Review – Blackbird Restaurant Cake FAIL



This piece originally appeared on my own blog, where it was so popular, I decided to share it with you guys on Ashvegas…

Hello Asheville,

I know you guys love it when I harsh-out in my reviews, because you tell me so. My scathing excoriation of The Glass Onion is the piece that more people mention to me than any other piece I ever wrote. I wish that I could capture the audience with every article that I do when I am being a complete dick about how fucking awful something was, but the food I eat most of the time in Asheville is not awful, and is in fact, usually somewhere between pretty good, really good, and totally fucking awesome. That’s just the way the food scene in our town is right now. I haven’t had a truly bad meal or even a bad DISH in Asheville in a long time. Hardly a bite has passed my lips in the past 12 months that has been awful enough to make a public stink about. Until this fucking horrid piece of cake came along.

One cold day, I was downtown, and decided to have a sweet and coffee. Out-of-the-blue I made a snap-decision and opted to have a piece of the semi-famous coconut cake from The Blackbird Restaurant. Everybody loves that cake. My mom, my friends, my fellow Food Fans. It’s a minor-league legend. So, I walked in, asked if it was OK for me to just order dessert and coffee, the young staffers were pleasant and accommodating, and placed me at a very nice table.

The coffee arrived in a small French press, and the cake showed-up a little while later. I was actually a little surprised by how long it took for my cake to arrive. The coffee was tiny so I had to sip it in order not to finish it before the cake got there, and it turned tepid while I waited. There were also coffee grounds floating in my cup. ._.

When it showed up, the slice of cake looked like ass. The front of the wedge appeared as if someone had already taken several bites out of it. I couldn’t even get a picture of it that looked good enough for Instagram. That should tell you something about the sub-par appearance of this cake.

Looks are one thing, but how did it taste?



Uneaten cake, destined for the trash can. The angle of this photo doesn’t convey the sheer amount of cake that I did not eat. I ate less than half of this shit-show before I gave up and called it a loss.

It was cold, dry, and seemed anything but fresh. If there’s one thing I truly can not abide by it is cold cake. Cake should be… no, it absolutely must be… served at room temperature. The first bite of this cake was so fucking disappointing, my heart sank, and I was immediately filled with regrets about my choice to walk into Blackbird. There are at least 10,000 other delicious baked sweets in downtown Asheville that I could have opted for that day. At $8 for the POS cake, plus the cost of the tepid coffee, and the tip, I was $15 in the anger-hole before I finally gave-up on even pretending that I could eat any more of that absolute shit-show. Boooo! I was in the worst mood ever.

Just in case I haven’t made it clear: This cake sucked.

• The frosting was not only cold, but it was goopy and so fucking sweet I could feel my teeth rotting in my head with each unenthusiastic bite I made them take.

• The cake part was dry, dry, dry, dry. Cake should not be dry. Everr.

• An $8 piece of cake that is supposed to be one of the best things in Asheville should not be served looking like ass, being bone dry, and fucking COLD. I almost never complain about price, as I am willing to pay whatever something costs if I want it bad enough and if it tastes good enough, but I definitely felt as if I threw my money in the trash that day.

WTF, Blackbird? Do you just not give a shit whether or not your prized confection is served completely wrong and is practically inedible? Well, you should.

I was going to go into Blackbird for brunch as part of my Month of Brundays series on Ashvegas, but now, I kinda doubt it. I mean, C’mon. If that’s what their premier dessert is tasting like these days, there’s no way I’m submitting my mouth, stomach, and wallet to another mugging like that.

I was also thinking about adding their cake to the list of “10 Things You Absolutely Must Eat in Asheville” that I’m compiling. But now? Yeah, no fucking way.

One of my fellow Food Fans saw my unhappy FaceBook post two days after I got the shit-show cake, and she commented:

Dang, it’s still my favorite coconut cake . I picked up a slice tonight, in fact. As usual it is the coconut bomb.

And another wrote:

Have had several stellar meals there so hope this was just an isolated bad experience….

Maybe it was an isolated experience, but it was also totally avoidable, a huge disappointment, and a big middle finger directed at any unlucky customer who happen to want the famous Blackbird coconut cake that day. A cake that one other Food Fan pointed out (with hyperbole) is:

the only thing they advertise on their billboard.

