Stu Helm, Asheville’s Facebook Food Critic: Stoobie Awards, part II


Hello, here’s part 2 of my Stoobie Awards for 2013. If you’re a chef or restauranteur, and your food, coffee, or venue didn’t make it onto my list, despite the fact that you’ve seen me consume it time-after-time with your very own eyes, don’t worry! I’ll get to everything eventually. Despite what some of the über-blasse “foodies” in the burg might think, I find that there’s so much good food in Asheville, it’s hard to mention it all!!!


1) Battery Park Book Exchange – I could hide among the book shelves and drink coffee forever in this place. It’s not so much that I love books (which I do), as it is that I love hiding… and coffee. Others might enjoy the wine. The food menu is a little skimpy and the baked goods tend to be boring as fuck, but the coffee is french press, and the decor is hard-core book-nerd eclectic-hippy-intellectual antique shop meets curio cabinet. It’s the kind of place where Gandolf might go to discover the truth about the One Ring, while pouring over dusty tomes and sipping a pinot grigio with his gal-pals from the office.

2) Dobra – Chicks always wanna meet at Dobra Tea House. I hate tea. I keep trying to order a coffee at Dobra and they keep telling me they don’t have coffee, so I end up ordering some fucking tea that I fucking hate. Also, I hate taking my shoes off. WTF?!? And I hate it even more when other people take their shoes off!!! ARGH! Leave your shoes on, please! Hate hate hate. Despite the fact that Dobra won’t serve me a got-dang cup of coffee and they request that their patrons remove their shoes, I gotta give it up: they have awesome atmosphere. Also: Very tasty baked goods.

3) Katmandu – Oh, what can I say? I guess I’m just a trippy-dippy hippy at heart after all, because I am a stone-cold sucker for that whole Indian/Tibetan design motif. I love it! Katmandu is so cute and cozy and has all the right little deets of design that make my hippy heart go squish. Intricate wooden carvings, brightly colored, heavily patterned sheets, and images of deities hanging on the walls… y’know, stuff like that. Add the fact that the staff is super friendly and the food rules the roost, and I am one happy motherfuckin’ hippie!


1) Home Grown – People might think of Home Grown as a family place, and that’s great, but I am a childless loser who lives alone most of the time, and yet, I need more than just a toaster-oven cheeseburger every night to sustain me as a human being. This is where Home Grown comes in. Do I know how to cook collard greens? Fuck no. Can I roast broccoli? Sure, if I wanted to, I think I could figure that one out, by why should I? The good people at Home Grown are more than willing to do that for me, and serve it up with a smile. Thanks, Mom… er, I mean… Home Grown… …embarrassing… Freudian slip.

2) Posana – “Wha?!? But don’t bachelors eat at Hardees and all-you-can-stomach buffets?” Not this one. Fuck that shit. When I eat out, I like to eat something made with high quality ingreeds as often as I can, and Posana has some of the highest standards in town as far as I can tell. Plus, everything I’ve ever eaten there has been tasty as fuck and generally on the healthier side of the scale. Also: Gluten free menu from top to bottom? Sure, why not? Personally, I’ll eat the shit out of some gluten, but when I can avoid it, and still eat awesome food, then you bet. Deglutenize me, Posana!

3) Storm – It’s dark and manly inside of Storm and I like that. They make a great burger. I like that too. When I go there alone, it feels really bachelory. When I go with the GF, it feels kinda romantic. Yeah, Man. Gonna get laid.


1) Rise and Shine – It’s good ol’ breakfast eats at a reasonable price, in a bright, sunny space, served by friendly people who are happy to see ya. What the fuck more could you want than that, Asheville?

2) Sunny Point – Don’t even try on the weekends. Too many people. Not enough seats. But squeeze yourself in during the week and have anything from the heuvos to the breakfast salad to my all-time fave shrimp ‘n’ grits.

3) Early Girl – Again, the people-to-seats ratio is tough to deal with sometimes, but if you can manage to wedge yourself in for some of their tasty standards and unique specials, you won’t leave dissatisfied. It’s a little spendy, so just be prepared for that before you get there and you won’t have to complain about it a hundred times while we’re eating.


1) Mamacitas – Tasty, fast , and affordable. We all know it. Best bang for the buck for a healthy, filling, and consistently delicious lunch. Mamacitas takes care of us, and we appreciate them for that. Right? Yes. We do.

2) Chestnut – Lobster Bisque and an heirloom tomato salad make for a lunchtime break that really feels like you ate something worth eating, and it won’t hurt your wallet… too badly.

3) Loretta’s – Depending on the soup, they have the best fucking soups in town. I personally recommend the very tasty New England clam chowder, and I’m FROM New England, Y’all! Add 1/2 a sandwich? Hells yes! Awesome possum.


#1 – Reza’s – Several of the best meals and most enjoyable dining experiences I’ve had in Asheville have been at Reza’s. The casual-dining side is fun and open and contemporary, with hightop tables and bar seating, and a limited but excellent food menu. The fine-dining side is clean, classy, comfortable, and old-school, without being stodgy. The food, and service are some of the best anywhere. Sitting at the Chef’s table at Reza’s was a very unique and romantic experience, like no other I had ever had. Request it if you can. They do a beautiful steak at Reza’s, and my mom goes ape-shit over the calamari salad. Just about everything I’ve tasted from their menu has been top-notch awesomeness made with quality ingredients, and presented with a subtle flare that doesn’t annoy the eyeballs. Bring your wallet to Reza’s, and make sure it is chock-full-o’-money, because excellence doesn’t come cheap, My Friends, but is so worth it.

