Stu Helm, Asheville’s Facebook Food Critic, on Wicked Weed, Pack’s Tavern


By Stu Helm

Hello Asheville!

Do I have any friends or readers left after last week’s rant? Ha ha! Some of you loved it, some of you hated it, but whatever. As always, I stand by every word I typed, because I report on how I feel about actual events and experiences that are happening in my life at the time, so, y’know… whatcha gonna do about that?!? You can’t dictate a person’s feelings. Don’t even try with me. That is a losing battle. And you can’t go back in time and change my experience. I’m still pissed off that shit ain’t open on Sunday in the RAD. So there.

Here’s a couple of new reviews for you…

WICKED WEED – Biltmore Ave, Asheville

Y’know what? I wanna love this place, I really do. But I fuckin’ hate it. Can I just admit that right now? Wanna love it. Fucking hate it.

I long to hang out with the happy, attractive people, enjoying the sunshine, doin’ some day drankin’, scarfing down bar food, and having the time of my life. Plus, it’s called “Wicked Weed!” That’s awesome. It should be my JAM with a name like that!

I wanna hop right over that stubby little wall, and join in… It all looks SO FUNNN!

For other people.

But not for me.

Here are some bullet points on why Wicked Weed is not fun for me:

• I hate sunshine.
• I hate people.
• I hate noise.
• I don’t drink.
• I’m no fun.

There should be a picture of me at the door, with a sign that says “If you are this person, you can not ride the ride.”

My point above is that when it comes to the review below, you may want to keep in mind that it’s quite possible, even probable, that the problem is me, not them.

That being said… (dontcha hate when people say that?)

I arrived at The Wick-Wee right about mid-day. It was sunny as fuck outside. I asked to be seated on the front patio, and was immediately filled with regrets as the sun started cooking me alive. A bad choice on my part, but I was in a strange “I’m a normal person” mood and thought I could handle it. I ordered fish and chips, and grabbed-up my water.

“So thirsty… gulp gulp… So hot… gulp… Why, World? Go away, sunshiny bullshitty bullshit sunshine!!! Gah! Get it off me! It burns!!! Wait, what? Is that a small child over there? Who the fuck brings a child to a restaurant???”

These are just a few of my evil thoughts, as I struggled to have fun in the sun with the rest of humanity… when, all of a sudden… out of nowhere…


That is the best I can do to phonetically spell the horrible fucking noise that started, and continued, a few meager feet from my fucking head.

I’ll try again:


Something like that.

It was, in fact, a circular saw. A crew was working on the same structure in front of which I was currently dining. Doing construction. Buildin’ shit. An inch away from my very last nerve. I sat there momentarily, deciding whether to move, or leave, or just sit it ou…


Holy shit. Worst atmosphere FAIL ever.

The child was now covering his wee tender ears. Daddy was trying to explain why bad things happen. Sawdust started falling on me like snow, and I thought to myself, “Do I really want sawdust in my food?”

“No,” I decided, and got up to move inside, away from the noise, dust, sun, and alas, my fellow humans. Goodbye, World. I tried hard to be part of you — a happy, normal person — but fuck it, I’m better at being bitter. That’s just who I am. I retreated to the darkest corner I could find, far from everyone else, and waited on my food. Fish and Chips. ‘ello Guv’nah!

Unfortch, the food was a bit of a fail too.

The deep-fried fish was greasy as fuck. It was served in a little cone-shaped vessel, with a small reproduction of the London Times (or whatever British newspaper) underneath the fish. Get it? It’s like a cutesy version of actual English fish and chips, which are traditionally served on a piece of newspaper.

Awwww. I like cute things, so I was amused at first, until I realized that, in England they use newspaper to soak up the grease, and this mini-Times reproduction thingy had zero absorbing powers, and did not serve that purpose in the least little bit. Super-duper-greasy-as-fuck fish. Gross. Also, even worse, the batter wasn’t entirely cooked. The fish was cooked, and the outside of the batter was crispy and cooked, but in between was a nasty layer of uncooked batter. Ew. SO gross.

