stuhelmthefoodcritic_logo_2014_72DPIBy Stu Helm

Hello Asheville!

Some of you know that, in addition to being your friendly foul-mouthed Food Critic, I am also the mild mannered creator and co-publisher of the fun, free, monthly children’s newspaper, Asheville Flyer for Kids! In that capacity, I am acutely aware of every whacky holiday, observation, and recurring event you can think of. Whether it’s Hug Your Cat Day (ouch), Lost Sock Memorial Day, or National Bubble Week, I know about it and I post about it every morning on the AFK FB page.

A typical morning for me might start with the following post:

“Today is Monday, July 14th, 2014.

It is Pandemonium Day!

LOOOK OUUUTTT!!!!”

The 14th is also Bastille Day & National Nude Day, but I left those off my post, of course, because French history and human nudity are certainly not suitable subjects for children, especially when combined with pandemonium.

Aaanyhoodles… this is why I happen to know that July is National Hot Dog Month.

Yay! I lerv hert dergs!!!

I live alone most of the time, so when I buy a package of hot dogs, I’m in for a pound, if y’know what I mean. They’s 8 dogs per pack, and only 7 days in a week (unless you’re Beatles fan, which I am not.) so once I crack the plastic, it’s muhfuckin’ hot dog time at The Food Critic HQ. Ain’t no joke. I’ve been know to eat hot dogs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until they’re all gone, and I am in fact well known for my Breakfast Hot Dogs.

“What makes it a breakfast hot dog, Stu?”

“I eat it for breakfast.”

“Do you put bacon and scrambled eggs and maple syrup on it?”

“Nope, just ketchup, mustard, and relish.”

Okay, two things:

1) I just did a mini-interview with myself about hot dogs, so what?

2) The first asshole to comment below that putting ketchup on a hot dog is some kind of crime against humanity gets a Peevie Award and this preemptive, “Oh, fuck off.”

This is America, and even though the hot dog (or pylsa) is the national pride of Iceland (true story) there is no more American food than that a good ol’ yankee doodle hot dog! What’re you, a commie? Ain’t nobody tells an American what they can and can’t put on their hot dog. I won’t stand for it!

Here is a list of things that I have put on a hot dog:

• Ketchup
• Catsup
• Yellow Mustard
• Fancy Mustard
• Honey Mustard
• BBQ Sauce
• Sour Kraut
• Coleslaw
• TVP-based chili
• Bean-based chili
• Meat-based chili
• Beef Heart-based chili (the traditional stuff of a real Coney)
• Pub cheese
• Shredded cheese
• Cooked onions
• Raw onions
• Pickle spears
• Tomato wedges
• Lettuce
• Celery salt
• Shriracha / Frank’s / Texas Pete / Other
• Pussley

And now that I think about it, I have also wrapped hot dog slices in bacon, and speared ’em with a tooth pick before baking, for delicious hot doggity hors d’oeuvres.

Y’know what would be really fucking good on a hot dog? Some of that bacon jam they’ve got over there at the Barleycorn. Okay. Now I gotta try to make that happen. Briar?!? Help me out if you can! Breakfast hot dog with bacon jam and pub cheese? Are you fucking kidding me?!? Gim.

So, fuck the condiment commies, I say put whatever you want on your hot dogs. I ain’t judgin’. That ain’t me. I don’t judge on stuff like that. Put goddamn chocolate sprinkles on there if you want.

Along with personal freedom, I am a strong believer in squishy white buns… for my hot dogs! Gawd! Perverts. Dawn is always on me about “wheat” hot dog buns, and I’m all, like, “Whatever, Dawn,” as my hand reaches for the softest, whitest, trashiest buns on the shelf.

There are lots of brand names that are complete trash — in a good way — so just grab whatever looks un-wholesome-est and you’re good to go. Pepperidge Farm makes an awesome, super-trashy hot dog bun that I like. The organic 365 brand ones at Wholefoods are trashy enough for me too, so I buy those sometimes. In my mind, organic trash is better than non-organic trash.

For home hotdog prep, I say boil ’em. Fuck it. How often do you get to just boil the shit out of something and have it taste awesome? You can’t boil a steak. Even boiling lobster takes timing and finesse. Boiling hot dogs is easy as fuck, and they come out just right every time. And yep, I did just compare hotdogs to steak and lobster. They all occupy very high positions in my food rankings. Boil hot dogs in a beer/water combo as often as possible.

