Stu Helm: Food Fan, on Punk Rock Sundays, balls, brains, and Asheville Industry Night


Hello, Asheville!

Y’know what? I’ve asked this before, and I’m sure I’ll ask it again and again before I finally go tits-up and die… Will my love affair with Punk Rock never end? I’m pushing 50 years old, and I still identify with the shittiest teenage music on earth.

And, too, also, as you know, I love food.

Now I’m living the dream, because I get to make ugly punk rock posters and play my horrid music at one of the top restaurants in town, taking over their otherwise respectable venue for three hours every Sunday and they pay part of my fee in foooood!

This Sunday, and every Sunday for the foreseeable future, Punk Rock Sunday will be happening at King James Public House from 10pm to 1am.

Some of you might remember the Punk Rock Lap Top from his stint at Fred’s Speakeasy a few years back. Well, he’s back form the dead and rockin’ more “tunes” than ever!

There are cheap, horrible drinks, and even cheaper, more horrible music will be churning out of the Punk Rock Lap Top until you wanna punch it in the face. I just added the entire “Pollywog Stew” e.p., an early hard-core punk pressing by the Beastie Boys. It’s awesome… ly annoying.

You can listen to it HERE on YouTube to get an idea of what-all happens musically on Punk Rock Sundays at The King James Pub.

WARNING: If you’re not into punk rock music, you may want to avoid the King James Pub on Sunday nights…  Jus’ sayin’…  “Can you play some Journey” Guy.

It’s all co-hosted by Stu and Nancy. (I’m the Stu and Nancy is one of Asheville’s top servers and a very cool lady.)  Porter is your bartender for the evening, and Sous Chef Nohe comes up with a special menu just for the punk rock loving Food Fans.  The first three weeks it was “La Cocinita,” and it was frickin’ delish. Latin flavors, with the special King James touch.  Outstanding.  I started the 1st night off with some punk rock music from South America.

Sorry this picture is so crappy. The lighting at night in the King James Pub is dim, and while that works for making out in the booths, it sucks for pictures.

So come join me and Nancy, and usually Dawn and some of our other friends, try Chef Nohe’s excellent food, and see if you’re punk enough to drink one of Porter’s “Man-Mosas,” or if you’re a complete wanker! It’s made with PBR.

Punk Rock Sundays are sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon.


Speaking of King James Pub… If you guys listened to THIS interview conducted by Nathan Miller from Finding Asheville, you might have heard him ask me which restaurant I “kiss the ass of” the most. Without hesitation, I said, “King James Pub…  they’re SOOO COOOL.”

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the food, the venue itself, and of course the people who work there. I know them, I like them, I look up to them as professionals, and I count them among my friends. Now the King James Public House is paying me to help them program and promote their Punk Rock Sundays, as well as their Service Industry Appreciation Nights.

Poster designs by yours truly.

Why am I telling you this? It’s called full disclosure. I want you guys to know that I am now “on the payroll” at King James, and to think about that when you read my comments and reviews of their food, so that you can form your own opinions about the food and venue, which I obviously endorse. I thought that the food at KJP was outstanding before they hired me, and I sure as fuck still do now.

That being said… I thought I might literally gag on the brains… though the balls were quite good.

Oh, didn’t you see my posts on FaceBook? Dawn and I ate some balls and brains at the King James Pub, and while Dawn enjoyed the brains, I did not, preferring the balls myself, which I’m sure is a metaphor about Mars and Venus or some shit like that… but yeah… just in case you didn’t know: Chef Steven Goff is a wicked imp of a man. He delights in putting a plate of delicious looking food in front of you, and telling you, straight-up, as he leans into your booth, smiling broadly, “Here are some bison testicles.” The smile on his face is not necessarily a friendly one… so much as it’s a…  well, do you remember when Damien smiles at the end of the first Omen movie? It’s that kind of a smile.

Looks like, tastes like, has the texture of chicken. Is, in fact, bison testicles.

Like I said, the balls were good! Sliced thin, battered, fried, and covered in the usual King Jamesian sauces, shaved veg, and kimchee. Hold on to your hats, because I’m about to say the most cliche thing in the pantheon of things to say about food: It tasted like chicken. If I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’.

Those balls tasted like chicken.

I told Dawn, “I almost wish that he hadn’t told me they’re balls.” But that’s part of the point… I think. To know what you’re eating. Eat that whole fucking animal, from balls to brains, and know that.


Now, as I stated above, the brains had an actual gag-factor for me, which was based partly on pure psychology and partly on the fact that they were the consistency of fluffy, moist, scrambled eggs… and that consistency has been a gag-inducer for me since I was a kid. I’m not sure why, but…  shudder… it’ll make me wanna puke for sure. (I super-dare you to click that “make me wanna puke” link.)

Inside o’ the brains…

Dawn however loved the brains. She described them as “light,” and dubbed them a “lady dish” among all the “dude food” at the King James. Later that night she said she would crave them in the future. Hmm… craving brains… where have I heard that before?

It was a light little dish of brains for the ladies according to Dawn.

At that same meal, before the balls and brains arrived unexpectedly, I thought I was going way out on a limb by ordering the kidney pie, a dish I am mostly familiar with from that one episode of Game of Thrones. I knew two things for sure: There were gonna be kidneys involved, and the gravy is super important.

A pile of pie… kidney pie…

I trusted KJP to hit it up, and they did. My first foray into kidney pie was very successful and I would def have it again. The kidneys themselves were akin to a soft super-ball in size and consistency, and more or less tasted like liver, only milder. King James nailed the gravy of course. Anything they serve with gravy is probably gonna rule, and the k-pie was no dif.

EXTREEEME CLOSE-UP! Underneath all that pickled and shaved stuff is a deconstructed kidney pie.

Dawn ordered gnocchi Bolognese, which she is super snobby about, because her family has been making it at home from ancient Italian recipes for generations. She reported that the KJP kitchen nailed it again. I tasted it too, and fuckin’ aye, it was good. Really good. I liked it even better than my kidney pie, or the balls, and of course… those brainsshiver.

Gnocchi Bolognese with blood chorizo and an egg.

Anyhooooooo… there you go!  A special King James Pub edition of my column, which is now called Stu Helm: Food Fan, by the way.  I’m no longer going by “The Food Critic.” It’ll take me a while to fully transition my social media and such to the new title, so please be patient while I do so.

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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 about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook 

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