UPDATE – We had a bit of a clunker at Reza’s the other day (December 2nd 2013), but hey, everyone is allowed a miss every once in a while.

#1 1/2 – Zambra – For years this has been one of our go-to dinner-date places. The lights and music are low, the food is fucking excellent, interesting, and ever-changing. The atmosphere in general is very conducive to romance, especially on the bar side. The staff has always been great, and there’s this one waitress in particular that we really love. Zambra is one the original awesome restaurants in Asheville, and although some people think less of it now than they do of other, newer, venues, it has sustained us for years and continues to deliver. Well, not literally. They don’t deliver, like a pizza place delivers pizza to your door. Except for maybe through Valet Gourmet? I don’t know, but don’t get Zambra delivered for fuck’s sake. Go there. With a date.

There you go, Em-Effers! That’s some of what I think about some of the food and such in this town. You may or may not agree with my opinions, and I may or may not give a shit.

Oh, and I hope you know that, despite all of the swearing and insults, I love you guys to bits and pieces. That’s just how I talk. Lots of swearing and insults. All for fun. It is perhaps not the most charming of personality traits, I will admit, but what can I say?

Happy Fucking Holidays, Motherfuckers!


D.Dial December 19, 2013 - 9:56 am

Rezaz used to be one of our favorite places to dine….then portions got smaller , prices higher and food quality became inconsistant.

Um, no. December 16, 2013 - 9:08 pm

1) Rise and Shine – It’s good ol’ breakfast eats at a reasonable price, in a bright, sunny space, served by friendly people who are happy to see ya. What the fuck more could you want than that, Asheville?

I am confused. Is there another Rise and Shine in town? The one I’ve been to is in a strip mall on a busy street. The service is inconsistent, from very good to horrible. At it’s best though, don’t ask for more than one refill of your coffee. And definitely don’t ask for separate checks. If I have to pay for everyone I bring into your restaurant, I won’t bring as many people to your restaurant. And when you’re shitty to us about it, I won’t bring anyone to your restaurant. But hey, I hear the hot chocolate is really good.

Stacey December 17, 2013 - 1:36 pm

I have had great service, food, and even coffee refils every time I have gone to Rise N Shine. Seems the writer of this comment may have a bit of an “attitude”

Um, no. December 17, 2013 - 11:25 pm

Seems the writer of this comment might be the owner or manager. For the record, they don’t accept constructive criticism well in person either. Eat there or don’t, doesn’t matter to me, but I prefer to go to places where people are friendly and helpful.

stacey December 19, 2013 - 12:06 pm

Um, No

I am not an owner or anyhow affiliated with the Rise N Shine

Maybe you are a competitor?

Jason W. December 17, 2013 - 4:07 pm

Pro-tip: Maybe you should inform your server before you order, that it will be separate checks.

Um, no. December 17, 2013 - 11:20 pm

Good point. Or maybe the server could ask, how would you like your checks? I dine out a lot with various groups and never have had a problem anyplace else.

Chris December 17, 2013 - 9:13 pm

I’m in agreement with Um, no. Very surprised that Rise and Shine made the list because we have had annoyingly chaotic service. We have either been provided excessive attention with various staff asking us the same thing or we’ve been completely ignored. We would love to add them to our local breakfast places, but we became so frustrated with service that we gave up on them for a year. We went back recently and this time probably left for good as seating was unnecessarily slow (tables open, but no lead as host to seat the numerous people waiting) and once seated, we were completely overlooked as later-seated tables were visited by multiple wait staff.

schwarzcat December 20, 2013 - 11:53 am

Agreed. Inconsistent with regards to food and service. We gave up on the place a while ago. I want to like it because I live in N.Asheville. Maybe I should try it again.

AngieBaby December 16, 2013 - 4:08 pm

This made me literally laugh out loud. Good calls! I will have to subscribe to this…

Jason W. December 16, 2013 - 2:40 pm

I’ve got lots of love for Rise ‘n’ Shine. I just wish they gave you a little more jelly for the toast.

Jake December 16, 2013 - 12:08 pm

Not to nitpick a nitpick, but Reza’s is technically correct, as the owner is Reza Setayash.

Spot on, Stoob, about Zambra. That place is fucking ace-high.

North Asheville Neighbor December 16, 2013 - 11:31 am

I assume you mean Rezaz, this isn’t Chicago.

Foothills Dweller December 16, 2013 - 1:19 pm

I was wondering the same thing – Rezaz in Biltmore Village? Their grilled Caesar salad is one of the best salads I’ve had in my life.

Stu Helm December 16, 2013 - 8:37 pm

Oh Snap! You are so right! I make that mistake all the time. I lived in Chicago for 7 years and there is not only an excellent Middle Eastern restaurant there called Reza’s, but there is also a tendency to morph every business name into the possessive form. My favorite is when the grocery store Jewel and the drug store Osco are in the same place it’s called “The Jewel Osco’s”

I used to love the stuffed grape leaves at Reza’s in Chicago. They were served warm in a tomato-based sauce. Best ever!

Stu Helm December 18, 2013 - 7:22 am

In case I’m still not clear: Yes, I did mean REZAZ in Biltmore.

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