The three hot dog brands I look for in the grocery store are:

-Coleman Naturals

-Applegate

-and Nature’s Rancher

Those three brands are stand-outs in my mind and you can go to their web sites to read all about it. All natch, no hormones, no bullshit. The realio dealio.

When I’m out, I like to eat Hebrew Nat’l , Vienna Beef, or Nathan’s hot dogs as often as I can find them. Any place that carries any of those brands is braggin’ about it on the menu and sometimes even with neon signs ‘n’ shit. Those are three names that you can trust for a good hot dog every time.

When I want to sit and eat a hot dog in downtown Asheville, my first choice is always The Soda Fountain at Woolworth Walk. They carry Hebrew Nat’l and they serve it just right: grilled, then nestled in the buttery softness of a grilled white bun, served in a plastic basket with a side of Lay’s potato chips and a pickle spear. Mmm-MMM! That’s good stuff.

I did go back to Whit’s for their $1.25 hot dog. How was it? Soft. Very soft. Through and through. Bun and dog alike were soft as soft can be. I asked the owner what the brand name is and I think he said Kent’s. He added that they are made from a combo of pork and beef. I looked up Kent’s on line and they do carry a variety of hot dogs that includes one made of pork and beef, and another one that is “pork, water, and beef” listed in that order. Dawn and I agreed that neither of us would exactly crave the Whit’s dog, but that for $1.25 we’d definitely get it again.

I’ve noticed that some of the fancy restaurants around town have been serving up their own “house made” hot dogs, and I tried the one at All Souls. Now, I love me some All Souls, I eat there all the time, I tell people to eat there all the time, but their house-made hot dog was a fail.

It was too small — yes, I’m saying that their wiener was too small — and it was burnt, plus it was too smoky. I had an unpleasant smoky flavor in my mouth for a long time after I ate it. It also came on a massive bun that just way too wholesome and hardy for me. I know that All Souls is gonna try to make an awesome bun and all, because they seem to be bread people at heart, but there is such a thing as trying too hard. The volume of the bun exceeded that of the hot dog by 1/2 as much at least. No. Bad.

I saw recently that 7 Sows had a house made hot dog on their lunch menu, but when I went back to try it they were closed, and I’m not even sure they’re still doing lunch.  I’ll try to figure that out and get back to you.  It was $9 when I saw it listed.  I don’t mind paying $9 for a house made hot dog, as long as it’s fuckin’ aye good.  If you’ve tried the 7 Sows dog, please comment below and let us all know how it was.

In fact, everyone please recommend hot dogs to me, and to each other below! What’s your fave grocery store brand? How do you prep ’em at home? Which restaurant serves the best dog? Which push cart or food truck? This week, please use the space provided below to talk hot dogs!!!

To my everlasting shame I have not tried even ONE of the hot dog stands downtown! Gotta fix that STAT. Plus, Dawn just told me she saw a “grass fed hot dog’ listed in an ad for The Urban Orchard cider tasting room. ERMERGERD!!! I’m freaking out. So many hot dogs, so few days left in July! Uh. Slacking. Way behind. That tears it! I’m eating a hot dog every fucking day for the rest of the month! Nom nom!!!

Who’s with me?

LUNCH AT KING JAMES – Charlotte Street

Speaking of ermergerdness: I lerv lernch!

It’s my fave meal of the day. Some people like breakfast for dinner, and that’s fine, but I like lunch for dinner… And for breakfast! Gimme gimme gimme lunch.

I will eat lunch any time of night or day, but I’m always soops disappointles when a venue is closed right at lunch time. (ahempizzapuracoughcough) That’s why I was so psyched to hear that King James has decided to be open for lunch. That little stretch of N. Charlotte has needed a place just like KJP to be open for lunch for a long time. Prior to that, you had Fuddruckers, Two Guys Hoagies, Charlotte Street Pub, City Bakery, and Starbucks to choose from.

Whatcha gonna do? Eat at Fuddruckers? Fudd that! I wouldn’t stick one of those fuddburgers in my lunch-hole if it was the last venue on Earth. I used to ride Bikey through the Fudd’s parking lot almost daily on my way to Greenlife or Downtown, and I’m not even kidding: I never saw so many morbidly obese individuals in one place in my life. No joke. Hugely unhealthy people, literally pushing their oxygen tanks and using walkers and shit, shuffling in and out of the Fudd. I confess: we did eat there a couple of times, because we really didn’t know what a Fudd’s was all about, and I thought that my young nephews would like it, until one of them said to me, “This isn’t very good is it?” We never went back. So gross.

