Stu Helm, food critic, on a follow-up visit to Dough in North Asheville

Jason Sandford

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

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stuhelmthefoodcritic_logo_MXBO_2014_72DPIBy Stu Helm

Hello Asheville!

What’s goin’ on?

DOUGH – Merrimon Ave, Asheville

You guys might recall that I already wrote about Dough, and the famous “angry mustard” (sometimes referred to as the “fuck you mustard”) Incident, and how I said that I really wanted to like Dough, but I wasn’t finding it to be quite awesome enough for me? Remember all that?

Well, true to my word, I kept going back to Dough and now, after many lovely experiences, I am finding it to be more than awesome enough for me, and it has become a place that I find myself suggesting when friends ask “Where do you want to go?”

Now, please keep in mind that I have a LOT of places on that list, and I try to spread the love (and money) around as best I can, so it’s not like I’m the world’s most frequent flyer at Dough, but I’ve been there on more than a dozen occasions and here’s just a few of the things that I like, and don’t like, about Dough.

COFFEE – If I was handing out Stoobie Awards for “Most Improved Coffee Sitch,” Dough would be giving an acceptance speech right now. Their coffee sucked at first. No joke. It seemed like an afterthought, and was just plain boring at best. NOW the coffee rules. They got a big new machine and it seems like they really give a shit about their coffee. The espresso and the regular coffee are both excellent. PLUS: The Dough coffee mug is PERFECT (please say the word “perfect” in a very high-pitched, falsetto sing-songy voice for best effect). It’s exactly the right size & shape, and made from the correct material: Ceramic. I even bought one. I’m using it right now!

Dawn says the cold press coffee is very good, and consistent, and might be the best in town.

SNACKS – Holy shit. Point your finger at anything snacky in the case or cooler and whether it’s sweet or savory, it’s gonna be a winner. I went there with Mike Quirk a week or so ago, and got a Bavarian Creme donut that was fan-fucking-tastic. Big, heavy, doughy, and delish. Just like a donut should be. It went great with the coffee, which was excellent.

Again, if I was doling out Stoobies for “Best Temperature Modulation of Baked Goods Between Baking Them and Selling Them” Dough would be tearfully accepting this second honor. Specifically: The frosting on the cupcakes at Dough is room temp. Not cold. Cold frosting on a cupcake is kinda like getting a massage from someone with cold hands. Something you’re looking forward to, that should be awesome and comforting, just kinda pisses you off instead. Cold cupcakes will send Dawn over the edge, and I’m no fan of cold baked goods of any kind. Good job on the temp mods, Dough.

SERVICE – Another area where Dough has improved. The very first time we went into Dough, the young man behind the counter seemed ill-suited for dealing with the public. He just didn’t quite have that knack, y’know? Nice guy, did his job, but didn’t smile or cajole or any of that good stuff. Now the service is tops. The ladies are nice, the system is fast, and there are smiles, and eye contact, and everything!

While I was waiting in line to pay for my Bavarian last time, I ran my greedy little index finger through the chocolate glaze on top several times, and licked it off. Mmm, good. When I got to the register, I said to the lady “While I was in line, someone ran their finger over my donut, and ate some of the frosting.” She stared at the evidence in front of her, stunned, horrified, confused. Oops, I didn’t expect her to believe that! “It was me!” I blurted out. She looked super duper relieved, though still slightly confused.

KIDS EAT FREE – Every Friday Night, kids eat free at Dough. As the co-publisher of a kids’ paper, and co-host of several kids’ events, I see with my own eyes just how many dang KIDS there are in this world, and I also see that there are a lot of parents, tons of them single, who work hard to take care of all these fucking kids. It looks really hard to do. So, I think it’s awesome that Dough, like many other restaurants around A-town, offers a Kids Eat Free night. Yay, Dough and others.

Now, on the other hand… as a childless loser who is not the hugest fan of being in a restaurant full of kids, I will dutifully avoid Dough on Friday Nights.

CLASSES – There’s a big, glass class room / kitchen where you can see people participating in the many cooking classes that Dough offers. How cool and unique is that? I’m not enough of a group-stuff-person to take classes myself, but it’s fun to look at the happy people in the glass room learning about bread ‘n’ such. Lotta chicks in there. Mmm… a glass box full of chicks and baked goods. Yeah, Man. I really do like Dough.

