Yeah. No. I don’t drink anymore. So, I have very little reason to go into dive bars… or as we call them here in North Carolina, “Private Clubs.” (Is that the most asinine thing, or what?) Although my memberships are undoubtedly in arrears now, back in the dizzle, when I still drank, I sure as fuck was a member of this and that private club here and there around town. The Jolie Rouge, AKA The Pirate Bar, was one of my regular jams, along with Fred’s Speak Easy, and Stella Blue… waaaiiitaminute… those places are all gone now. Are none of my boozey old haunts around anymore? Hello? (chirp chirp chirp) Nawwwwwww…. what the fuck, World? You’re slippin’! Well, I am very happy to say that there is one dive bar left Asheville that I used to drink at, and still go into on a semi-regular basis: The Yacht Club!
So, why do I even walk through the doors of a venue that is clearly & most definitely tailored towards the drinking enthusiasts among us, and not so much to the Presbyterian, teetotalling, 12-stepper crowd? Well, for me, I can answer that question with four words, three dots, a hyphen, and a picture: This Bad-Ass Woman…
Ha ha ha! I’m a little worried that Chef is going to punch me like a potato for posting this picture of her… but, hey, she’s the one who put on the I’m a crazy-lady-who-will-crush-you face when I asked her to pose! Also: It was about 1o,000 degrees outside that day, and slightly hotter than that in her kitchen, sooooo… she may have actually **been** a crazy-lady at that point, and I just feel lucky to be alive. Anyhoo… yes, Chef Crystal. I love this lady and the food she makes, and she is the very reason I have been returning to an old drinking haunt that I thought I might never step into again. She has reached out to me a couple of times now, inviting me to come try her food [ see: Asheville Sandwich Report 3/9/17 & Yacht Club by Invitation ], so I was psyched when she texted me recently, writing: “I have some new things popping up in the Yacht. Come have some snacks again soon!!!” Yeah, Man… Snacks…
I wasn’t terribly hungry when I got there, and Crystal had mercy on my soul by offering me just a sample of the Mojo Steak Skewers, and a 1/2 order of her Gaelic Ale Battered Fish & Chips. So when you look at the pics below, just know that these are smaller-than usual portions. I’m a smaller-than-usual person, so I was fucking stuffed by the time I finished.
The fish ‘n’ chips were excellent! I’m from Boston. I know fish ‘n’ chips. I know good fish ‘n’ chips. I know shit fish ‘n’ chips. These were squarely on the side of oh-fuck-yes, when it comes to hot, fresh, awesome fish ‘n’ chips. They are made with Highland Brewing beer-battered, hand-cut, grouper, that is deep-fried, and served at a temperature close to that on the surface of the Sun. They are crispy, light, and tasty as fuck. They come with a side of golden fries, made from real potatoes, and an awesome house-made tartar sauce. Nom nom! Chef Crystal’s fish ‘n’ chips offering is the fucking bomb and I ate the shit out of it, bahhht it is not my Eat of the Week. That would be this…
The Mojo Steak skewers were amazing! Cooked perfectly, tender as fuck, but with a really good “chew,” super savory, and umami-y, they satisfied every single thing that the primordial carnivore inside of me craves… on a stick! A normal-sized portion would amount to 5oz. of hand-trimmed skirt steak, marinated in Crystal’s own Mojo garlic sauce, and served with a fresh, sweet & tangy cucumber and tomato salad. Now that’s Eat of the Week worthy!
Oh, and by “that,” I mean that cucumber and tomato salad. Seriously. That’s my Eat of the Week this week. The cucumber and tomato salad that came with my meat on a stick at a dive bar is my motherfuckin’ Eat of the Week. Is it worthy?
It is, in fact, the best cucumber and tomato salad I’ve ever had. The best in Asheville, in my opinion. I’m not a cucumber and tomato salad expert by any stretch, but, yeah, buh-lee-me, I have eaten some cucumber and tomato salad in my day, and it generally ranks somewhere between “meh,” and “WTF? That’s fucking horrible!” on my enjoyment-o-meter. This particular cucumber and tomato salad made my eyes get a little wider, and I felt my head involuntarily turn toward the guy sitting next to me, then my mouth spontaneously spoke these words, “This cucumber and tomato salad is really fucking good.” I even let him try it, and he agreed. This gentleman happened to be a southerner, and confessed to me that he had also eaten a lot of cucumber and tomato salad in (what seemed like) his long and food-filled life. We shared the rest of my cucumber and tomato salad, and we agreed again that it was the best cucumber and tomato salad either of us had ever had. What’s up with that?
Well, I talked to Chef about it and she told me that among other things, she uses baby English cucumbers, and that she does some… fancy shit… to them… that went straight over my head. Fahhhhk me… It was really really really hot in her tiny kitchen and I was having a hard time concentrating. She said some stuff, then I said some stuff, then she showed me her potato puncher, and then I beat a hasty path for the sweltering heat of the bar, which was a thousand times cooler than the kitchen. HOLY FUCK! How do cooks and chefs do it? I’d be stabbing everyone with sharp knives, and potato punching them into next week if I had to work in that heat. Hats off to Chef Crystal and all the kitchen staff in Asheville. While we’re blithely eating our cucumber and tomato salads, they are “living the dream,” which is an expression we use here in Asheville when we really mean “fuck off.”
Anyhoo, yeah, my Eat of the Week is a very humble yet very awesome cucumber and tomato salad that I ate at The Yacht Club. Here’s another picture of it. I know it looks exactly the same as the picture above, but it is ever so slightly different.
The astute observer will note that there are raw onions in the cucumber and tomato salad, and long-time readers might recall that I actually hate raw onions. FUN FACT: I am an expert picker-outer of raw onions. I’ve been picking raw onions out of my food since I was, like, three years old, so, y’know, I’ve learned to live with the world’s obsession with raw onions. I deal. In the case of this particular cucumber and tomato salad, I dealt.
I only take points off if the raw onions are…
Obviously such was not the case here, as raw onions are a traditional 3rd ingredient in most cucumber and tomato salads, and these pieces were large enough that they were easy to find and pick-out, and there weren’t that many of them, so they did not overpower anythign. In other words, the raw onions were not a negative factor for me, and in no way, shape, or form did they detract from my ultimate decision to grant Chef Crystal’s cucumber and tomato salad the highest title in all the land — let the bells peel, and the singers sing — it is my…
Asheville Yacht Club
“Tropical drinks & smoked-meat sandwiches served in a lively bar with tiki-statue decor & live music.”
87 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC
Phone: (828) 255-8454
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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