Okay, so what if I’m having a very public love affair with Buxton Hall Barbeque? So WHAT? Piss off. When love comes my way, I let it wash over me like a tangy vinegar sauce, smoke me all night long, and slow-cook my heart until it falls apart into pile of delicious… heart… meat… Okay that analogy got weird fast, but the fact remains: I have absolutely been conducting myself in a lewd and lascivious manner when it comes to my public displays of affection for the food, the space, the staff, and even the graphic design at Buxton Hall BBQ! I don’t care what anybody thinks! It’s love, Motherfuckers. I ain’t lyin’ or denyin’.
I’ve been writing about food for a little over two years or so now, and I’ve met some of the best Chef’s in Asheville, who also happen to be some of best in the country. No big whoop. Meeting super-stars is par for the course when you are one yourself (ahem), so when I started meeting all the great chefs in town, I wasn’t the least bit nervous or stumbly. I’ve chit-chatted blithely with top chefs like Jacob Sessoms, Katie Button, and William Dissen. I’m downright chummy with Karen Donnetlli, Traci Taylor, and Hollie West. Joe Scully is practically my best friend on Earth these days. All great chefs, all super-stars, not a problem… until… y’see… there was this one time that Chef Elliot Moss of Buxton Hall BBQ (formerly of The Admiral, Ben’s Tune-Up, and MG Road) stood in front of me, a plate of pork ‘n’ sides in his hand, and for some reason… I looked upon him, and… AWK! I was star-struck. Boom. It happened. Nuthin’ I could do about it then, nuthin’ I can do about it now. Star. Struck. I hate it!
I’m really not sure why it happened, but from the moment I espied Elliott Moss from across the room at one food event or another, my heart went pitter-pat, and a bead of sweat ran down my back. I was nervous. Like a teenage dork-chick at the prom, secretly in love with the coolest greaser in school. Whenever I would see Elliott Moss, part of me wanted to hide in the corner, facing the wall, and the other part desperately wanted him to ask me for the next slow dance. Okay… these analogies are too weird this morning, so let’s just say I really fucking like Chef Elliott’s cooking, plus I think he’s neat, and leave it at that for now. I mean, he might even read this gushing article / confession, and then talk about super-awk. Yikes. So, yeah, lehhht’s divert attention away from my personal strangeness with pictures of food and stuff…
My friend Mikey works for Buxton Hall (and Chai Pani and MG Road) as the branding guy, for lack of a better term, and he was kind enough to invite me to the Buxton soft opening, which was PACKED. The house gave away an ASS-TON of food, and people were lining-up for it, and chowing it down with big smiles on their faces. I had already tasted Chef Elliott’s BBQ at several pop-ups and special events, so I already knew that I frickin’ love it. My expectations were met. Boiled peanuts, pulled pork, slaw, and banana pudding, all done in the traditional South Carolina style that Chef Moss apparently grew-up eating, but with his particular flare for excellence in both flavor and quality of ingredients.
I’m from Boston. I grew up eating thick, sweet, bright red BBQ sauce from a bottle manufactured by Kraft, or DuPont, or some such. I have no point of reference for “down home” barbeque, like folks from Texas might have. This is definitely not Texas barbeque. It’s a whole different creature from what I understand. It turns-out, I am a fan of South Carolina style BBQ. Some folks are not. Proceed with that knowledge in hand.
I tried three times in the first two weeks after the official opening to get back inside of Buxton Hall for lunch, but I was denied each time: Once by crowds (which I hate), once by a special event, and once by an electricity outage. Bad timing, bad luck, and sad trombones were my companions for lunch on those days. When I finally did get in for a late lunch one afternoon, I decided to tuck into the sides, and didn’t order even one bite of BBQ. When one of my fellow food fans pointed that out to me on FaceBook, I responded that I was going to “eat my way through the menu eventually,” so there would be plenty of ‘que in my future. True to my word, I have returned to Buxton many times since then, and have not eaten the same thing twice.
My sides adventure was a happy one for shizzle. I ordered smoked cream of parsnip soup, with crispy deep-fried parsnip strips on top; smoked sausage cheese dip that came with saltines and trashy white buns; “under the hog” Brussels sprouts that were cooked until caramelized; and on top of all that, Mikey super-sized me with an order of hush puppies, that came with waffle fries. The hush-puppies and waffles fries were actually my least fave part of this meal… Y’know what? I totally fucking reviewed this particular meal already… you can read all about it HERE. I’ll just say that most of it was fucking awesome, and that the Brussels spouts were particularly amazing.
