper po’ boy should be overflowing with oysters, or shrimp, or what-have-you.

The first po’ boy I ever ate was from a tiny, trashy convenient store / liquor store in NOLA, that also served fried stuff from a counter in the back. The fried stuff on their po’ boys was piled high, and poured out of the bread. That’s my standard, which Blackbird failed to meet. I also found the bread on the Blackbird po’ boy to be boring. I’m not panning this sandwich outright, I’m just saying that some more fried stuff, and some better bread would help.

It comes with sides, and there are several good ones to choose from. I’ve tried the Pimento Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and will give it a thumbs-up, even though I’m not the hugest fan of pimento cheese in general. If you like pimento cheese, I think you’ll really like this mac ‘n’ cheese. It’s creamy and cheesy and served piping hot in a small dish, not as a dry, solid block of blah on your plate. If I liked pimento cheese a little more, I’d definitely go back for this.

The staff at Blackbird is always friendly, pro, and well dressed.

PS – Do NOT shoot me. Thats just an expression.

Stu Helm is an artist and writer 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 restaurant reviews strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook in 2013.


Brooke February 23, 2014 - 12:26 pm

I want you to review the Gourmet Chip and Asheville Sandwich Company…the one with the crunchy fries on the sandwiches. And fried pickles. Thank you.

Hilary February 20, 2014 - 7:50 pm

OK, so I have never had the mother-jumping oysters at Beggar and Bull (and I hate that name), but I have had their fukkin snails and they were teensy and great. But teeny, tiny, little bitty things – and you get a push-pin to eat them with. I promise. But I like their food.

That out of the way, and you still lacking in raw oysterness, you will have to go to Oyster House Brewing in my ‘hood because they serve up some mighty fine and briny-good oysters. Perfect temp too…and for raw-bar lovers, that’s important.

I also had a dozen raw at The Admiral last night and they were beauties. Three different provenances, four each. Highly recommend to you as well as you continue the commendable trail you are on of trying – at least trying – to develop your palate for rawness.

And by the way, the gumbo and the fried oyster po’boy at Liuzza’s by the Tracks in mid-town New Orleans are a must-go-to.

Spoken in peace and with wishes…

Stu Helm February 21, 2014 - 7:19 am

Thank you for this comment, Hilary! I’m heading to the Oysterhouse very soon with Santa, our Free Lunch contest winner, and I plan on trying some raw oysters there. I’m hoping the cook or waiter can really school me on the best way to savor them. The snails you described at Bull and Begs sound awesome! I tried snails for the first time in Paris in the 90’s, and loved them! Ate them again soon after in the states, and it was like chewing on pencil erasers. I will go try them at B&B. Peace to you as well!

Jenny February 20, 2014 - 4:16 pm

Stu, I think this is my favorite review of yours. Maybe because I feel the same way about oysters and yachts.

Stu Helm February 21, 2014 - 7:21 am

Thank you, Jenny! One of my harsher reviews, but as always, intended to be read with a sense of humor, so I’m glad you enjoyed it! We’ll both keep trying raw oysters and maybe one day, we’ll bump into each other on that yacht!

yep February 20, 2014 - 3:09 pm

He’s asking people to give him $1,500 for a new bike, but he just ate at three fairly pricey restaurants. Wow.

Stu Helm February 21, 2014 - 6:50 am

Oh, please, Fuck off.

Melissa February 21, 2014 - 12:18 pm


LEW February 21, 2014 - 12:35 pm

Yea, and then he took the time to write about his experience at said restaurants (which many of us find way entertaining) and which you then read for FREE – so bugger off!

Lesley February 20, 2014 - 1:52 pm

Raw oysters are the ONLY thing I miss about being vegan. You need help, friend.

Stu Helm February 21, 2014 - 7:22 am

I’m seeking it!

James February 20, 2014 - 1:11 pm

It sounds like to me that you are never going to like the goodness that is raw oysters. I like them because of the briny-ness of the liquid and the minearlly flavor of the oyster itself. In short, it tastes like the sea. I find that cheaper oysters from the gulf lack the flavor of oysters found in other regions. If you were going to try again, you can go for a more mild pacific oyster if you can find one (try Oysterhouse or Lobster Trap). If you want a more intense flavor, try oysters from New England (Blue Points are probably the most famous of these).

And for the true experience, leave the crackers and hot sauce on the table, as I find that they diminish the subtle experience of a great oyster. Also be sure to actually bite into the oyster instead of just slurping and swallowing hole.

Stu Helm February 21, 2014 - 7:26 am

Thank you!!! I was wondering whether I should bite the dang things or not. Everyone says, you just swallow them down, which I did, but then I was like, “What was the point of that?” When I go to Oysterhouse with Santa, I will see if I can order one from the Pacific and one from New England, and I will leave the hot sauce and crackers alone. Very helpful, James, thank you!

