facebook_food_critic_2013By Stu Helm

Hello Asheville,

It’s time for some chicken and waffles!

Or not.

I made two trips to two different venues where chicken and waffles are on the menu. At one, Lex 18, I tried this traditional Southern dish for the very first time in my Yankee life. The other venue was the new King Daddy’s in WAVL, who specialize in chicken ‘n’ waffles. They’s gettin’ famous for their chicken and waffles. Everyone has been telling me I absolutely positively without a doubt have to go to the King Daddy’s to get the chicken and waffles!!! I went! I got poutine.

LEX 18 – Lexington Avenue, Downtown Asheville

I feel like when a place is open for bidness, that fact should be apparent immediately upon entering the establishment. It’s just really weird to me how often I have to ask, “Are you open?” after walking into a darkened venue, to the silent stares of zombie staffers. This was absolutely the case as I entered Lex 18, the new “moonshine bar” that replaced Bo Bo, or Pho Bo, or Phooey-Poo or whatever the fuck that place was called during its final spasms. I still miss the Green Light Cafe.

Anyhoodles… One bright sunny day, I entered the funeral parlor-esque atmosphere of Lex 18… into the darkness… into the quiet…

After my eyes adjusted, I asked the human statue at the hostess stand, “Are you open?”

“Yeah,” came her unenthusiastic response.

“Chirp chirp,” added a cricket.

“Um, well, ahhhh…. ONE FOR LUNCH!” exclaimed the Food Critic, with mock excitement, one index finger raised in the air to exaggerate his statement!

You gotta make your own fun sometimes.

I was seated, given a menu, aaand… that was pretty much that. Not the friendliest service in the world, but whatevs. Working for a living sucks, so I understand that it’s not always possible to be up-beat on the job. I concentrated on the menu…

On one side it said “BRUNCH served until 3 p.m.” and on the other side it said “DINNER 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.” Seeing as how it was 4pm at the time, I was totally confused. “Should I order brunch or dinner? Are they really open? Am I actually here? Does this world even exist?!?”

I’m easily led down rabbit holes.

I asked the waitress for clarification when she returned with my water.

“Oh, it’s dinner time,” she said, flipping my menu over to the more-expensive-although-essentially-identical dinner menu. Doh! The chicken and waffles went up three or four bucks with the flip of a piece of paper and the addition of the words “dinner portion” in brackets after the description. I was definitely in a lunch portion mood, but I ordered it anyways.

Now, as I said in my intro, I have never in my life had chicken and waffles. I had some ideas as to what it might be like, but I maybe shoulda looked that shit up on the Google Search, because it was not what I was expecting. Which just goes to prove one of my own personal philosophies in life:

Expectations are just disappointments waiting to happen.

Here’s what I thought I might get: A savory dish, consisting of a waffle, with a pan-fried chicken breast, and chicken and herb gravy on top. Yum, right? Doesn’t that sound good?

Here’s what I got (as any Southerner might already know): A very sweet dish, consisting of a waffle, whipped vanilla bean butter, 5 giant pieces of deep-fried chicken breast, and a cup of insanely sweet “black pepper syrup.”

Before I continue…

For all the time-line nit-pickers, here’s the actual order of events: I arrived with my expectations, I read the description above, and my disappointment began, but I ordered the dish despite my misgivings, thinking to myself “how bad can it be?” My disappointments continued…

When the food arrived, my very first impression was, “Whoa, that’s a lot of brown.” I mean, c’mon, Man! You can’t throw a fucking strawberry on the plate, or a slice of orange or some damn thing? Presentation is an actual thing, that people notice. Y’know? This food looked unhealthy as fuck, and yeah, that’s because it was. I ate the whole waffle and three of the chicken things, and I felt like I was going to have a heart attack on my bike ride home. I’m not kidding. I had this actual thought: “I maybe shouldn’t eat that kind of shit any more… gonna… kill… me…” (pant pant huff puff)

I’m tellin’ ya, I’m not even joking around here.

Both my grandfather and my father had open heart surgeries before they passed away. This food was definitely aggravating my genetic make-up.

Which brings me back to The Green Light Cafe. I used to love that place! They had an all-vegetarian/vegan menu. The food was bright in flavor and presentation. It was healthy and fresh. It was served by friendly hippie chicks with dreadlocks who said , “Oh my Jah,” instead of “Oh my God,” when they talked to each other, and even the fucking water was green because they put some kind of healthy algae or some shit in there. It was AWESOME. I loved going there. It was on my Regular Jam list.

