I’ll tell you what, when you write a monthly column called “The Asheville Sandwich Report,” you start getting a lot of sandwich recommendations! Ha! No joke. Everyone from my own mother, to good ol’ Duncan the Plumber has a sandwich or two in mind that they want me to try, so I’ve been trying as many as I can, doing lunch with various friends and family members lately, really sandwiching it up around town. My friend and fellow food fan, David Cohen has been trying for a long time — over four years now — to get me to eat a particular grouper Reuben (would that be a grouben?) at THE EAST VILLAGE GRILLE, and I finally did get together with him and do just that! Pics and words below…
Okay, so, first of all… as we were waiting for our grouper Reubens to arrive, David looked me straight in the eye, and said something along the lines of…
Ha ha ha ha!!! That might be the greatest line I’ve ever heard at the start of any lunch ever! Truly Seinfeldian in its last-minute delivery with quasi-confessional undertones. No worries, David! No matter how this dang sandwich taste, I always enjoy your company and conversational skills. We spoke of everything from suicide to environmental degradation, to the merits of a VIP pass at Wing War. Dave is a good lunch buddy, plus, he knows good food, so I trusted him on this grouben thingy-ma-bob, and he was totally right: It was a very good sandwich, that did not live up to four years of expectations!
Ha ha! True story, but for real, it was really good, and I ate the fuck out of it. I enjoyed it very much for exactly what it was: A giant-sized, deep-fried, gut-buster of a tavern sandwich, made out of regular ol’ ingredients, that filled my belly, and damn near put me into a coma at the table. The deep fried zucchini sticks that came with it didn’t help because they were really good with horseradish dippin’ sauce that the waitress recommended, and I ate every single one of those little fuckers. Ooftah. So full.
Here’s a basic description: Grilled marble rye bread, fresh slaw instead of sour kraut, Swiss cheese, thousand island dressing, and of course a large, battered & deep fried piece of fresh grouper, which was very hot, flaky, and moist.
My only real critique is that the bread could have been a lot more buttery and crispy than it was, and the Swiss cheese was not entirely melted, which is kinda… absolutely… crucial. A few tweaks and little fine-tuning, and this sandwich could be elevated beyond pub food status, but for now it’s solidly there, and I give it the thumbs-up. I love pub food, and I do recommend the grouper Reuben at the East Village Grille for those of you who also love pub food. Definitely not for those of you who don’t. You’ll fucking hate it.
Next, I went to a place called NACHOS & BEER out in Fairview, NC with my mom recently, because she was really wanting me to try a particular “Mexican wrap” that she gets there with irregular frequency. She loves it, and was eager to see if I thought it was good too. I sure did!
It’s a pretty basic dealio: A grilled flour wrap, filled with lettuce, Caesar dressing, jalapeño mayo, cheese, guacamole, and some nice, large, well cooked shrimp. You can get it with other proteins, like chicken & beef, but my mom was hard-core recommending the shrimp, so I went for it, and yes, yum. Although I don’t usually like wraps — too doughy on the ends, and sometimes they are just so fucking tough, it’s like chewing through leather — I endorse this Mexican wrap from Nachos & Beer.
The wrap itself was totally great, kind of light and crispy, and ever-so-slightly puffed-up from being on the griddle. The contents were squarely in the “good enough for me” category! That is to say that maybe they wouldn’t be good enough for you. I’m not an iceberg lettuce hater, for example. I like it. Always have always will. Yes, I’m down with arugula, mixed greens, baby bib lettuce, what have you, but I still enjoy the watery crispness of some fresh, cool, bland, boring iceberg lettuce. It’s probably 80% nostalgia factor, but whatevs, I enjoyed the contents of this wrap despite the fact that there weren’t no micro greens ‘n’ shit. The shrimp seemed fresh, and tasted great, and the Jalapeño mayonnaise (which would likely be called “aoli” at at a fancy-pants downtown Asheville eateries) was great! It could have been even spicier for me, but I wasn’t complaining about it. The Caesar dressing was the X factor, and part of what made it a cut above the average wrap.
Our wraps came with a very simple side of refried beans, and to me, those were effing perfect. I frickin’ LOVE refried beans, done in a basic, family-style Mexican restaurant way. The texture, taste, and temperature were all right on the money with everything we ate at Nachos & Beer, from the corn chips and bean dip that they put down the moment we were seated, to the wrap and those refried beans. I’ll be back, for sure, and I can at least recommend that you go to Fairview, visit Nachos & Beer, and try the shrimp wrap. My mom and I endorse it. Here’s another picture…
Those wraps were good, but the highlight of my sandwiching adventures came in the form of a lunchtime road trip back out to Fairview a week or so later, this time with my fiend, Duncan the Plumber. Dunkers and I always try to get outside of city limits when we can, and when while we were brainstorming, he suggested “that Amish place,” aka TROYER’S COUNTRY AMISH BLATZ. I said and enthusiastic, “Yes!”
Before we continue…
What does Blatz mean?
Blatz: Name. Habitational name from any of various farms so named, from Middle High German plaz, blaz ‘place’. Compare Platz. metonymic occupational name for a baker, from Blatz, a type of flat loaf.