My next meal at Buxton Hall came less than 72 hours later, when I went back for lunch, and ordered the buttermilk fried chicken fillet sandwich pictured above. Holy. Shit. Sticks. I love me some fried chicken, and this beautiful fillet had all of the qualities that I think make for some great fried chicken.So fresh and tasty, so light and crispy, so clean and… fucking… yum! It came with American cheese melted on top, and some bread and butter pickles too. The pickles are house-made, and really crunchy and sweet. They taste just like my own grandmother’s recipe. I’m pretty sure that the bun is not house-made, and in fact all of the buns at Buxton Hall seem to be really cheap, “shitty” processed white bread. I personally love that. My GF, Dawn doesn’t love it though, and she wishes they had high-quality house-made buns, and crackers instead of “squish buns” as I call them, and Saltines. I love good bread and house-made crackers as much as Dawn, but I think that in this situation, with these food items, I don’t mind the trashy carbs. Seems legit for some reason. To me, this chicken sandwich was a fucking winner, and I’ll have it many times in the future I’m sure. Aaafter I’ve tried every thing else on the menu. Marching on…
The very next day, I was back at Buxton Hall for another late-ish lunch. This time I ordered the smoky fried catfish sandwich, and the Farm and Sparrow gravy and grits. The house comped me some smoked catfish dip, which came with the usual Saltines and white bread buns. The dip was very good, which makes me think that all of the dips at Buxton are probably gonna be good, because the smoked sausage cheese dip was really good too. Prediction for my future: Gittin’ dippy wid it.
The fried catfish was IN-SANE-LY fresh and delicious. It was also very hot, and flaky, and crispy. It came on — what by now I think of as the “traditional” — trashy white bun, also with bread and butter pickles, and some nice tartar sauce on the side, where tartar sauce belongs. Five stars, Yo. On a five-star scale. The slice of ‘mer’can cheese on top was the coup de gras that delivered the final blow of deliciousness. I love American cheese. It just makes me feel damn proud to be an American, Y’all!
The grits and gravy were definitely the lowlight of this meal for me. The grits themselves were actually fantastic in their unique texture, which was very coarse-ground. Farm and Sparrow always nails it when it comes to anything involving a grain or kernel. It was the gravy that I found to be bland, which surprised me, because I figured Chef Elliot would have an amazing, depth-y, debris-y, super savory type of gravy to die for, but naw, it did nothing for me. I reached for the salt… Doh! Not there. It’s one of those places where there’s no salt or pepper on the table. ._.
The last — or should I say most recent — meal that I enjoyed at Buxton Hall was with Dawn and our friend Ayana. We met there for lunch and pigged-the-fuck-out, starting with pimento cheese, and finishing with buttermilk pie (not pictured). In between we had smoked skate wing, soft shell cab sandwiches, mashed root veggies, candied yams, and chicken pot pie with a side salad. Every fucking bite was fantastic. Dawn ordered the pot pie, and said it was the “fucking best” she’d ever had. (Yes, we swear a lot about food when we’re together.) I tasted the pot pie, and it was indeed fabulous. The crust on top was very flaky and undoubtedly involved real lard. The contents were piping hot, and super creamy and chunky and chickeny and delish. There was a unique black-peppery flavor that was present yet not over-bearing in the least, and the thing that was totally new and different for me was the pasta. There were macaroni noodles in the pot pie! I had never seen that, maybe it a Southern thing?
I’m a sucker for soft-shell crab. When it’s on a menu, 9 times out of 10 I’m ordering it. Chef Elliot knocked it out of the park with this sandwich in my opinion. The crab was cooked perfectly and the slaw that came on the bun was crispy, crunchy, vinegary and tang-tastic. There were also pickles, and yes the bun was trashy as fuck and I loved it. The mashed root veggies were super delish and comforting. The deep fried root-veg-strips on top really made it. Likewise, the candied yams were fucking insanely good. Cooked to death, just like they should be, and sweeter than all get out, with thee most crazy looking piece of browned marshmallow on top, that looked as delicious as it tasted.
The pimento cheese was bar-none the best I’ve ever had. Not being from the South, my pimento cheese experience is somewhat limited, but this shit was top-notch as far as I’m concerned. The picture I took kinda sucks, because all you can see is the pickles, but the cheese-ball underneath had a bunch of chopped-up stuff mixed into it that tasted super good. I have no frickin’ clue what-all that stuff was, so don’t even ask.
The skate wing was really good too, and was apparently delivered fresh that morning by none-other than Chef Mike Moore (Blind PIg Supper Club), and I’m not even sure it was on the menu. Chef Moss himself delivered it to our table, gratis.
I took a picture of the RC cola that Dawn ordered because she was all excited about it, and our server was right there with her. “Is it real RC?” asked Dawn. “Yes!” replied our server. “Oh, good!” enthused Dawn. “I know!” agreed the server. To me, RC tastes like something that comes free with a pizza delivery, but whatever. It’s on tap and it’s bottomless, so have at it, RC fans.
Speaking of the service, it has been very good every time I’ve been to Buxton Hall, and I don’t think that’s because I’m the much feared and dreaded “Food Critic.” In fact, I get the distinct feeling that everyone who walks through the door will get treated with the same level of courtesy and hospitality that I do. Unless of course you’re a dick. In which case I’m sure everyone treats you like a dick, and you go through life thinking that service sucks at every restaurant in the world. Don’t be a dick and you won;t be treated like a dick.
A friend of mine recently described Buxton as, “the furthest thing from pretentious,” and I totally agree. It’s hip, and cool, and awesome, but still has a down-home, come and get it feel to the food, space, and service. Friendly, attractive, fun… what’s not to love.
I’ll definitely see you there. I have lots of menu left to try!
This piece was originally post on stuhelmfoodfan.wordpress.com, where larger versions of the photos can be seen.
Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster 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 about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.