Stu Helm, Food Critic, awards Hamburger of the Year Stoobie to an Asheville eatery

Jason Sandford

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

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By Stu Helm

Hello Asheville!

I know I haven’t written one of my really hateful, negative reviews in a long while — probably not since the fiasco at Glass Onion — and that’s because I haven’t had a really atrocious meal or experience in a long while. Which reminds me of a joke…

There’s this little kid, who’s like, 7 years old, and has never spoken a word in his life. His concerned parents have taken him to all kinds of experts, but no one seems to be able to cure or explain his lack of speech, so they’ve just gotten used to it.

Then one day, they’re all eating breakfast together, when all of a sudden the little kid says:

“This oatmeal fucking sucks.”

The parents are, like, “What? You can talk?!? You haven’t you spoken a word in 7 years! Why not???”

And the little kid says, “Up until now, everything’s been OK.”

So, y’know… what I’m saying is… Lately everything has been OK. But don’t worry, I haven’t gone soft. I’ll def let you know if I get some oatmeal that fucking sucks.

In the meantime, since everything has been so good lately, I’ve decided to start posting my Stoobie Awards a little early this year…

2014 STOOBIE AWARDS – Asheville, WNC

It’s time for me to dish out my own “Best Of” accolades, in the form of Stoobie Awards, for all of my fave food related things in the Greater Asheville (GRAVL) area.

I’m going to structure The Stoobies a little differently this year, because I think it would be boring for me to do the same thing year after year. Here’s how it’s going to go:

I’m gonna to list three or four “nominees” in several categories, and then before you guys even have a chance to suffer under the excruciating suspense, I’ll announce a winner.

Just like that. Nominees, winner. Nominees, winner. Boom boom boom. Simple as a pimple. Here we go…


My 2014 Hamburger of The Year nominees are:

Burgerworx burger

Burgerworx burger

Burgerworx (Page Street, Downtown) – I may have eaten more of these burgers than any other in 2014, so just by dint of frequency it made it onto my top three. It’s a really good, classic, flat-patty-squishy-bun burger, wrapped in foil, with literally a check-list of toppings that you tick-off, from lettuce and tomatoes, to jalapeno peppers, grilled onions, and a whole hot dog! I always get slaw on mine. YOM.

Farm to Fender burger

Farm to Fender burger

Farm to Fender (Food Truck, Cintom’s Parking Lot) – On the polar opposite end of the scale from Burgerworx, is Farm to Fender. I have only eaten at Farm to Fender twice, but their top-shelf, high-end, beautifully crafted, and well-constructed beef brisket burger blew my mind. It’s an umami masterpiece.

Isa's burger

Isa’s burger

Isa’s Bistro (Downtown Asheville) – Second only to Burgerworx in frequency for me, Isa’s Chef Duane serves-up a different specialty burger every Tuesday. The portion and price are both “lunch style” (ie: smaller than usual) which I like, and the burgers can range from really fucking good, to totally fucking amazing! One Tuesday the burger of the day had a slab of grilled mac ‘n’ cheese on it. I nearly died from happiness on that day.

And the winner is….

FARM TO FENDER! Whoop! Whoop! Why? Because of allll the burgers I bit into this year — and believe me, that was a large number of muhfuckin’ burgers, Betches — the beef brisket burger from Farm to Fender haunts my mouth memory the most. I crave it. I long for it. I’ve had a yearning in my heart and stomach for it ever since the awesome Kelly Densen took me there for a preview taste before her Battle of the Burger last Summer.

On that day, I took one bite, and I said to the owner, “Maaaaan, this fuckin’ thing is a winner. If you enter this burger in the Battle, it will win.”

We all know that the Vault won the Battle of the Burger, I even voted for them, and it was indeed the best burger at The Battle that day. Farm to Fender opted not to serve their beef brisket burger, but a different one that was very good, and AAALLLmost won the battle, but not quite.

So, not just to make my own prediction come true, but also because I totally believe that the beef brisket burger at Farm to Fender is an award winning burger, that deserves accolades, recognition, and even a fan following, I give it my 2014 Stoobie award for Burger of The Year!

