Stu Helm, Food Critic, on West Asheville Lounge and Kitchen


By Stu Helm

Hello Asheville!

Holy fucking shit, I’m busy. So much things going on. Between Asheville Flyer for Kids, this food column, and keeping up with my Cheesy Graphics clients, I’m outta my mind half the time, so I’m gonna skip the intro and get right to it.

BRUNCH AT WALK – Haywood Ave, WAVL – Sundays only

WARNING! This is one of those times that the meal was comped by the house, who invited us to dine. I know that’s going to irritate some people to no end, and they will tempted to post nasty comments below about how I’m a horrible person who can be bought with a free crust of bread, and bribed with a french fry.


I’ve been eating at restaurants my whole life, and this really cool stuff is happening to me right now, for the very first time ever, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts, and I’m writing about it for anyone who cares to read my column. That’s all. It’s not complicated or devious. The readers can decide for themselves whether or not I’m being honest in my assessment of the food and service at any establishment I go to, keeping in mind of course, that personal tastes are subjective, and food and service can vary from day to day based an any number of random factors that have absolutely nothing on Earth to do with me.


You guys remember Jessica, right? The nice lady who is a server at Rhubarb, and invited me there to sample their menu back in June? I wrote all about it. Well, in addition to Rhubarb, Jessica also works at the West Asheville Lounge and Kitchen (WALK) where, apparently, her role in my story ’bout The ‘barb gained her a little notoriety, and she was encouraged by her coworkers to invite me to Sunday brunch at WALK. I’d heard really good things about this brunch already, but also that there was sometimes a big line out the door. I hate lines, so I was hoping to breeze past anything remotely liney behind my good friend Jessica.

“Outta the way, Plebes, official food biz going on here.”

After some initial difficulty coordinating all of our busy schedules, Dawn and Jessica and I showed up at WALK a little early, avoiding the crowds altogether, and were greeted, seated, and served a very lovely and delicious brunch.
Let me bullet point the highlights:

Jessica – I’m telling you, this chick rules. Funny, smart, slightly cynical, easy on the eyes, and full of energy, she was a pure delight to sit and talk with. You guys can bask in her glow any time you want by catching her at Rhubarb or The Walk, or her other job as a real estate agent.

The venue – It’s nice inside, with big huge windows that let in the natural light and give you a view of Haywood street. The decor has an open, friendly kind of a pub-style thing going on. The ceilings are high, and the noise levels — even when it got really packed — were very tolerable. I have a shitty, irritating condition called tinnitus (, and it can be difficult for me to hear conversation in loud restaurants. Halfway through this meal, I noticed that I could totally hear Dawn and Jessica, who were speaking in normal tones. I looked around, the place was rockin’, and it seemed like every patron had their jabber-hole flapping, but something about the design of the room kept it from being a nightmare of noise. Yay!!!

The service – Yeah, yeah, so they knew we were coming, and yes we were eating with one of their employees, so they obviously weren’t gonna treat us like shit, but you know what? I’d be totally shocked if every single customer there wasn’t treated to the exact same level of friendly and professional service that we were. Good service usually means that the servers enjoy working there, which is generally a reflection of good management and ownership. Judging by Jessica’s opinion of the place, I’d say the rest of the staff is probably pretty happy working there too. Our server’s name was Stevie, and she was great.

The food – Here’s what we got (as usual there are pictures on my Facebook page)

– Coffee – West Asheville is quickly becoming the coffee mecca of the Greater Asheville area. It seems like every venue carries awesome, locally roasted coffee, and gives a shit about whether or not it’s fresh, hot, and delicious. The coffee at WALK is from Bean Werks on Haywood, who I think is somewhat responsible for much of the good coffee sitch over there Wavtown.

– Fried Asparagus – Uh, yeah, can you say YUM? I don’t usually eat deep fried things for my first meal of the day, but these deep-fried things looked and sounded too good to pass by. Breaded, fried, and served with a hollandaise sauce and grilled lemon, they were crunchy, asparagussy, and really fucking good! Plus, later: Asparagus pee. Yay!