I guess I’m just a little fucking tired of this hard-core trend towards extremely unhealthy food in the high-end restaurants. Does every goddamn thing in the world have to have deep-fried pork bellies with lard and bacon and confectioners’ sugar on it? Holy fuck! My heart is racing just from thinking about it!

I really miss those hippie chicks. They seemed to actually give a shit whether I live or die.

Whatever. That’s in the past. We live in today. It’s a much crueler world since Green Light closed down.

Here’s a few more thoughts on Lex 18:

• The decor is great! I like funeral parlors. The furniture is comprised of an eclectic salon-style mix of antiques and art, in a sort of Victorian era,/Addams family/absinthe bar motif.

• It seems like a great place to drink at night! The young male bartender on duty was enthused about the local beer, and in-house cocktails.

• I have to say that I didn’t enjoy my meal, but that’s probably not their fault. I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for a super-sweet, super deep-fried, super-brown plate of State Fair food.

• I’ll go back and try their burger because I’ve heard that it’s good. And at least that will come with some color on the plate! I hope. In the form of a piece of lettuce and a tomato? Please don’t deep-fry the lettuce.

So, that’s that. Go ahead and hate on me for:

• Being a Yankee.

• Wanting restaurants to look open when they are open.

• Eating lunch at 4 p.m.

• Having a weak gene pool.

I love to eat out. I’m not a health nut by any stretch. I eat french fries, cup cakes, pizza… all the major junk food groups… and I love it all! But sometimes, I get just a little depressed when I ride around and look at the menus in this town. It’s like, “Oh, my Jah. Where have all the hippies gone?”

KING DADDY’S CHICKEN AND WAFFLES – Haywood Road, West Asheville

Located on the corner of Haywood/Jablomey… just kidding. There’s no such street as Jablomey. I just like saying Haywood Jablomey.

Aaanyhooooo…

I finally went to King Daddy’s, the new chicken and waffles specialists in WAVL, which is owned by the good folks who run Early Girl Eatery downtown.

I love Early Girl, so I was looking forward to this experience.

The venue is nice, and there is plenty of parking. (I was with my mom, we drove, so no Bikey)

It was bright and open inside, with fun decor and a good vibe. Familiar faces from Early Girl greeted us. Yay! We had a seat and tucked into the menu.

That’s when it hit me: I just couldn’t do it.

It had only been a few days since my chicken and waffles experience at Lex 18, and my heart was still sad at me. The menu at King Daddy’s is set-up so that you order a type of chicken (all deep fried, but two) from a column A, and a waffle from column B. They come with syrup and sugar.

I inquired about the non-deep-fried chicken, but I still couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t eat sweet brown for lunch two times in one week. I needed something else. I ordered poutine. Savory brown! 🙂 At least it had some green things on top. Some chives or whatever… I think.

In case you don’t know, poutine is a traditional French Canadian dish consisting of french fries, topped with lamb gravy, caramelized onion, and cheese curds. I was more than surprised to see it on this menu, nestled in between all the Southern delights. So, I kind of ordered it just because… it was weird that it was even available!

I know that poutine is not a healthy meal — I am aware of that — but at least it was wasn’t covered in sugar! If deep-fried food is like cocaine, deep-fried food covered in sugar is like freebasing cocaine. There are degrees of bad behavior. Poutine is less bad than chicken and waffles, according to my own heart, which did not react to the poutine the same way it had to the super-sweet chicken and waffles I’d eaten earlier in the week.

This poutine was effin’ aye good, too! Oh, Man. The fries were awesome. Thin cut, cooked perfectly, and very fresh-potatoey! The lamb gravy was REALLY good. Thick, savory, subtle… and plenty of it. I didn’t run out of gravy before I ran out of fries. The caramelized onions were… caramelized onions, and therefor they were awesome. You could put caramelized onions on a dead pigeon and I’d probably gobble that shit up! YOM!!! The cheese curds were great. It had been too long since I’d eaten cheese curds. Mmm… traditional cheese curds squeak when you bite ’em. The cheese curds on this poutine were effing perfect. Some had melted into stringy cheesy goodness, while some remained squeaky. So CUTE!!! I’m a big fan of cheese curds.

This dish satisfied me in many ways, including:

• It was substantial and delicious.

• It’s Canadian. (Go Habs!)

• It was hot, comforting, gooey, and familiar.

• It was odd and out of place, just like me!

I’m giving this dish, and the staff and venue, very high marks! I’ll go back to King Daddy JUST to get that poutine, and to sample other stuff. One day I’m bound to be in the mood for chicken and waffles. Maybe. No promises. Mmm… poutine.

My mom got the beet burger, which was, like, way way WWWAAAYYY outside of her normal food parameters. She had a wild hair, I guess. She didn’t really like it, but was a total trooper about it, and ate half. It was dry.