The “chips” were actually something known to most of the world as “waffle fries.” That ain’t a chip, Son. That’s a waffle fry. An English “chip” is more like an American steak fry, or even a french fry, whereas a waffle fry is something you make at home out of a bag of frozen bullshit GMO potatoes from Oreida or whatever.

Now, I don’t rightly know if they actually cut the waffle fries from real potatoes in the kitchen back there, but my feeling at the time was “these fries Sysco-suck.” Again, I don’t know where the Wicked Weed waffle “chips” originate from, but my impression was that they were not fresh, and also, that they were quite undercooked.

Which brings me to this…

It was busy, and I ‘m sure that the kitchen was deep-frying the shit out of a million things back there. A local chef recently explained to me that when that’s the case, the grease cools down — basically from having a bunch of cool, cold, and frozen stuff dumped into it non-stop — so, I guess you gotta crank that grease up, or whatever. I dunno. I’m not a fry-cook. I’m just a guy who hates anemic french fries. And raw fish batter.

Okay… one last fucking thing to betch about, and then I’ll leave poor Wicked Weeds alone…

My meal came with a small cup of “Brussels sprouts slaw,” ie raw shredded Brussels sprouts. Not good.

Raw cabbage — the traditional stuff of slaw — is thick, and crisp, and crunchy, and juicy, and sweet, and awesome. Raw shredded Brussels sprouts are none of those things. This little cup of green stuff basically tasted like lawn mower clippings to me. Booo.

I did not enjoy this meal at all, from beginning to end. I’m sorry. I know I suck.

The staff was very friendly, and did their job despite the fact that a black cloud had descended upon their patio paradise… Okay, I have to admit right now that the main reason I even attempted to eat at Wicked Weed that day is because I wanted to interact with the staff, which is almost always comprised of very attractive women.

My waiter was a dude… He was fine. Pro, friendly, attractive. Whatever.

Please don’t judge Wicked Weed based on my hateful scribblings here. I only seek to amuse you with my tale.

If you’re a normal person who enjoys the things in life that most people enjoy, you might really like it there. They even play sports on a giant TV! But if you’re a complete misfit from society — like me — you might wanna try elsewhere.

There’s a video on my Facebook page that I shot of myself sitting on the patio while the circular saw was going. You gotta hear that sound, Man. Horrible.

PACK’S TAVERN – Pack Square, Downtown Asheville

My positive review of the chicken tender basket at Pack’s Tavern was the first one to really bring out the trolls and haters. They were outraged that I would even give that place the time of day, let alone rate their tenders with five stars! How dare I?!?

Well, I did dare, and I do dare, and I done did dare do it again! I recently tried Pack’s “Red Hot Burger,” and it was fuckin’ aye good, Yo.

A decent-sized beef pattie on a soft white bun, with roasted jalapeño peppers, cream cheese, and honey ginger BBQ sauce. It was cooked to my specs, which were “somewhere between medium rare and medium,” and whaddaya know, they got it exactly perfect!

I also ordered my fries “crispy,” and they got those exactly right too. Them shits were hot as FUCK, and just as crisp as could be. You guys know I like my hot food to be hot, so that made me happy. The fries are cut from actual potatoes in the kitchen, and I think they are slightly battered before being deep-fried. Pack Tav french fries are very fucking good.

The roasted jalapeños on my burger were no joke. Actual, fresh jalapeños, cut lengthwise, and roasted… maybe over an open flame? They had grill marks. They were spicy-hot as Hell. They had flavor and crunch and added intensity to the mix.

The cream cheese was the size and shape of a slice of American cheese, but thicker. I like shapes. It amused me that the cream cheese was shaped like American cheese. It made me smile. Food gets extra points from me if I smile at it. I ate every little bit of cream cheese there was. It was really good, and went perfectly with the peppers, and honey ginger BBQ sauce, which was tangy and sweet, and had it’s own subtle hotness.