– Steak and Eggs – Man oh man oh Manischewitz, I love me some steak and eggs. I first got into it at a place in Chicago called Steak ‘n’ Egger. Fuckin’ aye, Man. I’m just a humble 99 percenter, so I feel like I’m living the fucking good life if I’m eating steak for breakfast, nomesayin’? I make steak and eggs for breakfast at home a lot, and I feel like a fucking King. WALK gave this dish the royal treatment, and his highness the Food Critic deemed it effing awesome. First of all: Presentation. It was beautiful. There was color on the plate, in the form of a delicious green sauce, some red peppers and arugula on top. Plus the pinkish jus of the steak was very pretty. (Yay blood! Lap lap lap!) The piece of meat was excellent. At first, I thought, “This looks a little fatty,” but one bite of that perfectly seared beef, fat included, and I was sold. The chef cooked it exactly right. I ate every scrap. Thank you, Chef! The eggs were great as well, just the way I ordered them: over easy. The fried potatoes that came with were honestly not the highlight of the meal, but I ate every scrap of those too, so there’s that.

– Steak Tips ‘n’ Grits – Holy shit. More steak for breakfast? It’s good to be King. Dawn categorized this dish as “dude food,” and I can say for sure that I was in dude heaven after one bite! Grits is one of my fave southern things, and then add delicious, tender, high-end steak tips and a savory brown gravy, plus grilled asparagus on top, and yeah, whadda you think? I fucking loved it. Gawd, I want it right now! Writing these columns makes me fucking hungry, like ALL THE TIME.

– Things Benedict – Dawn and Jessica got eggs Benedict and crab cakes Benedict respectively. Both were delish and came with a small side salad of arugula ‘n’ such. These days, side salads are soops croosh. Ladies love ’em, and I so do I. I pretty much hate making salad at home, but I really like eating it, so yes please, side salad me as often as possible, Asheville!
At the very end, as we all moaned and groaned with fullness and talked up the food, the kitchen sent out a small version of their huevos rancheros. I’ll admit that I can’t give it a fair assessment now because I was really really full at the time, and only popped one or two bites into my mouth to be polite. It was good, but it didn’t blow my socks off. It probably suffered mostly from showing up at a bad time in the line-up, if you know what I mean. It’s hard to take center stage after steak, crab, and asparagus have hogged-up all the glory.

In conclusion, I’ll give brunch at WALK very high marks and I will go back for it again when I can! They offered-up the best steak and eggs I’ve had since moving to Atown from Chicago in 2005, and the steak ‘n’ grits is a crave-it dish fer shizzle. We enjoyed our WALK experience very much, thank you Jessica, Stevie, Chef and crew! Brunch was awesome.

Oh, shit, I forgot to mention that the ladies ordered a bottle of champagne and some OJ and drank mimosas. They were in chick heaven.

ADDENDUM – I’d actually been to WALK once before. My buddy Mike and I went there for a late breakfast a looonnnggg muhfuckin’ time ago, before I started writing about food. I remember now that I enjoyed my Crab Cakes Benedict at the time, but Mike was unimpressed with whatever it was he got. For some reason I let his opinion sway me, and I never went back. Fuckin’ Mike. Such a hater. More than me, even. That’s part of why I love him! We get our hate on together.


If I owned a restaurant, there would be a sign on the door that said “GENTLEMEN,” in big black block letters at the top, and then had an icon of a flip-flop with a red circle and bar through it, and then at the bottom it would say “MUST WEAR SHOES.”

I do not consider flip-flops to be proper men’s attire for dining out, and here’s why:

Men do gross things… Like absentmindedly picking at their nasty feet while sitting, legs crossed, at a cafe reading the NY Times. I have witnessed this very thing — the thing that I have just described — with my own eyeballs.
There was a man, sitting inside the Starb’s on Charlotte Street one day, who let his flip-flops slide off. Now barefoot, he positioned his legs akimbo, and began to casually pick dead flesh and toe jam and snail eggs and gawd knows what-the-fuck else off of his nasty fucking toes while browsing the paper.


What are you doing?



