facebook_food_critic_2013By Stu Helm

Hello Asheville!

Well, it happened. They did it. They fucking did it. They built a fucking Chick-fil-A drive-thru on Merrimon Avenue.

As I recently wrote in an Ashvegas thread on this topic:

“You Maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

Oh wait, no, that wasn’t me. That was Charlton Heston as George Taylor, at the end of the original Planet of the Apes movie, after he finds the statue of liberty and realizes that humanity fucked-up royally. Still… his quote is totally applicable to this situation, because humanity is fucking-up royally with this fast food bullshit.

There seem to be big, weird, evil plans afoot for Merrimon Ave. that are very Tunnel-Road-esque in their fast-foodiness — a Moe’s is in the works just up the street, and have you seen that atrocious giant-sized light-up BoJangle’s billboard??? — and that sucks for North Asheville and The 5 Points.

Those are actual neighborhoods up in there, Man! They don’t need a bunch of idiots from Dicklick, Indiana and Dogballs, Pennsylvania pulling off of 240 in a steady stream, loading-up on garbage food, and promptly leaving North Asheville with nothing but litter, car exhaust, road rage, and fart clouds. Hell no.

Chick-fil-A and its ilk are neighborhood killers. Those neighborhoods just got effed in the A-hole (as we say around the office) by corporate America, and whatever douchebags in local government thought that it was okay to let that happen. Thanks, City planners and powers that be. That’s great. (Not really.)

I could literally rant for hours on this topic, but I won’t do that here. I’ll just say, that as a former resident of North Asheville for 8 years, it makes me super-sad to see what they’re doing to Merrimon Ave., which could and should be a logical out-branch of our super-cool and non-chain-store ridden Downtown. I had always hoped Merrimon would get more foot-and-bike-friendly, but now it looks like it’s going to be more and more car-friendly.

I guess the plan is to choke the streets with traffic, and people’s fucking arteries with big globs of trans-fats, until their hearts are exploding, they’ve got diabetes, and their genes are altered by GMO mutant bullshit Frankenstein food created in a lab by Mon(ster)santo and forced onto us by a (Sysco) system that seeks to oppress us and squeeze every last penny out of our meager pockets with no regard for the health or welfare of the citizens or neighborhoods…

(pant pant! I wrote that whole paragraph without breathing once!)

Plus, y’know, for real, fuck Chick-fil-A — and all these fast food idiots — for inserting their political bullshit into the national dialogue with their ass-loads of money… that they got from selling us garbage disguised as food. They can suck it.

What I really wrote on that Ashvegas thread was this:

“Worst thing to happen to North Asheville since Fuddruckers.”

Another time I’ll rant about Fuddruckers like you wouldn’t fucking believe. Fuuuuuuuck that place.

Okay, enough of the bad, now for the good…

BURGERWORX, Grove Arcade Building, Downtown Asheville

I’m not some priss foodie who only eats Kobe beef medallions, milk-fed kittens, and organic flowers for lunch. I like a burger. Sure, I like a good high-ender, made with some facy-pants beef that’s ground on the premisses, and topped with creative and exotic toppings etc etc, but I also like a good old-fashioned “Clyde’s-Burger.”

A Clyde’s-Burger is any burger that resembles one from Clyde’s, which is a roadside burger joint in Sault St. Marie, way up there in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Clyde’s is a classic, sit-at-the-counter-or-in-your-car kind of place right on the Saint Mary’s River, with picnic tables and seagulls outside. Clyde’s has classic diner-beverages, and awesome french fries (just ask those gulls!), and big, wide, flat, fresh, fry-grilled burgers served on large, soft, white buns, with iceberg lettuce and one giant red slab o’ tomato. Add cheese, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise, and Maaan, THAT’S a mother-fuckin’ Clyde’s-Burger. The perfect small-town, roadside hamburger.

Fortunately for the rest of America — since “The Soo” is a million miles from nowhere — a “Clyde’s-Burger” can be found here and there at other establishments around the country, and we are very lucky here in Ashetown to have The Burgerworx, where you can get a PERFECT Clyde’s-Burger. Yeah, Man.

Burgerworx’s burgers are fucking awesome in my opinion. They are BIG, but not thick (flatness is one of the keys to a Clyde’s-Burger), and Burgerworx earns extra points for serving every burger wrapped in foil-paper, which steams the soft white (or wheat) bun a little bit, and heats up the condiments and toppings slightly.

Burgerworx also has a great no-fuss no-muss system: You walk in, fill-out a form on a clip-board, hand it to the young person at the counter, pay them, tip them, get a number, and sit down. They shout out your number when your food is ready, and you get your bag-o-grub. If I have to tell what to do after that, you might need to adjust your meds.