Congrats, F2F. I know that’s, ahhh… not quite the same as winning a REAL award. But… Um. Here’s a graphic that I made! Yay! Graphics.2014_StoobieAwards_FarmToFender

You guys can click the following link to download a vectored pdf version of it if you want: 2014_StoobieAwards_FarmToFender

Next week I will hand out more awards — and graphics! — for Sandwich of The Year, Midnight Bite of The Year, and Hot Coffee of The Year!

Teaser: There’s an unexpected, come-from-behind winner in that third category.

The other categories, which I will announce here on Ashvegas right up until January 1st, 2015, will include:

Breakfast of The Year
Hot Dog of the Year
Taco of The Year
Deep-Fried Thing of the Year
Doughnut of The Year
Server of the Year
Chef of The Year
and finally
Restaurant of The Year

Stay tuned!

I’ll still be doing my usual reviews and other nonsense too, so here’s some of that now…

CAROLINA CINEMAS – 1640 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville

Dawn treated my 12 year old Nephew and me to a movie and some grub at the “Carolina Cinemas” last week.

First I’ll review the movie, then the grub…

The film was Interstellar, starring Hollywood hunk Matthew McConaughey, celluloid siren Anne Hathaway, and some very clunky robots.

Good. Lord. This movie was so long, so boring, and so completely awful, that I leaned over to Dawn at one point and asked “What have you done to us?”

Matthew McConaughey’s bright orange, tanning-booth face was killing me every second it was on the screen, especially during his frequent and hilarious crying scenes. This guy’s ham-handed acting style just seems to get more and more over-the-top with each new role he plays. Gawd, he’s awful in this movie. Just terrible. A terrible, terrible, awful, bad, terrible acting performance. Booo.

For one thing, he plays a super-duper smart person, which is kinda like watching a trout try to walk. Nahhht working.

Also: Worst movie robots in the history of Hollywood. We laughed out loud every single time these Ed Wood rejects were on the screen. Seriously. Ed Wood himself would have rejected these movie Robots.

“Are you kidding me with these robots? I reject them entirely.” would have been a direct quote from Ed Wood, had his costume department come up with these clunkers.

The people sitting in front of us seemed to be enjoying the movie, so they probably hated us, because we never stopped laughing at the sad parts, groaning at the serious parts, and mercilessly making fun of every bit of it for the entire three-hours.

Yes. This movie is three hours long.

I wanted to shoot myself in the head at least five times during those three hours, 2 1/2 hours of which consisted of close-up shots of McConaughey’s aging, Oompa-loompa face squirting greasy tears out the eye-holes. Gah!!!

Ann Hathaway was forgettable as ol’ what’s-her-name, and so was everyone else, except for Michael Caine, who delivered the squeakiest, most high-pitched, Mickey Mouse-with-emphysema-voiced death speech ever recorded. It was painful, pitiable, and hilarious to watch all at the same time, and much like the movie in general, I thought it would never end.

“Squeak squeak squeak… squeak squeak… squeeeaaak…”

Is he dead?

“Squeak squeak squeak… squeak… squea…”

Okay, he must be de…


The plot was absurd. Period. End of discussion about the plot.

My hot dog, however, was very good!

One thing that we enjoy / are fascinated by when it comes to the Carolina Cinema is the food. Along with the regular movie fare of popcorn, Twizzlers, Soda pop and the like, they serve local beer, decent sandwhiches, and actual hot food that’s not nuked-up garbage. The menu boasts of “locally cured meats from The Chop Shop,” bread from Geraldine’s Bakery, and pizza that is made with “fresh dough” and “local, organic ingredients.”

Dawn and the Neph got pizza, and I got a hot dog with french fries. We split a popcorn, as well as said Twizzlers… plus there where eventually some M&M’s involved. I’m telling you, this movie was looong. And boring. We got bored. And hungry. So, we ate. A lot.

As I said, my hot dog was very good! A Hebrew Nat’l dog, on a very tasty, soft bun, that was trimmed on the ends to fit the dog. Now THAT’S bun-to-dog-ratio awareness! Four festive, curly-topped cellophane toothpicks were a nice touch, and served to help keep my shit together before, as well as during the hot dog chow-down process, as I pulled the picks out one at a time while working my way from one end of the dog to the other.