That man’s hand, the one that picked so lazily and carefree at the cracks between his toes, was the very same hand that had touched the 1/2 and 1/2 carafe just moments earlier. My hand had also touched that carafe… after his. I shuddered to think that his toe-pickin’ hand had also picked at his toes perhaps even before touching the carafe, at some previous point in his toe pickin’ day. Good. Lord. Men. Are so gross.

I washed my hands immediately.

I am 100% against men wearing flip-flops — as well as sandals, Crocs and Tevas — in public food and beverage establishments. I watched a long-haired hippie-nerd in Olde Europe just the other day slip off his Tevas, while bangin’ away on his laptop, and decide to go barefootin’ it for the rest of his visit, padding around the floor like a two year old. I took pictures. I posted them on Facebook. I find it absolutely nauseating to see some dude jus’ hangin’ ’round the cafe in his bare feet like it’s his motherfucking living room. Get a fucking grip. Fuuuck. Killing me.

Women’s feet are a whole different animal. It’s like an adorable kitty cat vs a cancerous toad. While I don’t think that a flip-flop says much to the world beyond “I’m unemployed,” women are exempt from my no-flops rule, because for the most part, they have nice feet. If they have nasty feet — for whatever reason — they are usually aware enough to keep them hidden inside of a perfectly fine and attractive closed-toe shoe. That’s because they give a shit. Men? They don’t give a shit. “I’m comfy,” is usually the extent of thought that goes into their shoe choices. They don’t care that the rest of us are ready to vomit at the sight of the grooved, yellow, talons they call toenails, or the decaying bulbs of flesh that pass for toes.

One day, one glorious day, maybe I will be crowned the new Holy Ruler of the Universe (instead of this guy) and I will ban all men’s open-toed footwear in all cafes, bars, pubs, and restaurants everywhere.

It’s gonna be great.

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.


RedHotPoker September 16, 2014 - 9:28 am

sheesh, can you ease up on the profanity please…it makes you seem uneducated and trying to be too liberal/
progressive, which IS offensive…

do they still have scallops at the WALK certain nights?

Happy Gillmore September 13, 2014 - 4:50 pm

Looks like it is time for a Stu vs Drexler old fashioned throw down. Seems Drexler is trying to mock Stu as a jackass and steal his spotlight. Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!

Drexler McStyles September 13, 2014 - 10:05 pm

Im not trying to “mock Stu as a jackass”. I’m simply saying that if he considers himself a ‘serious’ food critic (not sure what he considers himself, and I dont mean that as a knock, I just dont know the guy) that there are certain guidelines that should be followed if he wants others to see him as one. Taking free, pre-arranged meals aint gonna work in his favor. Based on the amount of responses he has made on this comment thread, perhaps he could give a fuck less. If thats the case then I know what I need to know. No point in trying to make some big competition out of it. Its simply a matter of differences in opinion.

JT September 15, 2014 - 5:15 pm

I am glad to see that I’m not the only one to get their jimmies rustled by these awful posts (I can’t call them articles or reviews). The fact that he keeps getting more gigs does not suggest a bright future for local media.

Clint September 13, 2014 - 2:08 pm

Stu, really appreciate what you do. The fact that you have incited some d-bag haters is only a testament to your ability to provoke thought. Just know your work and thoughtfulness bring a pleasant bit of catharsis to a lot of people in our community. Thanks . Who that cap fit let them wear it.

Big Al September 15, 2014 - 8:07 am

I was with you until “thoughtfulness”. I think that is gilding the lily a bit.

David September 11, 2014 - 6:28 pm

Hygene as nasty as your mouth well there is a shocker 🙂

PS Dawn and Jessica were speaking at normal volumes, not “speaking in normal tones” (but I’m sure you can blame your editor for that)

Nobody ever laughs at you Stu… you are too pitiful.

cwaster September 11, 2014 - 12:13 pm

Hm. I had a really bad experience at WALK back in ’12. Everything from lame and inattentive service, a super slow preparation time (40m and they were not busy), to onions on my friend’s meal who asked to not have them since he was allergic. Things seem to have shaped up since then, I’ve been back a few times and it was pretty good.

cwaster September 11, 2014 - 4:00 pm

(’12) I forgot the part about the waitress looking totally stoned and dropping food on my date’s shoe, and then saying “I just dropped food on your shoe, you might want to clean that up.”