There was plenty of that H/G BBQ sauce already on the burger and it didn’t need any other condiments. There was also a bunch of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and raw onion on the plate. I piled all but the last item on the burger, and it was the perfect cool, crispy compliment to the hot spicy burger. I’m giving this burger 5 stars out of 5. It was really good, and the price was right.

The staff is always friendly, polite, well groomed, and professional at Pack’s. My waiter’s name was Ian. He was awesome. He was super laid back, which I sometimes don’t like, but he was also very pro and on time with everything. I liked his personality, and appreciated his professionalism.

I know that some locals look down their noses at Pack’s Tav, and think of it as being “for-tourists-only,” but the kitchen & crew seem to actually give a shit about their food and customers. I never feel out of place when I go to Pack’s. I’m a freak. I look like a freak, and I’m usually really sweaty from riding my bike when I show up at Pack’s, and yet, they always treat me just like I’m anybody else. No stank eye. I like that.

They do, always, without fail, ask me if I’d like to sit at the bar, and yes, that is one of my pet peeves, but I’m gonna give Pack’s a pass on that because I think that a lot of single dudes go there specifically to sit at the bar with other single dudes and watch sportsing events on the TV. So, I think that it’s almost always the case that a man walking in the door alone wants to sit at the bar. Me? Sport-talkin’ with strangers? No. I almost always opt for the patio, even if it’s not all that nice outside. It’s a beautiful patio. One of the best in A-town. No exhaust fumes, no smokers. Minimal drunkards. There are shade trees, and birds, and squirrels, and the park next door, with water fountains and frolicsome folks… sometimes pretty women frolic right into the water fountains. From my point of view, that doesn’t suck.

Yay Pack’s Tavern! You don’t like it? I don’t care!!!

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.


Irene May 9, 2014 - 11:20 am

So WW may have won a bunch of awards, but they don’t have a beer I really like. I’m not a fan of hoppy beers, and to me, “saison” is a fancy-schmancy way of saying “light beer.” Their Infidel Porter is thin, and the few other dark beers they have are too high-alcohol for me to enjoy. Your mileage may vary, natch, but I’ll take one Green Man Porter for a dozen of WW’s beers any day.

I think tourists are titillated by ordering something with a crazy name or ingredients from a brewery with a fun name, but then they’re secretly relieved it tastes a lot like the Coors Light they drink at home.

indy May 8, 2014 - 6:14 pm

Stu, do you get paid by the # of comments?

Matt May 7, 2014 - 7:36 pm

Can’t speak to either joint. Wouldn’t be seen at places such as WW unless something very odd were afoot. Not my style.

But maybe I’ll drop by Packs and try those fries!

Thanks, Stu. Fun to read.

Missy May 7, 2014 - 1:48 pm

I love when I am reading something and it makes me laugh out loud! Keep up the good work 🙂

indie May 7, 2014 - 1:04 pm

Why does anyone give 1 shit, much less 2, what a child hating, sunshine hating, non-beer drinker thinks about a brewpub?

Stu Helm May 7, 2014 - 2:58 pm

Why do YOU, Indie??? I mean, for real, you might want to examine that. You come back week after week after week after week to read my column and then bitch about it.

That’s a form of giving a shit, Indie, and THAT is very funny.

If you really didn’t give a shit, you wouldn’t read my column at all and you certainly wouldn’t comment. Yet, you do both of those things every week, without fail.

Just tell me where to send the signed 8 X 10 glossies!

indie May 7, 2014 - 5:04 pm

I plead guilty of finding humor in dreadful, illogical writing.

1. Places not open and all you have to do is check their schedules online and you ride around town on a bike and bitch about closures.
2. You don’t drink and slam a brewpub, where obviously to (almost) all, it is the beer that is featured.

Keep it coming. It makes me feel better about pretty much everything.

Stu Helm May 7, 2014 - 5:20 pm

1. My complaint is that column was that the restaurants weren’t open. My knowing they weren’t open wouldn’t have changed that fact. You missed the entire point of that piece. You always do.

2. I reviewed the FOOD and EXPERIENCE of a brew pub that serves FOOD. How difficult is that to understand. Oh, wait, I forgot that you make it a regular habit to miss the point of my writing. Every week. Week after week… after week after week.