Well, that didn’t help a whole lot, so let’s move on… yay sandwiches! $8.00 each. Okay, that’s not the cheapest sandwich in the world, so — this being a “build-it-yourself sandwich” — I loaded up on ingredients. The young man behind the counter told me I could pick more than one meat or cheese from the massive list that hangs above the counter, so I picked two of each! I would have picked three to five of each, but I didn’t want to seem greedy. Especially not in front of Amish people!
The volks at the Blatz use a handy dandy, fill-out-the-form system that I like! No vagaries.
Name: Stu Helm.
Sandwich: For here.
Meat: Oil browned turkey, honey ham
Cheese: American, provolone
Toppings: Mayo, spicy mustard, horseradish sauce, lettuce, tomato
Add’l Toppings: Jalapeño peppers
Dunknuts filled out his form too, and then we perused the rest of the food for sale inside of the Blatz while waiting for our names to be called. We both bought some Amish popcorn.
Yeah, Man! I was really excited about this sandwich, and really hungry! When it arrived, it was gorgeous, and I tore in like a hungry wolf! It was like the best sandwich you mom ever made. This isn’t a “chef’s” sandwich, Yo. It’s a normal, no-nonsense, wysiwyg sandwich. Refined flour, sour dough bread, shredded iceberg, ripe red tomatoes, turkey, ham… oh, the turkey. It’s called “oil browned” and that basically meets they roast the whole bird and then deep fry that bird in oil for a wee bit, just to brown it up and make it gooooood. Once I heard that explanation, I was in.
If you were to review my past Sandwich Reports, you would see that I am a fan of very basic sandwiches, as well as of fancy sandwiches. Don’t matter to me so long as they’re good. This sandwich was good. Really good. The bread, cheese, meat, condiments were all really really good. I ate this thing until there was absolutely nothing left but a black hole where it used to be. Writing about it right now is making me want one just like it, as well as making me think about building other, perhaps even more basic-yet-amazing sandwiches at the Blatz. Duncan got a pastrami sandwich that he said was better when he took the 2nd 1/2 home and fried it up in butter. I can see that. Totally.
The atmosphere at the Blatz is very pleasant, and sitting on the big front porch of the giant house that the store and deli are located inside of is just one of the better lunchtime experiences you’re gonna have in WNC. I totally, absolutely, 100% recommend that you take a trip out to Troyer’s to build your own sandwich, shop a little, and hang out on the porch, chowing down, and dropping eff-bombs until the old people get up and leave so you can grab their table… or is that just me?
The last sandwich on my report this month was a bit of a disappointment, from a place where I have eaten many of my favorite sandwiches: CITY BAKERY. Bwah bwah bwah… Why? Well, I kinda knew that I had made a mistake from the get-go when I ordered the Reuben, because I mostly like the super-fresh sandwiches at City Bakes, like the chicken salad, or turkey day turkey, but I freaked out under pressure and ordered a Reuben.
There was basically nothing wrong with this Reuben from the point of view that it, well, it was a Reuben, made with all the proper ingredients — corned beef, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, Swiss cheese, on rye — and all of the ingredients were good, and that’s fine, normally, but I know I can get other great sandwiches at City Bakery, and I also know that I can get a fantastically awesome Reuben right up the street at Chestnut.
As you can see in the photos, all of the ingredients look good, and the cheese is all melted, which I mentioned above is crucial to a Reuben. My main issue with it is that was grilled on a Panini press, not a proper griddle. I’m not a fan of Panini pressed sandwiches for the most part. Not my jam. A truly great Reuben more or less needs to swim in butter on the griddle until it’s crispy and buttery as fuck and until everything inside is hotter than Hell and cooked together like a melted monster. Panini presses tend to squish a Reuben, and dry out the bread, and making the entire sandwich a little too dense for my liking. As I said, I know of several other sandwiches at City Bakery that I would have enjoyed much more than this Reuben, and I know of better Reubens in town, so this is not a tragic story, just a bump in the road of my travels through Asheville’s sandwich scene.
And thus concludes my Asheville Sandwich Report for this month! It was a fun month, were I did a little bit of traveling, hung out with some folks I really like, and ate mostly great — or at least pretty good — sandwiches. I’m on the hunt for more sandwiches, and I’m in the mood for something special. Or something basic. So long as it’s good, Yo, sign me up!
East Village Grille
“Pizza, steaks, burgers & Greek specialties are served in a casual bar & grill with a chill vibe.”
Address: 1177 Tunnel Rd, Asheville, NC 28805
Phone: (828) 299-3743
Nachos & Beer
Address: 230 Charlotte Hwy, Asheville, NC 28803
Phone: (828) 298-2280
Troyer’s Country Amish Blatz
“A Country Store & Deli featuring Amish furniture, Homemade Baked Goods, Gift Items, Deli Meat & Cheese, Bulk Food, Cast Iron Skillets, and more.”
Address: 14 Bonn E Ln, Fairview, NC 28730
Phone: (828) 280-2381
“City Bakery is an independent, family owned Asheville bakery and cafe.”
Address: 60 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 252-4426
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.
ON THE RADIO: wpvmfm.org
You should come to Mac’s in Black Mountain. I can’t personally attest to , they have the best burgers and chicken salad- as you know I’ve veg, and I can say they have the best, straight ahead french fries I have ever eaten and I have eaten a lot of fries in a lot of places. Sometime s it was the only veg choice!!