Either way, my last 3 experiences there were pretty good. Service was good, food was good, not too many screaming kids.

Big Al September 15, 2014 - 8:06 am

“I just dropped food on your shoe, you might want to clean that up.”

Sounds like scene from a Seth Rogen film.

cwaster September 15, 2014 - 1:09 pm

It was a bit surreal, yes. Both my date and our guests were veterans, and it was Veteran’s Day brunch, so that made it even worse as far as the embarrassment factor goes.

smytty September 15, 2014 - 2:56 pm

I’m just unsure as to why you are relating a disappointing experience you had there years ago if your experiences henceforth have been positive?

What September 10, 2014 - 7:18 pm

Stu, I sat next to you once at Clingman Cafe and you literally smelled like shit. you are so clueless.

Jen September 12, 2014 - 4:08 pm

Ha ha ha..!

John M September 10, 2014 - 1:47 pm

98% of what I’ve ordered at the WALK is good. Love the fried chicken night. Beer specials great. Kid friendly. Stevie is awesome.

Service is not always great, but my kid wanders around with other kids, and the staff seems cool about it, so its a wash.

Whatever September 15, 2014 - 8:40 am

Everyone needs a place they can go drink, be waited on, and ignore thier kids. Good for you.

Orton September 10, 2014 - 1:15 pm

“I’d be totally shocked if every single customer there wasn’t treated to the exact same level of friendly and professional service that we were.”

Then you, sir, are very easily shocked…

Drexler McStyles September 10, 2014 - 3:01 pm


EJ September 10, 2014 - 1:05 pm


Are you serious about the flip flops? I mean, have you looked at yourself? I saw you the other day at Clingman Cafe and almost introduced myself to you. Your goatee is nasty and needs to be trimmed. And for goodness sake take a bath before you go out. Your hair was a greasy mess. I watched you run you hands through it on numerous occasion and then finger everything on the table. All of this and you worry about flip flops? Ugghhh!

I did not introduce myself because you generally make negative comments about those who say they don’t have Facebook and hide behind the anonymity of a blog. I don’t do Facebook and have left some negative comments regarding your post. I thought this might trigger ab insult or two from you. Plus, I also had my 20 month old in tow. Another thing you hate! I thought things may get nasty with your vial language. Something I typically don’t shy away from unless I’m with my children.

I guess my point is, you shouldn’t throw crazy staments about flip flops out there until you become perfect. You have become a regonizable figure in the community. You stick out like a sore thumb. Until your hygiene is perfect, I wouldn’t worry about flip flops. Just stick to reviewing the food. If you don’t want flip flops go to Ruth Chris.

I apologize for any bad spelling or grammar. I’ve hastily written this from my phone.

Harry September 12, 2014 - 3:47 pm

Looks like 3 things Stu wasn’t taught as a Lad.
1. Basic Hygiene
2. That those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks
3. Having a foul mouth is not a virtue, and is certainly unbecoming of one who writes a children’s publication.

Drexler McStyles September 10, 2014 - 12:22 pm

I heard that these guys comped you a free meal (I have friends that work there, know the owners) and was curious how you would handle the situation. I wasnt aware that they actually invited you and that you dined with an employee. I hear what youre saying about being excited that all this cool shit is coming your way, free meals, invited to events, etc. But dude, these guys basically bought a review from you. And if you didnt believe that yourself, you wouldnt have spent the first half on your review defending yourself. Its indefensible. You have the audacity to try and suggest that you didnt get special treatment? That your food wasnt prepared with extra care? Give me a fuckin break man. Your credibility as a critic drops like a brick but I have no doubt your phones gonna be ringin off the hook with more “offers” from other restos. If youre in it for the free shit, youve landed. Just dont expect us readers to take your opinions seriously anymore. With one review youve gone from being the guy that aint afraid to say whats on his fuckin mind and fuck you if you dont agree, to the guy who will give your restaurant a blowjob in exchange for some free chop. Weak shit brother. I get offers for re-do meals and freebies rather frequently, and I do what any respectable, ethical reviewer would do; politely decline. But thats just me. Ive been known to wear flip flops to restaurants….

