Stu Helm, Asheville’s Facebook Food Critic, on breakfast at Rite Aid, coffee at Clingman Cafe, more

Jason Sandford

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

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facebook_food_critic_2013By Stu Helm

CHOCOLATE COCONUT CAKE – All Souls – Asheville

Okay, you know I’m a pretty big fan of the All Souls, but man, this cake did not do it for me.

My major complaint about any cake is usually the frosting. “Too much” and “too sweet” are the repeat offenders, as was the case here, and add “too butterific” to the line-up as well. Holy shit. There was like, a tub of butter-cream frosting on this slice of cake.

There seemed to be more frosting than cake, as I waded though a sea of butter-cream, and sugared coconut flakes, searching for a chocolate morsel to grasp on to.

I left a good heap of frosting behind — like, at least two tablespoons — and I ate an effing ton of it too, believe me… but there was a LOT of fucking frosting on this cake is what I tryin’ to tell ya here! Too much.

The actual cake was a little dry, unfortch, but the coffee was excellent, and the wait staff there is always top notch.

Luv you guuuyyysss! I’m sorry! This was totally my fault. I shoulda got the ice cream. You do that really well. Don’t hate me!!!

BREAKFAST AT RITE AID – Merrimon Ave, Asheville

You heard correctly, MFers, I ate my dang breakfast at Rite Aid last week. No, it didn’t consist co-tylenols, gummi worms, and a six-pack of Ensure. I had pancakes, eggs, and sausage, with a cup of surprisingly tasty diner coffee.

My awesome friends Will and Kelly took me on a field trip to the good old fashioned dining counter hidden inside of the Rite Aid on Merrimon Ave. There are no tables, stools are limited, and one awesome lady is the only person workin’ it. She takes orders, rings register, then cooks and serves classic, vintage diner food. It was like stepping into a time machine… with sausage! I loved it!

Thanks, Will and Kelly!

ISA’S – Downtown Asheville

My Mom, Sis, and I went to Isa’s for lunch.

First there was the obligatory confusion via text about Isa’s vs Isis.

“Meet us at mums. We’re going to Isis”

“In West Asheville?”

“No. Isa’s not Isis. Downtown. Sorry.”




Getting that nonsense out of the way, we managed to make it to Isa’s, where we were greeted by a very professional and good looking waitstaff who placed us at a nice table in their large, sunny, open, and airy dining room.

I got the Reuben, one of my go-to foods. My Mom got the double cheeseburger, as recommended in the Asheville Scene the previous week, and my sister got the Cuban, as recommended by the waitress right then and there.

Sandwiches all around!

I judge Reubens by very high standards. I grew up for part of my life in Brookline, Mass, which is very Jewish. The first Rueben I ever ate was made in a real Jewish deli, by real Jewish Jews. I’m talking about authentic Old-World-Accent Jews. They made fucking good Reubens, among many other delicious things, and every time I bite into an ass-Reuben or a squish-bagel, I really miss those Brookline Jews.

Well, what a mitzvah for me!

Isa’s makes a damn good Reuben! It was thick, and juicy and savory and awesome. There were capers in there, which I liked, and the rye bread was nice and crisp and buttery from the grille. Four fucking stars, Isa’s!

I had a bite of my Mom’s burger and it was really good too. I’ll be back for one of those. She and I also had the “smashed” fried fingerling potatoes. A somewhat novel and very tasty take on french fries.

Sissy loved the Cuban.

We ordered two deserts, that looked like they we made by fairies on Mars, but both tasted really good.

We were sort of ignoring them at first, and almost poo-pooing them, when my sister poked at a piece of Panna Cotta, and said, “This doesn’t look like any Panna Cotta I’ve ever seen.”

Then she popped it in her mouth and said… “Oh, but…”

My Mother and I, in one perfectly synchronized movement, grabbed our forks, and exclaimed in unison, as we lunged toward the plate, “Oh, but?!?”

It was a classic Stu-Fam moment, and not for nothin’, that Panna Cotta truly was totally “Oh, but.” We ate every bit of it.