After week.



Here’s a joke for you: What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?

A drummer!

Get it? No? I hate drummers! No I don’t! Wait, do I? You’ll never know, because you miss the fucking point of everything I write!!!

Ha ha ha! You’re my new fave troll, Indie. Sorry, Big Al. You became human to me at some point, and now I even kinda like you. True story. :*

That kiss was for Big Al, Indie. Not you! No kiss for you!

indie May 8, 2014 - 9:44 am

What is it in the statement Re a brewpub, “it is the beer that is featured”, that you can’t comprehend?

Oh, and since you obviously don’t know the point of your “columns” or can’t articulate the point, here is your theme paragraph from the previous column.

Stu Helm, Asheville’s Facebook Food Critic, on when every restaurant is closed on Sunday

“So, a few weeks ago I went on an odyssey… searching high and low (literally riding my bike up and down the hills of this very hilly town) all over the river arts district and downtown on a bright, beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon, looking for somewhere to eat. I thought it would be easy. I thought wrong.”

Maybe I could go over this with you word by word and explain what you wrote. Obvioiusly differs from what you think you wrote.

I do enjoy your “columns”. In fact, you are my favorite local columnist (low bar).I loved the movie Clueless too.

Big Al May 9, 2014 - 8:58 am

Stop kissing me, Stu. Blech!

As for “undie” (yes, you sound like shit-filled underpants), lighten the f&@k up, dude!

LEW May 8, 2014 - 4:37 pm

Indie, we read Stu’s column to find out about FOOD, not BEER. Some brewpubs have great FOOD, some do not. Those of us who like FOOD like to know these things.

smytty May 8, 2014 - 7:21 pm

Stu at least half nailed it. WW and LAB are sterilized Asheville joints for the ATL set.

I also agree that their food is better than their beer. Unfortunately, that isn’t saying much.

Anyways, they will make a brazillion dollars, thanks to marketing and location for late-night grub.

The rest of us can munch down at Oysterhouse. Or Asheville Pizza with a cold Shiva.

Hear that, Stu? Go getcha some Oysterhouse grub and chat with Billy.

Stu Helm May 8, 2014 - 10:27 am

One thing I love about you indie is the complete lack of imagination you bring to the table!

But, alas,I grow tired of your non-stop willful pissiness, which seems so contrived, and when coupled with your anonymity, makes you a completely pointless debate partner.

Sorry, Indie, you’re still my fave troll! You keep missin’ those points, and I’ll keep makin’ ’em!

If you want to engage with me however, I invite you to go to my Facebook page, read the post I made about you there, and comment , all non-anonymous style.

indie May 8, 2014 - 11:28 am

I don’t have facebook, but thx. Keep those “columns’ coming.

Foodie May 8, 2014 - 12:49 pm

Wow you are grumpy.

Stu Helm May 8, 2014 - 5:15 pm

Ha ha! Good one, Windy, but I don’t believe for one second that you “don’t have facebook.”

I get that you don’t wanna come out from behind curtain, but you don’t gotta make up fairy stories about not having Facebook in order to remain unaccountable… er, I mean… anonymous. For real. I’m just not buying that.

Oh, wait… I grew bored a while back, didn’t I? I forgot.

It’s just hard for a food fan like me to pass by such low hanging fruit.

indy May 8, 2014 - 6:13 pm

Lil’ Stuey, you’re a hoot. food expert. Biker extraordinaire. Knower of facebook. Keep bringing it.

You are really good for conference call background, btw.

April Smith May 7, 2014 - 10:57 am

I can’t speak to the food. I really wish WW would let me fix that awful white wall.

That whole review made my day though. Right on.