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.

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31 Comments

  1. I wanted to add to what Stu had to say about Lex 18. My fiance and I went there after a fun date at the Asheville Community Theater. We got there 9:30-10ish and were told they were still serving dinner. The service was ATROCIOUS, no one checked on us. We had a strange waiter who kept telling us how cute it was that we held hands across the table. My partner ordered a flight of moonshine and unbeknownst to us, wasn’t delivered all at once, because of some liquor law. WTF, is the point of ordering a flight if you can’t compare what you’re drinking?? Then we decided to order dessert and it took over 20 minutes to get to us, and it was awful. A burnt-ass brownie and some cheap ice cream. The place does look like a funeral parlor too. Just bad. I won’t be back. Also- it’s not often that I rant so about a meal, but this was bad on so many levels!

  2. Had almost the exact same experience walking into Lex 18 for brunch, only after I asked if they were open (after getting a blank stare) they said they weren’t open until 11am. This was a Sunday, their Facebook page and the menus in their window say they open at 9am on Sundays. The other 2 times we’ve tried to go during their advertised hours they were closed as well.

  3. I figured ole Stu had moved here voluntarily. Now I see he was a Bostonian rooting for the frickin Canadiens. No wonder he left.

  4. Great review Stu!

  5. Hysterical- The thought of chicken and waffles always sounded completely unappealing. Too much beige food was always my response.

  6. Great review. It’s fun to read these out loud to other folks at meal time. It always gets people laughing.

    I used to eat at GL Cafe all the time back when it was in black mountain. Never once ate there at it’s downtown location. They should open up on charlotte or merrimon or something, not downtown. Downtown is for trend and novelty. Places like Green Light Cafe need to be accessible to the bigger flows of every day traffic just outside of town. i.e., Homegrown or Tomatoe Jam…

  7. PK Subban needs to eat about 5 plates of Chicken and Waffles before the game tonight.

  8. Uh, you eat chicken and waffles at 4 AM not PM.

    • Oh, and go BRUINS.

      • You’re obviously not a true Bostonian or New Englander (i.e. true Yankee) for you would not want to curse The Hockey Gods with that statement. But now you’ve gone and done it. We are DOOMED.

        • No wait, Stu put up a “Go Habs”

          The Hockey gods have ruled. Technically this has cancelled one another out. Both teams still have a chance.

          I will say that Hockey is a big-boy game. The only gamers tougher are bull riders.

          Go Hockey gods!

          • Ha ha ha! I love it, Smiley! Hockey fans are the most superstitious people in the world. In my family we have a famous story of my Uncle Gordon reaching for a peanut right when the Habs scored (in, like 1972 or whenever) and then being unwilling to remove his hand from the peanut bowl for the rest of the game.

            In my book, it’s ok to say “go (insert team name here)” as long as you never ever ever utter one word about who might actually win any game, period, or series.

            For example, no saying “The LA Kings are gonna crush ’em!”

            I used the Kings as an example here, because I do not give one solid shit about them, or any Southern hockey franchise. A curse upon them all!

            Sorry ‘Canes. Good job on getting the Cup that one year, tho’. That’s just terrific.

          • What a game! Very exciting. I’m genuinely sorry, Bruins fans. Nomorly I’d be rooting for my original home team, but I just can’t get behind this Chara character. Every team needs a captain, and a goon, but I just don’t think they should be the same person.

  9. Hey folks just wanted to be as transparent and I can legally be. My business partners at Jack & Masters: my sister Georgia S. Malki, Alan van de Kamp Grau, Joe Caristo and myself have not managed Lex 18 Moonshine Bar Southern Restaurant Musical Diversion since April 19th. Unfortunately the new management seems to have changed many of the qualities of our original vision. The majority owner Suwana Cry is currently in control of the restaurant.

    Jack and Masters performed the build-out, interior design, branding, musical entertainment and social media launch in a whopping 3 weeks. We got out of the gate with rave reviews and great community support. This included several locals giving the original recipes made by Chef Randy Carter and Chef Jason Treadway 5 stars on their chicken and waffles, Moravian shrimp and grits, etc.

    By the weekend of April 20th and in our fourth week of operation we were packing out dinners, having great entertainment and on the way to financial solvency with 20% daily increase in revenue. Mysteriously, after our best night ever were locked by majority owner Ms. Cry. According to reviews after our management the quality, service and vision of the restaurant seemed to have taken a downward turn.

    Jack and Masters are currently in negotiations with Ms. Cry’s attorneys.