The other desert was very good too, tho’ we left behind some sugared lemon peels that were tasty, but too sweet, and we also made fun of the tiny amount of creme fraiche on the plate. We pointed, and giggled, and were in total agreement that it was a very small amount of creme fraiche indeed.

All around, a very enjoyable and delicious lunch!

COFFEE – Clingman Cafe

I recently moved from North Asheville to South French Broad Ave, so one of my regular coffee jams has become Clingman Cafe. They make a damn fine cup of coffee! Hot, fresh, delish, thick, rich and full of body. They serve some good food too, and they do not skimp on the portions. Since it is my new jam, you’ll probably hear more about it from me as time goes on, but for now I just wanna say, thanks for the great coffee, Clingmans!

They have also recently extended their hours so they are open after 5pm. Fuck, yeah!stu_helm_2013

Stu Helm is an artist and writer 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 restaurant reviews strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook in 2013.

Jason Sandford

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

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  1. Jami February 6, 2014

    The Vault also serves those smashed fingerlings in place of traditional fries (minus the delicious dipping sauce). The Vault has the best burger in town. I repeat, the best. burger. in town.

  2. FranknBeans February 6, 2014

    I love Clingman’s coffee, and the fact they charge you less if you bring your own mug with you. A couple things they could improve on though. For one, a better ventilation system, because my clothes smell like this place for the rest of the day every time I eat there. Also, I can’t stand that they only have everything bagels. At the very minimum, they could carry a plain bagel, because sometimes I don’t feel like walking around with dragon breath all day. Between my clothes and the bagel u spend they rest of the day as a walking advertisement for their food. All that being said, it’s still a great place to go.

  3. Big Al February 3, 2014

    Jews do not have a lock on the food stereotyping.

    Southern Baptists are all about the fried chicken. They cook barbecue only to raise money.

    I have recently observed that most Methodists and Presbyterians also load up their potlucks with fried chicken, both homemade and KFC/Deli, but they are just lazy copycats. And heathens.

    Lutherans (according to Garrison Keillor) are all about the casserole. And coffee.

    1. smiley February 5, 2014

      Yes, Al, Jews do not have a “lock” on food stereotypes. What they do have is an enormous and out of proportion penetration in the culture of food for the food-types I have mentioned. Now, I readily admit pastrami, rye bread and bagels are not very good for you in anything but strict moderation but Jewish humor is more a metaphor for life than a stereotype and therefore never hurt anyone.
      Southern Baptist chicken is a stretch especially if you remove the “Southern” but I like the analogy. Yes, Baptists may be all about fried chicken but the difference is that fried chicken is not all about Baptists. There is the point I am trying to make. Jewish rye, Jewish pastrami and Jewish bagels are all about Jewish culture, dietary laws, immigration, Americanization, history, yada, yada, yada (to coin phrase but don’t get me started on that!)

  4. smiley February 3, 2014

    As an old Newtonite Jew I get the Brookline-Jew food connection. You get it. For sure, there is no Presbyterian-Pastrami, no Baptist-Bagels, no Holy Roller-Rye. Come to think of it there is no Calvinist-Comedy or His Holiness humor. Ah, but there are Jewish foods and Jewish humor………….

    1. Stu Helm February 4, 2014

      Yay, Newton! My sister lived in Newton for years! Do you happen to remember the name of the deli that was in Coolidge Corner, Brookline, Across the street from the movie theater? My mom and I wracked out brains but couldn’t remember. That was where I had my very first Reuben. Memories…

      1. smiley February 4, 2014

        Jack and Marion’s

        Ruby’s, in Newton Center.

        These towns and restaurants were quite idyllic places to grow up in during the Mad Men era. Sweet aromas, sweet memories.

  5. Citizen Thymes February 3, 2014

    Pro Foodie Tip Isa’s Burgers are half price on Tuesday nights, $6.50 for a double burger is a hell of a deal!

    1. Stu Helm February 4, 2014

      Oh, that is an AWESOME tip, thank you!!! I might head over tonight.


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