Ron Mexico May 7, 2014 - 10:22 am

Another top-notch chuckler from Stu. You crack my shite up, brah, even though I disagree with your review of Wicked Weed. I appreciate the caveats, though—makes you seem more credible. Sure, WW is swish and full of attractive people from Atlanta (I HATE attractive people!!!!!!!! What with their sexxxxy faces and taut abdominals), but yes, Carolina, the beer is the real deal, and the service has almost always been excellent every time I’ve been there. I also quarrel with your assessment of the food, but 1) I usually get the burger and regular brussel sprouts, which are tasty but basic; and 2) I don’t have an Instagram account, which may indicate my philistine palette. It can get overwhelmingly crowded on weekend nights, but after work or at odd times during the weekend it’s much more tolerable. Pleasant, even. Next time try the patio downstairs—really solid umbrella coverage. I’m a pasty, too.

Dead-on about Pack’s. One of the finest sports bars / purveyors of pub fare in town. Great service, reasonably priced food, and zero &%$#ing pretensions, which is increasingly hard to find in this town. (RIP Hannah Flanagan’s. RIP hard.) Let the haters hate on Pack’s (haterz is alwayz hating, after all); more room for me and my closest fifteen frat bros. Somewhere, there’s a mixologist mixing mixers.

David May 7, 2014 - 8:32 am

Some of the best reading on any local website! Keep it going, Stu!

robyn May 6, 2014 - 9:40 pm

lawn mower clippings! Ha Ha hA HA.
Funniest thing is that made me want to try it!

The Blunder Years May 6, 2014 - 9:08 pm

It’s easy to hate on WW since they’re so popular, and while their clientele definitely isn’t my type of crowd (lots of Bros) I can’t deny that what they’re doing with beer in this town is far and beyond what anyone else is doing, and they’re succeed at a high level with the types of beer their making. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to win a Gold at the GABF, much less one for a sour beer?

You can think what they’re doing is snobby, whatever. Doesn’t matter. They’re pushing the wave and setting a new standard for Asheville beer. It’s about time we had a small brewery that could rightfully compete with the likes of Portland.

Sean May 6, 2014 - 10:36 pm


I work in the beer biz. These guys are putting out the best beer in Asheville. Period.

I’m not a huge fan of the food, but I will say this: they have an *awesome* burger. Local beef, ground in-house (so you can order rare or medium-rare), and for only $8.

Keep hating on this place all you want, folks. People that know beer (and it’s *not* entirely subjective) agree: Wicked Weed is killing it.

Drake May 6, 2014 - 11:29 pm

Blunder, I agree the beer is amazing. I mean at any given time they have thirty may be forty of their beers available. Some might not like the personalities involved or the ornate style of beer, but you can’t argue that they add something to the beer scene here in Asheville.

The food is another story, well there really is no story. They probably should have taken a play out of there play book, do it all the way and right or don’t do it at all.

Stu – I saw you in City Bakery but was too shy to introduce myself. We did a little dance at the coffee creamer station. Next time my friend. Keep the hits coming.

The Blunder Years May 7, 2014 - 8:34 am

I can’t speak on their food beyond the kimchi chicken sandwich, which is the only thing I’ve ever eaten there and it was pretty fantastic.

indie May 7, 2014 - 1:29 pm

Bingo on the kimchi chicken sandwich. Also, the burger is solid and reasonably priced.

Stu Helm May 7, 2014 - 3:00 pm

Why would anyone give 1 shit what you think, Indie? Just kidding! Still best friends?

Foodie May 8, 2014 - 12:53 pm


Can we nominate Indie for the grumpiest meanest blogger om Ashvesgs? I am not believing how rude and self centered her responses are!

Sean May 8, 2014 - 6:53 pm

Wait…someone in Asheville is rude and self-centered? Say it ain’t so!

Here’s my opinion. Stu and I agree on some things. He and I disagree on some others. And you know what? That’s cool. Stu is cool. Mother effin’ cool.

Indie represents a lot of what I hate about this town. So what if Stu disagrees with you? So he rode his bike around on a Sunday and penned a rant about it? So he wasn’t blown over by Wicked Weed. You know what/ I wasn’t, either.

Read what he writes, or don’t. Agree with him or don’t. He’s entitled to his opinion, and so are you. Just don’t get all offended when he calls you out on bullshit.