You can add all kinds of great toppings to your burger by checking the proper box on the form. I sometimes add cole slaw to mine. The slaw is the creamy kind, but it’s not too creamy or too sweet. It’s just right. They also have awesome fries made from fresh potatoes, and a serve-yourself soda fountain. I like that. I can mix my Mister Pibb with some orange soda, and no one can tell me not to. A serve-yourself soda fountain is all about being in control, People.

The young adults that make up the staff are always friendly, and polite, and they know that fucking system inside out. Ain’t no confusion behind the counter at Burgerworx. It’s a machine back there. Bing bam boom, that shit gets DONE. “Order up! #666!”

Hey, that’s me! Nom nom.

Burgerworx’ also has a weird distinction of being a place that looks like a chain but isn’t. I’d been eating there for years, under the assumption that it was a small chain or franchise, because it basically looks like one, but apparently it’s not. Huh. Weird. Finding out recently that it’s independent, locally owned, and operated made Burgerworx all that much better to me! And even more like Clyde’s.

Clyde’s is still around, BTW, so if you’re way way way way way way way up there in The Soo, be sure to check it out, but in the mean-time, pop into Burgerworx when you’ve got a hankering for a great roadside burger made right here in Downtown Asheville!

You’re probably gonna spend about ten dollars for lunch at Burgerworx. Totally worth it. You’ll be stuffed full of awesome.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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87 Comments

  1. Just had to pop in for a moment to suggest a bit of reflection might be necessary here. Seems the tangential conversations that have begun within this thread are throwing lots of people off course, and causing Stu to have to defend things that weren’t even touched upon in his original post. The (first part) of the article was primarily focused upon the unfortunate trajectory Merriman Avenue seems to be on, and the impact it’s having on one of Asheville’s great neighborhoods – one that is decidedly and purposefully distinct from areas like Tunnel Road that necessitate all businesses are patronized by automobile.

    As well, this whole notion that Stu’s writing is somehow smug or self-righteous is ridiculous. His writing is purposefully absurd and often self-effacing. The only insults he threw around in this instance were aimed at faceless corporations or hypothetical, crazed consumers. Now, any of us are going to react strongly if people start hurling very real and direct insults OUR way, and Stu is no exception. So, for instance, Adrian, maybe you don’t consider suggesting Stu is “a raving, myopic simpleton” to be insulting, but I somehow doubt you intended it to be complement. So, I’d say his response to your rude and tangential comment should have been expected.

    Clearly his original post has generated a lot of conversation, and that’s a good thing. He sure has hell deserves some credit for that.

    • Stu absolutely deserves lots of credit…and I gave due credit to Stu in another comment further up the page for filling a very important role. Perhaps that was missed? Credit? Hell yeah…look at all these comments! Who else is pulling that off? I read this blog at least once or twice a week, and I almost never comment. Just look at how much freakin’ time I’ve invested in this. Perhaps almost as much as Stu. Kind of ironic, come to think about it.

      But writing in this manner on Facebook is one thing. Lumping all of us not fortunate enough to live in Asheville as “idiots” (Stu’s word…direct quote…see his original article above) from “Dicklick” and “Dogballs” on a widely-read blog is quite another. It’s simply bound to get a reaction, Dawn. Call me reactionary, but as someone who visits Asheville quite often (and I’ve been doing so since before Stu ever cast a shadow there), and is a non-resident, I found that offensive. It could have been phrased much better and gotten the same point across while still being humorous and edgy. That kind of tripe is indeed myopic, and it does sound like it came from a simpleton. You know the guy, so maybe not, but authors are judged by what they write by all who do not know them personally. So Stu chose how he would be perceived when he wrote the piece.

      Tone determines response. If I scream at you, you will respond in one manner. If I softly speak the same words to you, you will respond in another. Perhaps the problem here is that when people scream, others tend only to hear the screaming, and not the words. You’ll notice that most commenters who were actually pissed off in some way were not concerned with the content…it was the language and the tone.

      One important point…Stu does not “have to” defend anything at all. He chooses to. He can just publish a piece and let the haters hate without stooping to reply and let the chips fall where they may. That would require the “thick skin” approach I put forth earlier. Might help him sleep a little better after writing something along these lines.

      I don’t think Stu needs defenders, even thought he went on Facebook to “rally the troops”. He has put his big-boy pants on and comported himself quite well and consistently in responding to criticism here in this forum. But anyone putting themselves out there is such an outrageous manner MUST be able to handle the blowback, because it is inevitable.

      Now I’m no groupie or follower so I have little prior exposure to Stu’s obviously widely-misunderstood style, but I saw nothing “self-effacing” in the diatribe above. I’m pretty well-read, and not altogether stupid, but somehow I missed that here. It was flat out pompous. Satire and subtlety are generally recognizable, if well-executed. And I (among other commenters below) would characterize the rant on Chick-Fil-A as self-righteous and obnoxious. But hey…that’s just my read. Unlike the guy below, at least I was not offended enough to take the site out of my bookmarks…still love me some AshVegas, and will be back regularly.

