Some of you know that, in addition to being your friendly foul-mouthed Food Critic, I am also the mild mannered creator and co-publisher of the fun, free, monthly children’s newspaper, Asheville Flyer for Kids! In that capacity, I am acutely aware of every whacky holiday, observation, and recurring event you can think of. Whether it’s Hug Your Cat Day (ouch), Lost Sock Memorial Day, or National Bubble Week, I know about it and I post about it every morning on the AFK FB page.
A typical morning for me might start with the following post:
“Today is Monday, July 14th, 2014.
It is Pandemonium Day!
The 14th is also Bastille Day & National Nude Day, but I left those off my post, of course, because French history and human nudity are certainly not suitable subjects for children, especially when combined with pandemonium.
Aaanyhoodles… this is why I happen to know that July is National Hot Dog Month.
Yay! I lerv hert dergs!!!
I live alone most of the time, so when I buy a package of hot dogs, I’m in for a pound, if y’know what I mean. They’s 8 dogs per pack, and only 7 days in a week (unless you’re Beatles fan, which I am not.) so once I crack the plastic, it’s muhfuckin’ hot dog time at The Food Critic HQ. Ain’t no joke. I’ve been know to eat hot dogs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until they’re all gone, and I am in fact well known for my Breakfast Hot Dogs.
“What makes it a breakfast hot dog, Stu?”
“I eat it for breakfast.”
“Do you put bacon and scrambled eggs and maple syrup on it?”
“Nope, just ketchup, mustard, and relish.”
Okay, two things:
1) I just did a mini-interview with myself about hot dogs, so what?
2) The first asshole to comment below that putting ketchup on a hot dog is some kind of crime against humanity gets a Peevie Award and this preemptive, “Oh, fuck off.”
This is America, and even though the hot dog (or pylsa) is the national pride of Iceland (true story) there is no more American food than that a good ol’ yankee doodle hot dog! What’re you, a commie? Ain’t nobody tells an American what they can and can’t put on their hot dog. I won’t stand for it!
Here is a list of things that I have put on a hot dog:
• Yellow Mustard
• Fancy Mustard
• Honey Mustard
• BBQ Sauce
• Sour Kraut
• TVP-based chili
• Bean-based chili
• Meat-based chili
• Beef Heart-based chili (the traditional stuff of a real Coney)
• Pub cheese
• Shredded cheese
• Cooked onions
• Raw onions
• Pickle spears
• Tomato wedges
• Celery salt
• Shriracha / Frank’s / Texas Pete / Other
And now that I think about it, I have also wrapped hot dog slices in bacon, and speared ’em with a tooth pick before baking, for delicious hot doggity hors d’oeuvres.
Y’know what would be really fucking good on a hot dog? Some of that bacon jam they’ve got over there at the Barleycorn. Okay. Now I gotta try to make that happen. Briar?!? Help me out if you can! Breakfast hot dog with bacon jam and pub cheese? Are you fucking kidding me?!? Gim.
So, fuck the condiment commies, I say put whatever you want on your hot dogs. I ain’t judgin’. That ain’t me. I don’t judge on stuff like that. Put goddamn chocolate sprinkles on there if you want.
Along with personal freedom, I am a strong believer in squishy white buns… for my hot dogs! Gawd! Perverts. Dawn is always on me about “wheat” hot dog buns, and I’m all, like, “Whatever, Dawn,” as my hand reaches for the softest, whitest, trashiest buns on the shelf.
There are lots of brand names that are complete trash — in a good way — so just grab whatever looks un-wholesome-est and you’re good to go. Pepperidge Farm makes an awesome, super-trashy hot dog bun that I like. The organic 365 brand ones at Wholefoods are trashy enough for me too, so I buy those sometimes. In my mind, organic trash is better than non-organic trash.
For home hotdog prep, I say boil ’em. Fuck it. How often do you get to just boil the shit out of something and have it taste awesome? You can’t boil a steak. Even boiling lobster takes timing and finesse. Boiling hot dogs is easy as fuck, and they come out just right every time. And yep, I did just compare hotdogs to steak and lobster. They all occupy very high positions in my food rankings. Boil hot dogs in a beer/water combo as often as possible.
The three hot dog brands I look for in the grocery store are:
-and Nature’s Rancher
Those three brands are stand-outs in my mind and you can go to their web sites to read all about it. All natch, no hormones, no bullshit. The realio dealio.