Stu Helm May 7, 2014 - 3:05 pm

Aw, Drake, you shoulda said hi! Despite my comedy grouchings above, I’m a friendly guy, and I’m always happy to meet new people! Next time fer shizzle.

I’m starting to gather from all of the comments that Wicked Weed crushes it on beer, but not so much on the food.

Too bad I don’t drink, but I promise that I will go back to WW, try the burger, sit on the lower patio, and hopefully enjoy the shit out of the whole experience!

NS May 6, 2014 - 7:11 pm

Thank you for hating on WW as much as I do. Their beer is horrible. The fish and chips I ate were tasteless and might have been interchangeable in a blind taste test. Great location, and that’s like, everything, right?

Taking Shape May 7, 2014 - 9:55 am

It also helps if you’re backed by a millionaire investor…I would say they have significant advantages over other small breweries yet still manage to get it wrong by putting style over substance and quantity over quality.

indie May 7, 2014 - 1:33 pm

Your class envy is negatively impacting your beer taste buds. WW is a gold medal winner at the great American Beer festival—-and they couldn’t care less about who invested in the business or the amount of $, so I suggest we go with the neutral experts. Oh, and the long lines to get in might be a hint also.

Taking Shape May 7, 2014 - 2:41 pm

Sounds like you might work for them so I’m not surprised that you missed my point.

indie May 7, 2014 - 2:58 pm

Another baseless, erroneous guess on your part. I’m guessing you don’t work.

Z May 7, 2014 - 4:09 pm

Damn dude, Indie is the president of the Wicked Weed Fan Club!
F that noise. WW is a Brofest and the beer ain’t that great.

luther blissett May 7, 2014 - 5:38 pm

WW is a gold medal winner at the great American Beer festival

Dude, I just checked and they won “American-Style Brett Beer” which is a) one of 83 categories, b) doesn’t have much competition because brett is weird and funky.

They’re making beer for people who want to check off boxes and ooh and ahh on BeerAdvocate. Which is fine: there are a lot of bros and beer-spotters whose lives revolve around getting hold of limited edition bottles and writing extended online tasting notes about some wacky flight of barrel-aged 11% whatevers. But that just makes it scaled-up novelty homebrew.

indie May 8, 2014 - 9:48 am

Too bad your Bud Lite didn’t win anything in the top beer festival in America.

luther blissett May 8, 2014 - 11:10 am

Yawn. Retake Trolling 101, and consider why Highland’s 20th anniversary and Sierra Nevada opening up shop in Mills River matter more in the grand scheme of WNC brewing.

schwarzcat May 7, 2014 - 12:14 pm

Their beer is horrible? Surely you jest.

NS May 7, 2014 - 10:39 pm

Nope. I don’t like their beer. And, I do drink beer. I do like beer, in general. Specifically I like porters. I tried numerous WW beers in my 2 visits there (Fool me three times – no thanks.)

Cwaster May 6, 2014 - 6:10 pm

Got to agree on Pack’s. Every time I’ve been, the service was great and the food good. I’m a former chef and am pretty critical, so that’s saying a bit for me.

luther blissett May 6, 2014 - 4:54 pm

While I still think Stu needs to accept that Sunday dining is all about brunch, I’m going to agree here.

I’ve said before that I dislike Wicked Weed: it is Asheville’s answer to Brewdog, all style and no substance. But as long as it keeps riding its publicity, it’ll stay full of people who want to ooh and ahh over snozzberry triple imperial sours and eat mediocre food.

Pack’s is an odd one. It’s never going to get past its fake frontage and “sports bar for lawyers and bachelorette parties” reputation, but as sports bars go, you can do a lot worse.

D.Dial May 6, 2014 - 3:46 pm

Another spot on Stu-review.

Lesley May 6, 2014 - 2:33 pm

Ian is great! I took a bunch of middle schoolers to eat at Pack’s Tavern, and Ian was our server. He treated the kids with respect, and they really appreciated the experience.

Stu Helm May 6, 2014 - 8:51 pm

That’s awesome! I found him to be charming and authentic!

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