Starb’s? Not a lunch place. Some Starbucks serve sandwiches and salads and such, but not the one on Charlotte Street.

Two Guys is okay, but nothing there has ever blown my socks off. Your basic sub shop, with no claim to fame, and terrible atmosphere. I ate there fewer than a dozen times in the 9 years I lived in that neighborhood.

City Bakes is great! One of my go-to places for many years, both downtown and on Charlotte. A great place to grab a bite for lunch, it’s been the best thing on N. Charlotte street for many years. However, the atmosphere is not awesome, and how often can I eat lunch at the same old place over and over? Not indefinitely.

Charlotte Street Pub? Well… I love ya guys, but that place smells… Like a bar… And cigarettes. I don’t like to eat lunch in a place that smells like beer, urinal cakes, and ashtrays. But that’s just me. Their chicken wings did win The People’s Choice in the Wing War this year, so have at it. I personally prefer the duck wings at King James, and I think that they are a steal at $5 per plate. They were on the lunch menu when we went there recently, along with the following:

• Duck French Dip with Frittes – Yum. So savory, and so tasty! I’ve eaten more dang duck in the past year or so. It seems to be soops pops with chefs these days. This sandwich was very good and substantial, and it came with fries that were REALLY crispy and awesome. I’m giving the fries at KJP and instant Stoobie Award right now. They were exactly as fries should be.

• Smoked Trout Dip Jar – Dawn ordered this and said it was excellent. The dip, the bread, and the pickled stuff are all house made and really good. The grilled bread is particularly tasty.

• Garden Salad w/ Chevre, Pickled Carrot, and Beet – This was another Dawn dish and she raved about how good it was. She doesn’t even really like beets, but at JKP, she’ll try anything that Chef Steven puts in front of her, because we both know it’s going to be good no matter what. We were right: the beets on this salad were great, and the salad as a whole was one of the stand-out dishes at lunch that day. It had a smear of sorghum-something on the plate that was the crowning touch.pate_melt_king_james_2014

• Country Pork Pate Melt with Frittes – Oh God… this was one of those times that Dawn and I ordered all the food we wanted, and then the kitchen sent out two extra dishes. I was already stuffed when this pate melt showed up, but I STILL ate the entire thing! It was so fuckin’ aye good, I know that I’ll be craving this thing in the future. Yum-to-ummy. It was insanely savory, and greasy (in the good way), and decadent as fuck. Again, I don’t normally eat pate, but whatever Chef Steven throws down, I’m eating, and I’ll be eating this little pate melt again and again. Just in case you ain’t getting it: It’s like a patty melt made with pate instead of a beef patty.

• The other dish that the kitchen sent out was a pickle and kimchee plate. Lot’s of folks are doing pickled stuff and kimchee these days, and I personally think that no one does it better, or has more of a passion for it than Chef Steven Goff at King James. This plate had small piles of pickled carrots, beets, fennel, and other things that I can’t remember or couldn’t identify. It was great! Gittin’ pickly wid it.

So that was our lunch at King James Pub! It was a very pleasant and flavorful experience! We’ll be going back there for lunch often.

Almost every time we’re in KJP, Chef Steven tells us a story of someone coming into his restaurant and complaining “Why can’t you just have normal food on the menu?” Well, Complainy, Steven don’t do that. Normal food is for suckers. When you go into Steven’s place, you’re going to have to leave your little kid self behind and try some shit you ain’t never tried before. Organ meats. Pickled weirdness. Lot’s of duck… parts. I’d say that it takes you out of your comfort zone, but the food is prepared and served in a very comforting way, so it’s like, once you get past the mental blocks, you’re alll goood.

ME AND MY BIKEY

Just in case you didn’t know, I’ve started writing for Asheville Grit now too! Whoop whoop! I’m soops exciteles.

I asked them if I could write about anything except food, and they said, “go for it,” so I wrote about the reasons that I don’t own a car. I’m going to be writing for them once a month on that same subject in my new column called “IN THE ROAD with Stu and Bikey.”

You can check out the first installment HERE.

Also, I want you guys to know that I recently turned down an actual paying gig, writing about food for a popular local publication, because they wanted me to kowtow to their advertisers.

I don’t fucking kowtow.

Ever.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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72 Comments

  1. Sam’s club deli sells a hot dog and drink combo for (I think) $1.50. It’s a huge Nathan’s dog about double or triple normal size and the soft white bun is the best I’ve ever had.