The french fries were actually friggin’ awesome. Like, really awesome. They are going straight to the top of the charts for me. Very crispy and delish. Whoever fried these fries is my new frickin’ French fry hero. I ate every single one of them, and every scrap of dog too. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal!

I also tapped into the pizza, and while it needed a little help, it wasn’t too too bad, especially for a movie theater pizza. It was just slightly heavy, and a tad undercooked. The sauce was a little bit odd, and too garlicky for my tastes, but as I said, it was pretty good for a movie house pie. It might be even better on a different day. I dunno. It seems like a tweak or two would nail it. It also reminded me of another joke:

Patron: “Waiter, will my pizza be long?”

Waiter: “No, Sir, it will be round!”

The pizza at Carolina Cinemas is oblong in shape. I think that’s to make it easier to serve on the long, rectangular plates they have. Not sure.

So, even though it’s a little weird to be eating actual food in the pitch black while watching McConaughey’s gigantic face emote unctuous orange beads of thespian goo, we agreed in our assessment: The movie was terrible, the food was mostly good-to-great, and we all had a lot of fun.

My nephew even added that Dawn and I are “the best people ever” to go see a movie with.

Aw, kids say the truest things!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. T Parks III November 16, 2014

    Had to give a shout out for the King James burger. They recently changed it to include pimento cheese and collards, but the old one (which I hear is soon to be available again), with Gouda, lardo, and a tempura onion ring is one of the best in town! They also occasionally have an Animal Burger special which is a little smaller than the normal, but is also very very good!

  2. KT November 14, 2014

    Be sure to try one of Avery’s Hot Dogs before you announce the Hot Dog of the Year Stoobie. They are deeee-lish!

  3. kimboronni November 13, 2014

    Major props to Carolina Cinemas for having local and organic food on the menu! I’ve enjoyed the spinach salad and the turkey sandwich. Here’s the menu…

    Between the the local drafts and French Broad Chocolate Lounge bars at Fine Arts Theatre, the pizza and house brews at Asheville Brewing Company, and the menu at Carolina, there’s no need to spend your hard-earned cash on junk. Life in the bubble is good, and all of these theaters have options for affordable viewing…

    – Fine Arts Theatre: $5 Tuesdays
    – Carolina Cinemas: $5 Wednesdays
    – ABC: $3 everyday

    1. Big Al November 15, 2014

      I love the Carolina Theatre’s 4-cheese and garlic pizza (I forget the fancy name).

  4. jaredrutledge November 13, 2014

    Big shout out to Buffalo Nickel’s burger too, those things are on point.

    But RIP Burgermeister’s. I loved ye well.

  5. Orbit DVD November 13, 2014

    Burger Bar now has the best burgers.

  6. Matt November 13, 2014

    I agree that eating in the dark while watching a big movie screen is a little weird. Last time I did that I was watching looper. Stylized violence and a big meal don’t go together well. But man I really like those spinach burgers at the brew n view.

  7. Lauren November 12, 2014

    Farm to Fender is delish…

    Had a pretty darn good burger at Buffalo Nickel recently…but F2F still best

  8. Marc November 12, 2014

    Readers, this guy is not a film critic or a food critic. He scribbles words. Entertainment at best.

    1. Big Al November 13, 2014

      Somebody needs to call a Waaaambulance.

      1. Bill C. November 13, 2014

        Ok, that was funny.

  9. Chappell November 12, 2014

    Gotta love the Burger Worx burgers. I agree, some of the best in town. Also love the pile of fries they serve with the burger. I too get mounds of slaw and I add a fried egg to mine. Very tasty.

    Had another burger that was superb. Rhubarb serves the Rhubarb Burger and that is also excellent. A nice smokey flavor and excellent sides. I highly recommend it.

    Stu, Jackson Underground now has a new owner who is working hard to make that place what it once use to be. She and her crew do an excellent job. A trip to Jackson Underground is in order, my friend!

  10. Doc Brown November 12, 2014

    Well deserved award going to Farm to Fender right there…

  11. FDR November 12, 2014

    Have you tried “Romans” burgers next to the Civic Center. Let me know what you think Stu. They use Hickory Nut Gap meat.

  12. Sean November 12, 2014

    Thanks for the burger tips. Always on the lookout for an awesome burger…



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