When I’m out, I like to eat Hebrew Nat’l , Vienna Beef, or Nathan’s hot dogs as often as I can find them. Any place that carries any of those brands is braggin’ about it on the menu and sometimes even with neon signs ‘n’ shit. Those are three names that you can trust for a good hot dog every time.
When I want to sit and eat a hot dog in downtown Asheville, my first choice is always The Soda Fountain at Woolworth Walk. They carry Hebrew Nat’l and they serve it just right: grilled, then nestled in the buttery softness of a grilled white bun, served in a plastic basket with a side of Lay’s potato chips and a pickle spear. Mmm-MMM! That’s good stuff.
I did go back to Whit’s for their $1.25 hot dog. How was it? Soft. Very soft. Through and through. Bun and dog alike were soft as soft can be. I asked the owner what the brand name is and I think he said Kent’s. He added that they are made from a combo of pork and beef. I looked up Kent’s on line and they do carry a variety of hot dogs that includes one made of pork and beef, and another one that is “pork, water, and beef” listed in that order. Dawn and I agreed that neither of us would exactly crave the Whit’s dog, but that for $1.25 we’d definitely get it again.
I’ve noticed that some of the fancy restaurants around town have been serving up their own “house made” hot dogs, and I tried the one at All Souls. Now, I love me some All Souls, I eat there all the time, I tell people to eat there all the time, but their house-made hot dog was a fail.
It was too small — yes, I’m saying that their wiener was too small — and it was burnt, plus it was too smoky. I had an unpleasant smoky flavor in my mouth for a long time after I ate it. It also came on a massive bun that just way too wholesome and hardy for me. I know that All Souls is gonna try to make an awesome bun and all, because they seem to be bread people at heart, but there is such a thing as trying too hard. The volume of the bun exceeded that of the hot dog by 1/2 as much at least. No. Bad.
I saw recently that 7 Sows had a house made hot dog on their lunch menu, but when I went back to try it they were closed, and I’m not even sure they’re still doing lunch. I’ll try to figure that out and get back to you. It was $9 when I saw it listed. I don’t mind paying $9 for a house made hot dog, as long as it’s fuckin’ aye good. If you’ve tried the 7 Sows dog, please comment below and let us all know how it was.
In fact, everyone please recommend hot dogs to me, and to each other below! What’s your fave grocery store brand? How do you prep ’em at home? Which restaurant serves the best dog? Which push cart or food truck? This week, please use the space provided below to talk hot dogs!!!
To my everlasting shame I have not tried even ONE of the hot dog stands downtown! Gotta fix that STAT. Plus, Dawn just told me she saw a “grass fed hot dog’ listed in an ad for The Urban Orchard cider tasting room. ERMERGERD!!! I’m freaking out. So many hot dogs, so few days left in July! Uh. Slacking. Way behind. That tears it! I’m eating a hot dog every fucking day for the rest of the month! Nom nom!!!
Who’s with me?
LUNCH AT KING JAMES – Charlotte Street
Speaking of ermergerdness: I lerv lernch!
It’s my fave meal of the day. Some people like breakfast for dinner, and that’s fine, but I like lunch for dinner… And for breakfast! Gimme gimme gimme lunch.
I will eat lunch any time of night or day, but I’m always soops disappointles when a venue is closed right at lunch time. (ahempizzapuracoughcough) That’s why I was so psyched to hear that King James has decided to be open for lunch. That little stretch of N. Charlotte has needed a place just like KJP to be open for lunch for a long time. Prior to that, you had Fuddruckers, Two Guys Hoagies, Charlotte Street Pub, City Bakery, and Starbucks to choose from.
Whatcha gonna do? Eat at Fuddruckers? Fudd that! I wouldn’t stick one of those fuddburgers in my lunch-hole if it was the last venue on Earth. I used to ride Bikey through the Fudd’s parking lot almost daily on my way to Greenlife or Downtown, and I’m not even kidding: I never saw so many morbidly obese individuals in one place in my life. No joke. Hugely unhealthy people, literally pushing their oxygen tanks and using walkers and shit, shuffling in and out of the Fudd. I confess: we did eat there a couple of times, because we really didn’t know what a Fudd’s was all about, and I thought that my young nephews would like it, until one of them said to me, “This isn’t very good is it?” We never went back. So gross.