    • Ha ha! That’s funny! Giant hot dogs at Sam’s Club. I’m picturing a family of four chowing down on one of these things! Nom nom! Thanks, Mike!

      • That is funny, I never thought that it might be a buy it in bulk item, that explains why I only want to eat half of one. But I can’t pass up the price if I’m there and hungry

  2. ……smells like “urinal cake,” now that’s good writing my friend.
    …and an oxymoron to boot.

    Pussley on a hot dog, who knew? More good writing; subtle, classy with just enough recall. Honing the craft one column at a time.

    • Ha ha! I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not, Smiley, but either way, I love your comment. No one has ever accused me of being classy before! :0)

      The pussley was really good, BTW, and I’m just waiting for some local genius to start making pussley spread.

  3. chappell carter says:

    Stu, another solid offering!! Looks like you hit on something! Thank you for the reviews and keep them coming.

  4. I. LOVE. STU. & HIS. REVIEWS.

    He is sooper.

  5. Stu, I would like to make for you what I call the “butterfly hotdog”.
    cut it down the middle and splay it open in a hot pan. allow it to brown. once good and brown flip over and fill the well browned cooked side w choice of CHEESE! as the other side cooks the cheese melts! what you do next is your choice. however condiments, mayo, turd, sup, relish, onion, siracha, slaw, and other love will end up in a mouthgasm! enjoy!

    • “Turd” ha ha ha! That made me LOL.

      We used to “butterfly” hot dogs as lot as kids, because we always had hot dogs but no buns for some dang reason, so we had to eat them on regular old bread a lot. Fried in butter. That’s good stuff.

      The cheese-melt is a brilliant touch. I’ll do it next time.

  6. Rezaz has a Kobe beef Hot Dog on the menu that I will be trying in the very near future – I’ll let you know…

  7. hubby always gets a hot dog and shake on 4th of july, says nuthin’ says ‘merica like a hot dog. he gets cookout dogs, plain. yup, dog in a bun, that’s it. does it every year with a shake and is happy happy happy.

  8. Dude, Stu, GUESS FUCKING WHAT. We’re toying with the idea of selling our bacon jam TO THE MASSES (that includes you).

    Also, anytime you want to bring in a piping hot dog to The Barleycorn, we’ll slap some pub dip and bacon jam on that bastard for you. Fur reals.

  9. Ditto on the Charlotte Street Pub. The attractive Brit village outer shell hides a so-so ambiance and meh food. It is primarily a place to loudly smoke and drink, neither if which I do.

  10. I really like the Kimchi dog from the El Kimchi food truck. Kimchi and bulgogi on the dog, with an aioli. Though the bun is a bit too much.

    I also really miss Cats and Dawgs, where Burgerworx is now. Chicago-style hot dogs rule.

    • I used to work at cats and dawgs…lo these many years. I served up quite a number of those dogs…

      I’ve decided that there is no dog as tasty as a dog roasted on a fire – all fixings being equal.

    • I moved to Asheville from Chicago, so when I saw the “Vienna Beef” sign at Cats and Dawgs” I was psyched. I didn’t eat there nearly enough though, and was sad to see it go. I’m a big fan of Burgerworx though. I had their “Bulldog Burger” for lunch yesterday: A hamburger with a hot dog on it. Ha ha!

  11. UPDATE: King James is only doing lunch on Thursdays until September, when they plan to roll it out on all days. Sorry!

    • Aw, now ya tells us. The wifey and I tried to go for lunch yesterday, to no avail. S’okay, gave us a chance to try Sante for lunch, which was shockingly good. I’m thinking you’re not a wine bar kinda guy, but you might want to check ’em out.

      • Sorry, Mr Zeau! I didn’t realize. I do really like Sante too, though! I was never a big wine drinker, but Dawn and our friends enjoy a glass or two, and I enjoy the food and French press coffee. Plus the outdoor seating is good.

  12. I grew up eating hot dogs at Wrightsville Beach, under the pier, in the sand, with meat chili, coleslaw, and mayonnaise. Yum. And that’s the way I still like them, though that combo is hard to come by anymore (except at home).

  13. I haven’t tried them myself yet, but I’ve heard that The Vault has the best hot dogs. I heard this from the person that told me correctly that they have the best hamburger.

  14. SuckItMcGee says:

    The best hot dog I ever made at home was wrapped in bacon and then deep fried to a crisp. Then COVERED in horseradish, lusty monk, sriracha and then finally, hot chow chow (which honestly goes on every hot dog I ever make).
    It’ll clear your sinuses.