Here’s the only two things I can think of that I don’t like about Dough, one of which isn’t even their fault:

• The giant tables inside make me feel like a hobbit at The Prancing Pony. I’m, like, an inch tall compared to the rest of the world, so sharing those huge, rustic wooden slabs with full-sized humans makes me slightly uncomfs. I might get crushed by an errant elbow.

• The development of Merrimon Ave all around poor Dough, and Home Grown, and Plant and the other small businesses on Merrimon is horrible and ugly and shocking, and is more suited for Tunnel Road than for Merrimon ave, which should be an extension of our awesome downtown, not a bullshit, honkey-tonk, neon, glorification of the worst aspects of American food and culture.

The Chick-fil-A signage is atrocious, and the Moe’s? Are you fucking kidding me? It looks like a fucking spaceship landed. TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS!!! Then there’s that fucking lite-brite billboard that’s been there for a few years. That thing is a giant middle finger to every person and small-business in that neighborhood. It looks like ass. A middle finger that looks like ass. Ass-finger. That billboard is ass-fingery bad.

I hate all that shit. It’s tasteless and awful and generic and belongs in Anytown,USA not Asheville, WNC. But whatevs. I guess that’s just me. I suck and that stuff rules.

Yadda yadda.

Merca, 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. Lynn October 5, 2014

    Back to the question of Dough, are you an interiors critic or a restaurant reviewer? All we’ve learned here is that the cupcakes at Dough are room temperature (good, up to a point, though slightly chilled means buttercream doesn’t slide off, which is also nice), that the coffee is better (though you don’t say why the coffee was bad before) and then on and on and on about the interiors and the location and whether the clerk believed you when you tried to attract unneeded attention to yourself by telling her someone had messed up your pastry.

    You’re the Lawrence Fishburne of restaurant critics. If he did that sort of thing. And was totally lacking in an understanding of restaurants and how to write about them.

  2. Kelly Prime October 2, 2014

    There is a place on Merrimon called Dough? huh, weird. I never noticed it because THE BEST RESTAURANT in all of Asheville is right across the street! Homegrown for the win!

  3. jody October 2, 2014

    Mike is right about the zoning ordinance. It’s main intent was to make future development look like the head of Biltmore Ave, Lexington or Broadway. So you’re getting unexpected and unfortunate interpretations of that “look” as seen by corporate entities and others.
    By the way, the undeveloped part of lower Broadway is undeveloped as a result of sitting under the same ordinance. That area just hasn’t built up enough to attract it’s own HT’s, TJ’s, Staples and so on. The Pioneer building is the only modern attempt on that section to meet the requirements (and it’s arguably great, IMO). The parcel just north of 5 points is $100,000 for .75 acres. This is enough property to build 4 or 5 houses at lot prices lower than 20K each! But the zoning doesn’t allow that sort of residential construction.

    I apologize for adding to and assisting in hijacking your review Stu, I’m not really sure how this happens… but I’m sure you’re used to it.

    1. luther blissett October 2, 2014

      So you’re getting unexpected and unfortunate interpretations of that “look” as seen by corporate entities and others.

      Yeah, the problem is the implementation by big-box developers where they spend 10 minutes to come up with a crappy plan that satisfies the letter of the ordinance but not the . A better plan for the H-T would have been to build on an L-shape so you had useful frontage, but supermarkets are too lazy to do that unless compelled to do so.

      That’s a common story in Asheville: explains the Staples, explains the H-T lot.

  4. smytty October 1, 2014

    Dough in West Asheville?

    1. Nate October 2, 2014

      They’re just seeing in to the future. My guess would be Spring 2016, somewhere on the quieter end of Haywood.

      Dough was perfectly packaged and looked like a franchise before the first location had even opened … I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them doing a small expansion fairly quickly.

  5. Jami October 1, 2014

    On the subject of the Shitshow that is Merrimon Ave, I think Ashvegas should do a story on exactly why that’s happening.

    1. cwaster October 1, 2014

      That’s a great idea. Ate at Moe’s once. Big mistake.

    2. Mike October 2, 2014

      It’s just growth.

