The famous baseball figure, and hilarious quote generator Yogi Berra once said of Rigazzi’s — a popular St. Louis restaurant back in the day — “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
While on the surface that is an amusingly impossible statement, it has a deeper meaning that especially resonates with people who go out to eat a lot. Filling in the blanks, I interpret what Master Yogi was saying as…
The restaurant in question had been discovered by the masses, and therefore was so over-run, that the original customers had already moved on to other, less well-known, less populated, but perhaps hipper, cooler, more intimate venues in the area.
Yogi was a man who’s wisdom lives on, because of the deeper meanings. While his words may appear to be those of somewhat confused galloot, the man himself was a refined human being, who ate at the best restaurants in the country, rubbed elbows with US Presidents and Hollywood celebrities alike, and knew exactly what he was saying about Rigazzi’s, as did every serious eater in St. Louis at the time, I’m sure.
One might be tempted to apply Yogi’s maxim to a few of the media-favored restaurants in Asheville these days, and at the top of that list would have to be Cúrate, which is Chef Katie Button’s original Spanish Tapas venue on Biltmore Ave right downtown.
Cúrate has been discovered by the masses, that is for DANG sure. Holy moly. So crowded. So busy. So what! Here’s the big dif between Cúrate and Berra’s Rigazzi example:
If you don’t still go to Cúrate, you are missing OUT on what is still some of the best, most consistent, well sourced, and expertly prepared food in the city, if not the entire country. Holy fuck. I will squeeze myself in between two enormous out-of-towners at the bar if I have to. I’ll even talk to ’em. Whatever it takes to get that food inside of me. Cúrate is totally worth it.
Facebook suggested a “Memory” to me last week, and it was one of my original “Facebook Food Critic” posts from back in 2013, in which I reviewed Cúrate. I thought I’d repost it here, because three years later, Cúrate is exactly as good as I said it was in this old review, and even better! Plus, they are about to expand, so maybe it won’t be so crowded anymore… Yeah right. If you want a table at Cúrate make a reservation well in advance.
Stu Helm: FaceBook Food Critic
Curate – Downtown Asheville
Curate is special. It’s different. It’s not something you’re going to find in every-town USA, or even in every big city. It’s something that Asheville has, right now, and who knows how long anything in this crazy, fucked-up world is ever gonna last, so you really need to do yourself a favor and go to Curate as soon as possible. I’m not kidding. Go there now.
The staff is awesome. From hostess-stand to food-runner, everyone is friendly, professional, attractive, and polite, and they operate like a well-tuned machine. You’ll never be left wondering where your food, water, or waiter is. They are on top of their shit.
It’s the only restaurant in Asheville where we sometimes opt for the bar even when there are tables available, because the kitchen is right there to watch, and everything flows like a frickin’ ballet back there. It’s fun, and lively, and you get to see how the delicious drinks and dishes are prepped and cooked.
The menu changes from time to time, but the standard items are usually available, of which I will specifically recommend the eggplant appetizer as something unique. The shrimp is excellent. The lamb skewers are very tasty. The potato tortilla is creamy and savory, warm and filling. I even tried the octopus once and it was great! Octopus isn’t really my thing, but stepping through the front door at Curate is kinda like stepping into Spain, and if I was in Spain, I’d sure as fuck try the octopus, so why not?
(For no reason at all here’s a hockey reference) Curate scores a hat-trick of “Best ofs” for us:
1) Best Americano in Asheville – They apparently have the world’s finest espresso machine back there. Like, top-o’-th’-line, according to my waiter.
2) Best Grapefruit Mimosa od All-time – Dawn says so. Must be true.
3) Best Sunday Brunch Food Item Ever – Torrijas. It’s challah loaf, soaked in cinnamon citrus custard and seared until it’s golden brown. It comes with fresh berries and sherry sabayon, which is a very light creamy mousse-type-thing. Un-fucking-real how good this thing is. Right now, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. My stomach just made a noise. It wants Torrijas.
We have been to Curate dozens of times and it never fails to satisfy. It’s a little spendy, but well worth it, and think of all the money you’ll be saving on a ticket to Spain!
I loved Cúrate back then, and I still love it now. In fact Dawn and I went last week and she had one of those Graprefruit Mimosas, and when I asked her how it was , she said, “Fucking great!” Here’s are some pictures of that and the rest of our meal.
We lucked-out with a seat at the bar the last time we popped into Cúrate without a reservation, and honestly, it’s one of the few places that I prefer the bar, because I like the action. It’s fun to watch the kitchen staff do their thing.
We ordered the pan con tomate pictured at the top of this article, and the esqueixada de montaña pictureed directly below, which were kinda sorta but not really the same thing, One came with Manchego cheese and the other with raw Sunburst Farms trout, and both were fucking exquisite. The raw trout was like eating silk.
For those who might feel like the Cúrate menu doesn’t change much, I say look again! There are the dishes that have been on there since day one (please don’t ever get of the pincho maruno, Cúrate!) but there are always new things popping up for me to try. We got a dish called almejas a la sidra that is their version of a Spanish classic consisting of clams (from Clammer Dave in SC) cooked in Asturian cider, with chorizo, and compressed granny smith apples. Holy fuck, that shit was good. And I had never seen it on the menu before, so either it’s new, or I need to be more observant! Either way, I never seem to get tired of Cúrate’s menu.
The service also remains exemplary as well! 2014 Server of the Year, Cliff still works there, and so do a whole cadre of both new and familiar faces. Everyone there is busy, doing their job, and doing it very very well.
Thanks, Cúrate, for remaining awesome and being there for us, year after year, serving amazing, authentic, yet creative and modern food that we can depend on being great every single time. I sometimes take Cúrate for granted, like, everyone knows it’s the bomb, so why do I need to write about it, but I think it’s worth noting that Cúrate was every bit as good the last time I ate there, as it was the first time I ate there, and every time in between.
“This stylish Spanish tapas bar has an open kitchen & was built in a former 1927 bus depot.“
Address: 11 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 239-2946
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.
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