  15. Best hot dog I ever ate was at the little courtyard stand at Biltmore…big ol’ chili dog on a pretzel bun. Perfection.

  16. Shout out for Bill Cooley and his hot dog cart. Big fat Sabrett’s and the fixings you want. Commonly West Side, often at Altamont Brewing.

    • I will have to try Bill’s dogs! Thanks, Jake!

      • Bill does have a great hot dog, usually he’s right in front of Tupelo Honey downtown. As for the food trucks, I only know of one out of the 24 in Asheville that sells hot dogs and that is D.O.G.S. in Black Mountain.
        Stu, stop by my food truck, Taste & See, for a couple of free lunches sometime! I would love to read your review of “The Belly Flop.”

    • Avery’s Hot Dogs, right? He is downtown on weekdays in front of Tupelo Honey. The jalepeno relish is very good.

    • I second your shout-out. He has also been at the Mountain Sports Festival the last few years.

    • Yay for Avery’s Hot Dogs! The Chicago relish is killer!

      • I sell local veggie dogs too (No Evil Foods).

        • boatrocker says:

          So you style your faux dogs after lips and assholes and entrails because you miss them that much, but do you sell veggie stuff that does not look like the very item you post to denigrate? I’ll try your food, but don’t disguise it as meat and then whine about meat.

          • It is not necessarily whining. Some of us want to minimize (or eliminate) meat but 40+ years of eating habits cannot be changed overnight.

            Fake meat is the e-cigarette of food.

  17. King James is a little pricey, but really tasty and pleasant folks. The chef was very friendly with my wife and I when we popped in shortly after they opened. Tastiness.

  18. Zweigle’s are the best grocery store hot but unfortunately, only available in NY. Growing up, this is the only brand my parents would buy and grill. Both the red and white are delicious but my favorite combo is: grilled bun, white hot, grilled onions, spicy mustard.

    … and after a quick search, available to buy online! I love the internets. http://www.zweigles.com/order-online

  19. Fellow hot dog fan right here. I must give a shout out to my hometown of Hinton, WV because its Dairy Queen (yes, really) consistently has great dogs. I don’t know if you will ever find yourself in that part of Appalachia, but it’s a gem of an eatery if you ever get the chance to visit. Toasted, buttered, split top buns but homemade chili & slaw and a great view of the river while you eat.

    Love your posts, btw. Good stuff!

  20. Sorry about all of the typos this time.

  21. I figured Stu would be a ketchup on hot dog guy. It is truly the great divide.

  22. The best hot dog these days has got to be at Storm Rhum Bar. It’s on the late night menu. Amazing after a show at the Orange Peel. Used to love the Vienna dogs at Cats & Dawgs years ago.

  23. excellent review, and fun to read as ever, tho I do have to take off a few points of admiration for not being a Beatles fan.
    Re reading, you didn’t day you didn’t like them, just not a fan.
    I’ll give you that.

    • I only eat veggies dogs, and only at a cook out type function or ball game.
      Put on everything that is offered.
      Yes to Catsup and mustard, onions, relish, perslane, nasturtium leaves- whatever.
      Bun optional.

      • I’m saddened to learn they have veggie dogs at a ball game. How are all of the random animal parts supposed to be used up?

        • boatrocker says:

          Can I be the first to quote John Candy in “The Great Outdoors” talking about hot dogs? I still love them despite the movie. It’s also ok not to be a Beatles fan, many of us who have had their music force fed to us our entire lives still healthy productive lives as Stones fans.

          Depending on what baseball stadium in whatever city, the fierce almost fanatical adherence to the ‘proper’ dog is almost like BBQ here or soccer riots in Britian.

      • Who doesn’t love nasturtium on their hot dogs? :0)

    • Thanks, Robyn! The day that you don’t like my reviews, is the day I hang up my hat. You’re one of my most loyal readers, and I appreciate that very much!!!

      My all-time fave Beatles song is “Til There Was You.” True story.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr5gCdUXJQY

  24. Best hot dogs I recall eating were at the Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Springfield, Pennsylvania, like 100 years ago. Yes, I’m that old. They grilled them, and the buns were terrific. They didn’t have that brown soft crust on the outside — I suspect they were baked together then sliced or pulled apart if that makes sense — and they grilled the buns. The dogs were longer than the buns and they had that delicious slightly greasy grilled taste. Yellow mustard and relish for me.

  25. +1 on the Dead Boys link and thank God it wasn’t a Dead link. There’s not nearly enough punk rock in this town.

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