      And Stu nor you should not have to be concerned with anything as being “tangential”. Do you or he realize that he actually opened and inspired a broader discussion? Is that bad, or would it have been better if everyone like me had just broken out our caveman clubs and stuck to bashing or defending Chick-Fil-A. I hope that’s not preferable. As a writer, I think Stu should be proud of generating a larger discussion, if that’s a partial result of his work. Even if unintended. I think it’s pretty cool. Even though he initially touched a nerve with me, he made me think…why else would I be spending my time doing this right now? He has done what good writers do…just in a rather ham-fisted and crass manner. The guy is obviously not stupid…I would wager he can do better, and might even generate a broader appeal. Who knows?

      You obviously Stu him well enough to understand what a great guy he is behind this mask of profanity and absurdity in which he cloaks himself…so much that you have taken time to come here to defend him. That’s awesome…we all need good friends, and he no doubt has ample redeeming qualities. He just did not choose to share much of that with us here.

      That’s a shame. Maybe another time?

      • That would be “know him”…not “Stu him”. Please do not Stu him…that would be needlessly redundant.

      • You’ve clearly misinterpreted Stu’s original post. Everyone reads things differently, of course, but I (and I’m fairly certain, many others) did not equate the jokey (and again, purposefully absurd) reference to Dicklick, PA as an intended insult directed to anyone and everyone who lives outside of Asheville. In fact, the second half of the article praises a local business in my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. This hardly seems in keeping with someone who would lump everyone not fortunate enough to live in Asheville as an idiot.

        And, as you suggest, no, I am not an idiot either (a college professor, actually) and understand that conversations are inherently tangential. Rather than suggesting these tangents be avoided, I simply wanted to momentarily redirect in an effort to return to the original focus of Stu’s critique. And if the “screaming” as well as the language and the tone of Stu’s food stories/reviews bothers you – read something else. His style is not for everyone – and that’s just fine.

        • So I can concede that there is some fairly significant merit in what Stu writes, even if I don’t like the style, and I can admit that he made me think (rather a lot too), and you still essentially tell me that I don’t get it, and I should find something else to read?

          I get the …I promise. It’s not that freakin’ deep, Dawn. Maybe you are only able to see it from your own perspective. That’s cool. I get to see it from my perspective.

          Wow…what a thin-skinned and pretentious little posse you have there. And I didn’t have to give you my academic bona fides in order to validate my ability to understand a fairly simple piece of writing. Maybe I should have attached a CV to my first comment to validate my right to an opinion. Just weird.

          No problem. I’ll just avoid anything with Stu’s name on it in the future since you have essentially put forth that I can either buy the whole thing hook, line and sinker, or otherwise take a hike. No way to build a readership, is it?

          Boots on…I’m out.

  2. G’by Ashevegas. I have visited your site twice daily since the start, but I can’t stomach the puss filled hate speech from this bearded carrot snapper. I was so close to purchasing add space on the home page for one of my businesses. I am so glad I didn’t now. Geez ‘o man. Bookmark removed.

  3. Is this the guy who draws cartoons for the Mountain Xpress for kids?

  4. I am still chuckling over come the fuck-balls down…. Ok so now that I have recovered. Stu Helm, You are an amazing, insightful and witty writer. Keep it up!!!

  5. Great article, Stu, and I agree with every word. This discussion isn’t about Chick-fil-A, necessarily, but an entire, deviant, culture of chain store mediocrity slowly permeating an otherwise richly idiosyncratic town. It would be unreasonable to ask a city to be completely void of big box corporations, of course, it’s just sad that those areas are starting to outnumber the interesting parts that make Asheville the city that it is.

    • YES! Thank you, Tom.

    • Of course this culture of which you speak is permeating Asheville. It’s called growth. If the idiosyncratic and quirky elements of Asheville are the only ones which spead all over the county (Tunnel Rd, Biltmore Square, Hendersonville Rd, Merrimon, etc), then by nature, they are no longer idiosyncratic and quirky…they become the norm…stale, imitative, forced and contrived. I mean, do you really need another yoga studio, bike shop or locavore restaurant on every street corner to feel that Asheville is retaining its character?

      I’ve watched Asheville change tremendously since the 90’s, and despite all the talk to the contrary here, it still has nearly all of the character and beautiful weirdness which attracts out-of-towners like me again and again. There are just new components which were not there before. And is Ashevile is to grow (which all thriving cities must), there will be more of them.