    Jack and Masters’ will always be committed to using local and organic produce and English speaking staff will a remain firm. Hopefully this dispute will be resolved quickly and we will be back in the saddle or onto another venture.

    Thanks for the wonderful support and reviews up to the end our management at Lex18.

    We love our town and blogs like Ashvegas. Candor and honesty about food and service quality in AVL is something that our town desperately need. Keep up the good work!

    • Orbit DVD says:

      Why an English speaking staff?

      • I attempted to order from the menu and the server did not understand the menu and I believe could not read the menu. It was a more than frustrating and the young lady who attended to us was also quite embarrassed. This makes me wonder about the young lady’s ability to read warning signs, much less the specials – especially when allergies are involved. Its just a safety thing in restaurant risk management for the front of house as well as the back.

  10. An interesting post from Lex 18’s Facebook page:

    “Folks just an FYI my business partners Georgia S. Malki, Alan van de Kamp Grau, Joe Caristo and myself have not managed Lex 18 Moonshine Bar Southern Restaurant Musical Diversion since April 19th. Unfortunately the new management seems to have changed many of the qualities of our original vision. The majority owner, Suwana Cry is currently in control of the restaurant.”

  11. Damn Yankee, go home. Now you did it.
    About 15 years ago when AVL was introducing Roundabouts (aka Rotary) into the city’s traffic patterns and streets, I wrote a letter to the editor. I stated I was familiar with these traffic-flow configurations and that they worked well if implemented correctly.
    Now, I mentioned that I was used to them because I was from “up north.” A shit-storm promptly followed. I also made the overt error of commenting how people should maneuver them, the rotary etiquette shall we say, of the roundabout, and a “we-don’t-care-how-you-do-it-up-north-go-home-asshole” ensued. Hey, this configuration was new to the area. I was just being neighborly.
    How do you like ’em now, AVL? Frankly my dear, I don’t give a shit.
    Rant on Stuie. How do you ride a bike through ’em? Better not answer that….

    • Cool story, bro. But whaaaaaaa was the point of all that?

      • eh, only that Stu referred to himself as a Yankee (loud and proud) and that, perhaps, there is latent resentment of that fact? Nah, we just think him born quirky.
        The rest is just that it reminded me of what happens when you politely and with good intentions refer to where you may have come from because it was relevant to the experience, a la Stu….

  12. 18 Lex is not the only funeral parlor/restaurant with zombies/staff in AVL…

    what is up with the ‘tude of the host staff/greeters in this town?

  13. “Does this world even exist?” LOL
    The first time I had chicken and waffles was at The Southern and I’m pretty sure it was canned chicken. I bet King Daddy’s is good but totally understand you not being able to do that dish twice in one week. I like all those fattening trends you speak of *but* only once in awhile. I’m totally with you on the fact that there seems to be an overload of this trend in restaurants. I find it difficult to eat healthy out unless I go vegetarian or just eat salad. I never tried the Green Light place but I’d definitely be ok with more restaurants like it or The Green Sage, which I noticed got trashed in another of Jason’s posts but I’ve always had good experiences there.

    Enjoyed your review as always.

  14. “Does this world even exist?” LOL

    The first time I had chicken and waffles was at The Southern and I’m pretty sure it was canned chicken.

  15. We recently hit King Daddy too, sharing an order of poutine along with chicken and waffles. I was a fan of everything, though it’s food I won’t (can’t) eat that often. (Though I look forward to going back.) I would recommend the Korean chicken, as it provides some spicy kick amongst all that sweet.

  16. Thanks for the description of the chicken and waffles as I didn’t really know what they were about either. I think I’ll skip them for lunch or dinner and just have them for breakfast one day when I’m in the butter-and-syrup soaked bread mood. I’m thinking the chicken part might keep me from going into a full sugar crash!

  17. Great review. I still miss Geenlight from when it was in Black Mountain.
    Shannon and her crew are still around and you can find them at most festivals and they are available for catering.
    We do care about you Ja!

  18. Thanks, Stu!

    I’ve been curious about the new Chicken-n-Waffles dishes around town, and you did a fantastic job of layin’ them out.

    One criticism (you knew it was coming): How about more “Fucks” and less “Anyhoodles”? I appreciate a man with a foul mouth, but childish colloquialisms do not behoove you.

    • Ha ha ha! How about that “smiley,” Adam? Good lord.

      I love emoticons, I hate smileys.

      Jason’s blog must have automatically converted my perfectly good emoticon into a disgusting smiley.

      Aaaanyooodles… 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate it!

      • lex 18 has hired a new chef. he is writing a whole new menu, keeping some of original dishes. the menu should be rolled out in a week in a half

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