      I can only assume your referencing Moes (and adjoining development) Harris Teeter, and Trader Joe’s – There is nothing else new on Merrimon.

      So lets see, Harris Teeter and Moes (development) both occupy previously empty lots, and the only one that ‘uprooted’ any other business was Trader Joe’s. So of all of the new development on Merrimon, the most ‘evil’ is Trader Joe’s.

      Or are you just critical that it’s being ‘commercialized’?

      Well, other people with cooler local business were more than welcome to buy those lots and build them, but didn’t.

      By the way, the development next to Moes is going to be renting to some smaller local business’ does that count?

      AND the real ‘shit show’ of Merrimon avenue is the new building requirements.

      A LITTLE KNOWN FACT about all new construction on merrimon is that it has to be up on the street and all parking behind. The first building to have to be subjected to this new ‘rule’ was Staples, and it got blamed, but it was the zoning requirement. They are trying to make the road ‘more pedestrian friendly’ by putting the parking behind the buildings, and the buildings up on the road. In realty it makes Merrimon IMPOSSIBLE for any future fifth lane (turning lane) because all new development is up on the road, and it makes it quite a scary road to be a pedestrian on, the sidewalks are right on the road, and cars don’t go very slow down it. Worst city decision ever. They should make all new construction as far off the road as possible so that in the future Merrimon could be expanded. (the road)

      And, any existing business’ on Merrimon, IF they want to do any improvements, if the improvement is over 40% of the value (I think, around that) then they have to move the whole building up on the street. In essence, keeping existing structures old and current owners reluctant to do any major updgrading, because they would have to basically tear down the building and put it up on the street.

      That’s the real ‘shit show’ of Merrimon. That ordinance.

      1. luther blissett October 2, 2014

        A LITTLE KNOWN FACT about all new construction on merrimon is that it has to be up on the street and all parking behind.

        Pretty sure it’s a WELL KNOWN FACT.

        They should make all new construction as far off the road as possible so that in the future Merrimon could be expanded.

        Let’s call it “Patton matching”, because everybody loves that stretch of road.

        Less facetiously, the question is whether Merrimon up to UNCA is more like Haywood Road or Patton Avenue (or Hendersonville Road). I think the ordinance makes sense, given the density and existing building stock, but the implementation has been pretty crappy, because big box and franchise restaurant plans are designed around Patton-style sprawly strips. (Trader Joe’s, on the other hand, had plans that fit– the Asheville branch closely matches the one in Buckhead, where there’s a similar approach to parking.)

        Big yawning parking lot deserts wouldn’t have made sense there either. Wider sidewalks would have made a difference, but that eats into that sweet, sweet square footage.

        1. Mike October 3, 2014

          Merrimon is a scary ass road for a pedestrian. I’ve seen some scary stuff (cars running on the curb, one car almost slammed into another, and in reaction went on the side walk to avoid hitting the car – thank goodness no one was on the sidewalk)
          Ever try turning left on Merrimon during lunch or at 5:00?
          Ever try to cross the street on foot?

          Ever walk down the side walk at all? Not a ‘pedestrian friendly road’ at all.

          It is not ever going to be like that, and the reality is, it won’t get better by boxing it in more.

          1. Drake October 4, 2014

            The broader question is how does the city want Merrimon to function. Should Merrimon continue to expand and become an arterial North/South connection in Asheville? Or Should Merrimon develop as a more urban commercial corridor?

            Many of our streets in this city (and state) have this same identity crisis. Merrimon is stuck in-between these two types of streets. The ordinance attempts to push the street into a more urban commercial corridor. This is difficult to do by itself without city investment. Developers can change their patterns but they cannot get the sidewalk off the back of curb, they cannot install bike lanes. If the city wants to make Merrimon more walkable they need to change the street not just the ordinance.

            Lastly, all of these things take a longtime, to transition corridors into complete streets, many of us (me included) do not have the patience. IMO take it down to a three lane road (with all the left turns that is how it functions now) install bike lanes, bump in the curbs install real street trees. Traffic will continue to suck, if you have to get to north Asheville in such a hurry take the highway that is what they are made for.

  6. indie October 1, 2014

    Well, actually, Stu is hobbit sized.


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