Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Here you go, folks! Stu Helm, Asheville’s Facebook Food Critic, has gone all out to pick his favorite eats and drinks around town. This is part one of two. Enjoy.

ps: Stu has gone the extra mile to create logos for each winner; one logo fit for print, the other fit for sharing online. I’ll be emailing folks to share the logo files. Feel free to contact me, too, if you’re dying to get your hands on ’em.


It’s the end of the year, and I’m gonna give out some Stoobie Awards for 2013. Some of these things you’ve already read my rants about,
others might be news to you. These are not intended to be comprehensive reviews, but rather just a quick run-down of what I
personally consider the best of Asheville. It was kinda long, so I broke it up into two parts. Enjoy!


1) All Souls – Artisan Style – Fresh mozzarella, great sauce, high quality toppings, amazing dough. Best pizza dough in A-town.

2) Hi-Fi Cafe – Say what?!? You heard me. Best $5.50 personal pizza in Asheville. No extra charge for pepperoni.

3) Marco’s – Hey, the fact that Marco’s isn’t number one is a good sign. Marco’s is still great pizza, but Asheville now has more great
pizza than ever!

4) Circle in the Square – For those who don’t like Artisan Style pizza, and prefer aged mozzarella to fresh, this is the best NYC pizza
in town. I only wish the owner would smile. Just once. C’mon, Man, you live in Asheville now. Hug a hippie, and smile for fuck’s sake!


1) Dark Roast at City Bakery – Numero Uno, MFers. Unchallenged champion of A-Town. Pour it in my face by the gallon, please.

2) Starbuck’s Blonde Roast in a “for here” cup – Yeah, hate on me all you want, but Starbs was the only place in my hood for 8 Years that
stayed open past 5pm, so I became a regular. The people who work there are really nice, and fuck, Man, that blonde coffee is really fucking good. I ain’t lyin’ to ya.

3) Americano at Curate – This would be number one, but I can’t afford to drink Americanos like I drink regular ol’ coffee.

4) Fig – They put chicory in their coffee. I friggin’ LOVE that. That’s how I make my coffee at home.


1) Over-all: Karen Donatelli Bakery – Holy fuck. One of everything, please. How can I sign-up for a lifetime membership?

2) Eclairs at Olde Europe – I frickin’ love eclairs, and Olde Europe makes THE best eclairs I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. They are 2 for 1 on Wednesdays, and you can see me and my mom there on the regs.

3) True Confections Pies – Carol is my friend, and she told me that she doesn’t like all the swearing in my reviews, so, Carol, cover your ears. Her pies are really fucking good!

4) Red Velvet Cheesecake at New World Coffee Cafe – This surprised the fuck out of me and Dawn once. It was really yummy. And then it was gone. Never to be seen or heard from again. Come back Red Velvet Cheese cake! Surprise the fuck out of us some more!!! UPDATE: I asked them about the Red Velvet Cheesecake, and they said it was a one-time thing, but that they’d tell their baker how much I liked it, and now it’s back, so you can thank me later.

5) Well Bread Bakery – They come in 5th place, only because they’re not in Asheville, but all the way over there in Weavetown. Too far for me to ride my bike, but always worth a drive on a Sunday afternoon, for a Mountain Eclair, or just about anything else out of their display case.


1) The front window seats at New World Coffee Cafe – Every single person who visits or lives in Asheville will walk past these windows on any given day of the week. I’d sit outside, but they allow smoking out there, and that fucking kills me. Fuck that shit. People still smoke?!? Okay… If that’s you’re thing… I guess… Enjoy those tasty cigarettes… and the lung cancer… and heart disease… and that fact that you stink like a fucking ashtray… and everyone hates you.

2) Front seats at Karen Donatelli – Again, everyone from the tourists, to the partied-too-much-last-night people, to the hotties, to the dang
Wizard walks past these windows all… day… long.

3) Bomba – It’s like a TV with only one show, called “Whacky Pack Square!”

Runner -up: City Bakery – Biltmore Ave, Outdoors – It’s an older, MILFier sort of vibe at the Downtown City Bakes, and I dig that.