Starb’s? Not a lunch place. Some Starbucks serve sandwiches and salads and such, but not the one on Charlotte Street.
Two Guys is okay, but nothing there has ever blown my socks off. Your basic sub shop, with no claim to fame, and terrible atmosphere. I ate there fewer than a dozen times in the 9 years I lived in that neighborhood.
City Bakes is great! One of my go-to places for many years, both downtown and on Charlotte. A great place to grab a bite for lunch, it’s been the best thing on N. Charlotte street for many years. However, the atmosphere is not awesome, and how often can I eat lunch at the same old place over and over? Not indefinitely.
Charlotte Street Pub? Well… I love ya guys, but that place smells… Like a bar… And cigarettes. I don’t like to eat lunch in a place that smells like beer, urinal cakes, and ashtrays. But that’s just me. Their chicken wings did win The People’s Choice in the Wing War this year, so have at it. I personally prefer the duck wings at King James, and I think that they are a steal at $5 per plate. They were on the lunch menu when we went there recently, along with the following:
• Duck French Dip with Frittes – Yum. So savory, and so tasty! I’ve eaten more dang duck in the past year or so. It seems to be soops pops with chefs these days. This sandwich was very good and substantial, and it came with fries that were REALLY crispy and awesome. I’m giving the fries at KJP and instant Stoobie Award right now. They were exactly as fries should be.
• Smoked Trout Dip Jar – Dawn ordered this and said it was excellent. The dip, the bread, and the pickled stuff are all house made and really good. The grilled bread is particularly tasty.
• Garden Salad w/ Chevre, Pickled Carrot, and Beet – This was another Dawn dish and she raved about how good it was. She doesn’t even really like beets, but at JKP, she’ll try anything that Chef Steven puts in front of her, because we both know it’s going to be good no matter what. We were right: the beets on this salad were great, and the salad as a whole was one of the stand-out dishes at lunch that day. It had a smear of sorghum-something on the plate that was the crowning touch.
• Country Pork Pate Melt with Frittes – Oh God… this was one of those times that Dawn and I ordered all the food we wanted, and then the kitchen sent out two extra dishes. I was already stuffed when this pate melt showed up, but I STILL ate the entire thing! It was so fuckin’ aye good, I know that I’ll be craving this thing in the future. Yum-to-ummy. It was insanely savory, and greasy (in the good way), and decadent as fuck. Again, I don’t normally eat pate, but whatever Chef Steven throws down, I’m eating, and I’ll be eating this little pate melt again and again. Just in case you ain’t getting it: It’s like a patty melt made with pate instead of a beef patty.
• The other dish that the kitchen sent out was a pickle and kimchee plate. Lot’s of folks are doing pickled stuff and kimchee these days, and I personally think that no one does it better, or has more of a passion for it than Chef Steven Goff at King James. This plate had small piles of pickled carrots, beets, fennel, and other things that I can’t remember or couldn’t identify. It was great! Gittin’ pickly wid it.
So that was our lunch at King James Pub! It was a very pleasant and flavorful experience! We’ll be going back there for lunch often.
Almost every time we’re in KJP, Chef Steven tells us a story of someone coming into his restaurant and complaining “Why can’t you just have normal food on the menu?” Well, Complainy, Steven don’t do that. Normal food is for suckers. When you go into Steven’s place, you’re going to have to leave your little kid self behind and try some shit you ain’t never tried before. Organ meats. Pickled weirdness. Lot’s of duck… parts. I’d say that it takes you out of your comfort zone, but the food is prepared and served in a very comforting way, so it’s like, once you get past the mental blocks, you’re alll goood.
ME AND MY BIKEY
Just in case you didn’t know, I’ve started writing for Asheville Grit now too! Whoop whoop! I’m soops exciteles.
I asked them if I could write about anything except food, and they said, “go for it,” so I wrote about the reasons that I don’t own a car. I’m going to be writing for them once a month on that same subject in my new column called “IN THE ROAD with Stu and Bikey.”
You can check out the first installment HERE.
Also, I want you guys to know that I recently turned down an actual paying gig, writing about food for a popular local publication, because they wanted me to kowtow to their advertisers.
I don’t fucking kowtow.
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.