I want restaurants to be successful, and I want that for the Blackbird as much as anywhere else in town, but they’ve got to be on top of their fucking game, Man. For real. If you have a piece of fucking cake that everyone is talking about, you should NEVER serve it cold, dry, and looking like ass. Because, for one thing, here’s a list of 6 places within an inch of Blackbird on Biltmore Ave that I truly wish I’d gone to instead, and that I will choose from next time I’m downtown, on that block, looking for coffee and a sweet:

  • The French Broad Food Co-op – Has excellent, house-made sweets at a reasonable price, plus coffee in urns, and a couple of tables to chillax at.
  • City Bakery – Holy shit. A pastry case FULL of delicious sweets is located directly across the street from Blackbird. DAMN IT!!!
  • 67 Biltmore – Aw, Maaaaan! They have awesome little star-shaped danish thingies at 67 Biltmore that I love! 🙁
  • Chestnut – Joe’s got some great desserts on his menu, and the coffee at Chestnut’s never disappoints.
  • Double Decker Bus – Not 30 feet from where I was sitting in Blackbird, I could only look at and long for one of the funnest cafes in Asheville, that always has a decent muffin or something in the tiny case on the counter.
  • Curate – They have fan-fucking-tastic desserts and some of the best espresso in Asheville at Curate.

So there ya go: A negative review. First in a loooong time. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I didn’t enjoy that fucking cake.

— END —

From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O'SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O’SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

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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  1. coconut cake February 5, 2017

    What are you talking about??? Blackbird’s coconut cake is the best coconut cake I have ever had! (and my mom agrees). The picture you put of your cake looked fine. It did not look like anyone had taken a bite out of it.

  2. Cas Childs August 8, 2016

    Wow, this guy is really full of himself. And he needs an editor.

  3. Brandon Skupski February 28, 2016

    One of the best kept secrets is ANY cake you can get your hands on at All Souls.

  4. indie February 27, 2016

    Probably don’t comp food for this “critic”.

  5. orlovsky February 26, 2016

    $8 for a slice of cake? That’s just stupid.

  6. Das Drew February 24, 2016

    I’m ok with lighting a restaurant up when it’s deserved, and clearly this guy felt it was deserved. Might not agree with his tactics or writing style, but that’s his opinion and he voiced it. And hell, I read an entire Stu review for once.

  7. Clyde February 23, 2016

    Did you make your disappointment known to the server, thereby going them the opportunity to make it right? If you want local restaurants to succeed, this is the most helpful thing you can do. Publicly shaming them on the internet actually harms the business. Shit happens; bad food slips past the watchful eyes of a kitchen manager when she’s not looking; people make mistakes. We should give them the opportunity to repair the damage before we call in the lynch mob.

  8. James February 22, 2016

    Totally agree. I love coconut cake, my Grannie made the best in NW Georgia, and looked forward to Blackbird’s cake since that’s what they advertise on the blackboard put front. So disappointing! It was cold like it was kept on the freezer and dry, dry, dry! The worst coconut cake I have ever had and Stu, you are ate more than I did before I have up on it.

  9. Shannon February 22, 2016

    LOL! Great article. I love the part about the cake being so sweet that Stu could feel it rotting his teeth. I used to say this about Mountain Dew, which I hate.

  10. Jessie February 22, 2016

    Stu, perhaps you addressed this on your original facebook post, but it’s not mentioned here, so…

    Did you tell anyone at Blackbird? Did you give them any opportunity to make this right? Heading off to rant on the internets without letting the restaurant know about your disappointment is certainly your prerogative, but it’s pretty fucking low class. And please know that I say this as a server at an establishment you frequent and love. In the rare event we fuck up, I’d like to think that you’d let us know and give us a chance to fix it before you publically humiliate us.

    And, no, one throwaway mention near the bottom of your post that “maybe it was an isolated experience” doesn’t absolve you of skipping a very vital step here: give the restaurant a fucking chance. We do our very best, every day, but occasionally shit happens. By all means, continue to be brutally honest in your posts. But for AVL’s sake, give your local businesses a chance to fix any cock-ups before you slam them online.

  11. truth February 22, 2016

    Here’s a review of this review: Poorly written. Couldn’t finish the first paragraph because of the self aggrandizing nature of the preamble, which makes this poor ex-junkie more like Donald Trump than anyone else blogging in Asheville. My advice, when you see his name on something, just move on.

  12. Bob A February 22, 2016

    So how did the wait staff respond when you complained?
    Did they at least offer up a replacement slice? Or a different sweet?
    Did they comp you for the bad slice?


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