1) Starbucks on Charlotte Street – I know, I know, we all hate it that I’ve given Starbs yet another award, and in fact it’s number one this time! Arrrrg, how could I?!? I SUCK!!! Oh, what can I say? I used to go there a LOT, and I saw how the staff interacted with the hundreds and hundreds of people that come past their counter. They know the drinks of every regular, and that’s a LOT of drinks, with a lot of little twists and turns and tweaks. Have you ever listened to a line of people order drinks at a Starbs? It’s like an SNL skit. “I’ll have a grande double machiato latte, with skim milk, a shot of vanilla, and a caramel smiley face smoking a cinnamon stick cigar on top… oh, and can you put it in a vente cup?” And no two are the fucking same. The staff is always friendly and polite and pro, and sometimes, they’d even have my coffee waiting for me on the friggin’ counter, because they had seen me pull up on my bike outside. Now THAT’S service. I miss those guys.

2) Curate – This is a high class joint with a group of high class people working at it. From the minute you walk in, to the moment you leave, the staff is pro, polite, friendly, and always looks as sharp as a tack.

3) Early Girl Eatery – You don’t have a server at Early Girl, you have a team of servers, greeters, hostesses, food runners, floor managers, and just a super-duper friendly and attentive bunch of people! Most of the bunch are women, and when it comes to me and my own personal dining experience, that never hurts.

There ya go! Tune in next week for my picks for Best Atmosphere, Best Bachelor Chow, Best Breakfast, Best Lunch, and The Best of The Best!

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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  1. Cwaster December 10, 2013

    Have to agree on Curate. Very good and very professional. Also agree on Izzy’s with the above commenter… quit going there after getting the stink-eye from both baristas and patrons. Used to love reading there, but oh well.

  2. Big Al December 10, 2013

    Hug a hippie? Take an effin’ bath first! And lay of the dope, that shit stinks.

    My fave people-watching spot: Farm Burger. Of course, I am also partial to grass-fed cow sandwhich.

    Ecclairs at Old Europe sounds good. And the ownwer is a bit of a dish herself, no?

  3. JML December 9, 2013

    whenever I miss home I go to Marco’s. They say Guys not Yalls. I fucking love those guys and their fresh mozzarella pie. Plain, white, it’s all good.

  4. Orbit DVD December 9, 2013

    Don’t venture to the West side much?

  5. Foothills Dweller December 9, 2013

    I haven’t been to the other two pizza shops, but I have been to Marco’s. They are delicious, and their Greek salad is excellent.

  6. Plastic Paddy December 9, 2013

    No Stu, you’re the best.

  7. stephanie December 9, 2013

    i fucking love your reviews Stu!

  8. Matt in AVL December 9, 2013

    I know he’s *only* a “facebook” food critic, but it’s hard to read through any review with f-bombs being used as the primary adjective. Its use is not descriptive, enlightening, or impressive. Ultimately, it erodes any hope of credibility for the review, reviewer, and hosting news blog. Not that you f’n care. 🙂

    1. JT December 10, 2013

      I’m with you. Profanity is great for adding impact to a statement, but in this case I can’t figure out what all these f words are supposed to help the reader understand.

  9. Sean December 9, 2013

    Get ready, Stu. They will be here very soon to chastise you about how you’ve failed in your job (hobby) to fully support local coffee shops no matter their failings. “Starbucks?!? You are a horrible person! No really…you should be ashamed of yourself! I prefer Izzy’s Coffee Den any day of week over a corporate powerhouse like Starbucks! Sure, the staff at Izzy’s treat every customer like they have leprosy, and openly express disdain for people that drink coffee, but that’s part of its quirkiness!”

    1. Foothills Dweller December 9, 2013

      A coffee shop that hates coffee drinkers, and treats customers like crap. Sounds like a stellar business model.

      1. LEW December 10, 2013

        I don’t particularly like the taste of Starbuck’s coffee but I wholeheartedly agree about the friendliness of the staff at the one on Charlotte – they are the best!

      2. Drake December 10, 2013

        City Bakery is my daily jam. I find Starbucks coffee often tastes burnt. I can’t agree on the coffee but I do agree on the service. Starbucks might not be local but the people that work there are.

        BTW – Waking Life will blow your mind, they are coffee mad scientists.

  10. Ben Atkins December 9, 2013

    I have to disagree on the best pizza. I wouldn’t put All Souls in the top 10, but Pizza Pura is my number 1. I am with you on the other two, with Favilla’s as an honorable mention.


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