Headhunter September 10, 2014 - 9:07 pm

It’s a food fight between Asheville’s two resident douchebag food critic wannabes……now that’s some funny shit.

Drexler McStyles September 11, 2014 - 11:00 am

Yet, here you are, engaging in the conversation.. Ive mailed you your two pennies back.

Headhunter September 11, 2014 - 8:23 pm

I’ll call your two pennies and raise you a buffalo nickel……wait, that’s a different thread. Either way, you’re still a douche and so is Stu. Interesting to see how the worm has turned for old Stu. Usually he has his sycophants fawning all over him and telling him how funny he us. Not this time and evidently he smells like shit. Did you bring some of your fans over Drex to throw a little shade Stu’s way?

Drexler McStyles September 10, 2014 - 9:36 pm
Harry September 11, 2014 - 6:21 am

You must be new here. Stu has been getting comped for a long time now. Look back through this blog over this past year.

Drexler McStyles September 11, 2014 - 11:05 am

I suppose when the last thing you see as you finish up one of his reviews is a picture of his face, you realize the guy isnt going for anonymity.

Harry September 11, 2014 - 11:57 am

I’m sure he shudders at any thought of anonymity. I believe he has written on these pages that he relies on the comps and his girlfriend, who has a real job, to support his dining out because he can’t afford it. Not going to get comp’d if you’re anonymous.

chris September 11, 2014 - 9:08 am

I thought you had something valid to say, until I read this on your blog: “You award second place to a fucking VEGAN chef? Wouldnt that be kind of like giving the trophy for Best Mechanic to a guy who only knows how to work on transmissions?”

And then I realized you were just a dipshit.

Drexler McStyles September 11, 2014 - 10:58 am

Well “Chris”, I guess Vegans are people too, I just dont give a fuck about them (that means you).

chris September 11, 2014 - 2:21 pm

“Chris” in quotes? And vegans capitalized? You really are a dipshit.

I’m guessing that few people if any give a fuck what you give a fuck about, Drexler.

And oh, your profile pic is not doing anything to help your case re: the dipshittery.

Smytty September 10, 2014 - 11:53 am

Stu –

Disagree on flipflops whole-heartedly, completely agree on the WALK. I work down the street from them, and they are in my regular rotation for lunch stops. Friendly folks, tasty food, and phenomenal specials. Oh, and Taco Tuesdays are the real business.

But flipflops? Come on, man. It’s Asheville. Be glad that folks are wearing anything on their feet.

Sean September 10, 2014 - 9:53 pm

Ahh….the ubiquitous “It’s Asheville” comment. As if that makes it more tasteful. Stu is dead on. It’s disgusting.

smytty September 11, 2014 - 6:53 am

Picking your feet at the coffee shop is, in fact disgusting. Saying my choice of footwear is about as “disgusting” is about as sensible as saying that my choice of necktie is “hideous.” Enjoy your particular taste and stay out of my impeccable wardrobe.

Now as far as “it’s Asheville” goes – I wasn’t being flippant. I have people wander into my place of work regularly with no shoes and/or no shirt. Fashion trends aside, I much prefer when someone is wearing some sort of footwear, even gauche sandals. Therefore, if you are in Asheville and take personal offense because someone dares to wear distasteful foot protection, perhaps you ought to rethink whether you will ever be comfortable in such a flip-flop-friendly community.

ANYWAYS, the WALK is awesome. I went for lunch yesterday in some very venue-appropriate footweat and had a lovely time.

Good food, good folks,

Matt September 11, 2014 - 4:20 pm

All this talk about flip flops is funny in light of the ‘angry letter’ in this weeks Mtn Xpress. Some guy is railing about not being allowed in the fair barefoot, and how it’s a ‘lifestyle’ choice that he has a ‘right’ to. haha. love this town.

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