Stu Helm February 21, 2014 - 7:42 pm

James, I’m following up with you to say that I took (most) of your advice at the Oysterhouse Brewing Co. when I went with Santa for his Free Lunch today, and Man, what a fucking difference! We ordered 12 raw oysters and I downed 8 of them. I bit into them this time, like you said, and enjoyed that very much. I tasted that flavor of the sea you mentioned above, and as you also said, the temp was perfect. The were small oysters, served with lemon, cocktail sauce, and extra horseradish, and here’s where I broke from your guidance. I lemoned-them-up, and used a small amount of the hot stuff on each oyster. As a novice, I think I still need those things as a buffer-zone, but I am well on my way to being one of those people on that dang yacht!!! Thanks once again.

Headhunter February 20, 2014 - 12:28 pm

I know that constantly using the word fuck is part of your schtick Stu but it’s getting old dude. Your little essay is just shy of 1300 words and fuck or some variant of the word fuck showed up 13 times. Your fuck to word ratio is a bit, well, fucked up. I happen to love the word fuck but when you use it so fucking much, people get desensitized to it; it just doesn’t carry the same gravitas these days as it did 10 years ago. Do me a favor and hit your thumb with a hammer…..that painful feeling, that sting you feel is what one should experience when the word fuck is used in casual conversation. Time to man the fuck up and write a creative, entertaining piece without being a fucking fuck. Unless, of course, you do really eat something that’s nasty as fuck then, by all means, fuck it on up.

One other minor thing, you’re getting some regular press here so do us all a favor and at least spell Asheville (not Ahseville like you have it above) right. You could misspell every other word wrong and I couldn’t give two fucks. I know, it’s a small, petty thing to point that out but c’mon….at least get the name of the town you live in and write about correct.

That is all.

Jason Sandford February 20, 2014 - 12:55 pm

Thanks for your comments Headhunter. I corrected the misspelling.

Stu Helm February 20, 2014 - 1:02 pm

Jesus fuck, Dude, get off my tits.

Headhunter February 20, 2014 - 1:42 pm

Take my advice Stu…..grab the hammer, hit your thumb. You’ll thank me later. I might even take you to lunch but no raw oysters. I happen to think they are nasty as fuck in the true, these things will never cross my lips ever again, nasty as fuck meaning.

DROE February 21, 2014 - 10:58 am

These comment threads seem to be perpetually plagued with the persistent pitter-patter of piss-poor paradoxical prose (oh, that was fun, I love the P’s). But seriously, hit yourself with your damned hammer, Headhunter. Maybe that’ll knock some sense in there.

Stu has a way with words, and the expletives are just part of the package, adding a little this and that, and setting a certain tone. One that some enjoy, and others may not. Make up your mind – keep reading these, or don’t.

LEW February 21, 2014 - 12:38 pm

Stu, I think the number of times you used ‘fuck’ was perfect; I personally wouldn’t have added or axed a single one. Different strokes for different folks.

Stu Helm February 21, 2014 - 7:46 pm

Thank you, LEW! I try to only use curse words when they are abso-fucking-lutely necessary.

indie February 20, 2014 - 11:40 am

I thought he needed $ 1500 for a new bike. How’d he ride the “o’l (sic) bikey” to Mayfel’s?

Mayfel’s is great, but they will always have a good business anyway living off the (I don’t know why it exists)spill from Tupelo Honey.

Stu Helm February 20, 2014 - 12:56 pm

As I said, I’ve “Gone Eatin'” elsewhere for years. I rode Bikey over hill and dale to Mayfel’s for the last time many moons ago, long before he died. When I went with my mom and cuz resently, we drove. If you’re gonna nit-pick at me, at least read the shit more carefully first!

indie February 22, 2014 - 11:22 pm

Perhaps you could write “the shit more carefully”.

Smytty February 20, 2014 - 11:03 am

You should try the po boys at Westville on Wendesday nights. They usually have a shrimp po boy and then something else – sometimes blackened chicken, sometimes oyster, sometimes fish…

Quite tasty, and you can really mow down on them.

Stu Helm February 20, 2014 - 1:03 pm

I will try that, thank you!

PBnJ February 20, 2014 - 10:23 am

why don’t you hate on 12 Bones too for their SHIT hours?

Stu Helm February 20, 2014 - 1:00 pm

I give 12 Bones a lot of leeway on a lot of annoying shit, because I think they serve some food that’s a cut above. Metal plates, group seating, and long lines are 3 of the super-annoying things that I put up with at 12 Bones, but yeah, you’re 100% right, their hours suck.

JTC February 20, 2014 - 9:57 am

The Bull and the Beggar is the shizzzz

Stu Helm February 20, 2014 - 1:04 pm


Sean February 20, 2014 - 9:01 am

Thanks for your reviews. Always entertaining and sometimes useful.

Stu Helm February 20, 2014 - 1:04 pm

Thank you, Sean! I seek to amuse and inform, in that order, so I appreciate your comment!

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