      Yes, Tom…these big box and chain store areas will eventually have much more mass than Downtown and West Asheville..in fact, they already do and have for some time. But that doesn’t negate the vibe in those other areas. It just pisses off the people who get angry about Harris Teeter on principle because that’s all they can see. They howl at the moon in their angst instead of voting with their feet and lowering their blood pressure by just shopping somewhere else and getting on with life.

      What this all boils down to is that most people are inherently afraid of and averse to change (even if they are barely affected by it…they only have to see it to fear it). Every city which grows deals with these changes…some better than others. And having been all over the country (and the world) I would argue that Asheville is actually dealing with these issues better than most communities (hell…a large part of this is directly thanks to people who rant and rave like Stu…he and others like him counterbalance and do affect the developer who doesn’t give a damn where he puts his new building nor how it affects the community…many towns don’t have that…the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I don’t have to agree with Stu at all to understand the value inherent in views such as his, even if extreme and crass).

      So if you think that since there are new fast-food and grocery options on Merrimon, they will cancel the drum circle and Moogfest, and that Katuah Market and 12 Bones will be run out of business, well then…we should all be truly afraid.

      But if you believe, as do I, that Asheville is strong at the core, and is committed to preserving the nature of what makes it a great city, don’t be so knee-jerk about yet another chain store coming to town. It’s not the 19th century any more. They are coming, and are here to stay. We can all handle it as best we can and find something more constructive to rant about, or we can stay imminently peeved over a tidal wave which we as individuals are virtually powerless to stop.

      Just my two cents (maybe only worth a penny, but what the hey?). Change and choice…don’t be afraid of and angry at them. Learn to embrace change in all its many forms and try to create your own as you feel it is necessary.

      I may think he’s full of it, but in his own way, that’s what Stu is doing.

      • Not to take any sides, but a nicely written statement. I don’t agree with the chain mentality, and fast food is really not my cup of tea, so what do I do? I don’t spend my money in said operations, and luckily, I have options living in Asheville.

      • ashevillain says:

        NOTHING is “here to stay.”

        • Excellent point, and agreed. if Asheville stops growing or enters economic decline, and if people stop spending money, businesses of all types (both “local” and “corporate”) will close up shop and leave a city full of shuttered building. Indeed, nothing is permanent.

          In the immortal words of Arnold Horshack, “What is was. What was, will be. What will be was, and could be again.”

          I have no idea if that bears any relevance to your observation, but I will never pass up even the slightest opportunity to quote a Sweathog.

  6. Once again, people are ALL over the place with their random and inane responses to Stu’s PURPOSEFULLY SARDONIC writing. The target of his scorn is CORPORATE fast food culture. You can try to justify your (always bad) choice to continue patronizing these establishments, but there is simply no rational argument that will prevail in defending the incessant proliferation of these franchises, and the harm that follows. And by the way, like most of us, I have certainly eaten at corporate fast food chains in my life, but in my more thoughtful adult years, began to recognize that every time I made that choice – it was a BAD one.

    As well, it seems corporate fast food culture goes hand-in-hand with a lack of critical thinking. And THAT is unfortunately apparent within this comment thread. To posit an opinion or contribute to a conversation, words must be chosen carefully and should demonstrate thoughtful consideration – that doesn’t mean that humor and sarcasm can’t play a role, of course, but what role do personal and insulting attacks play in all of this? Doesn’t really seem that anyone is able to answer Stu’s very real questions around that. What a shame.

  7. Stu Helm = Yankee carpet bagger with no southern grace. Negative people like him are ruining Asheville. Go back to where you came from and leave us alone.

    • You’re a very negative person, Sir, as evidenced by your comment. will not be going anywhere, BTW, I love Asheville.

      Carpentbagger? Please, come join us in the modern world, where Americans are free to travel the country and live wherever we wish to.

      Or relocate your sorry ass to Afghanistan or someplace else where movement and freedom is restricted if that’s the way you like.

      I love America. I’m sorry that you don’t.

  8. Keep it up Stu!! There are always going to be haters I love your artcles and so the majority. Chick Fil-A and all the fast food chains just mass produce this mess as cheaply as possible then attempt to masquerade it as nutrition. Some of us fall for the bullshit and some dont. I see it for what it is. So do you and many others. Keep it up Stu. You have alot of insight and we love and appreciate your humor.

  9. On 3/31/14 NFB wrote: “In short, fast food on Merrimon isn’t anything new.” I agree. My oldest brother worked at King of the Road in high school. My first date…with a girl…was at the Pizza Hut. The Merrimon Ave. corridor has always been a location of chain establishments, and I think it is one of the reasons the area is, in my opinion, a little undefined.
    I am blown away by the vicious responses that seem to take so personally Stu’s opinion about fast food. He is a food writer. It is not suprising he has an opinion about fast food, and not a positive one. As a living wage certified small business owner in Asheville, I am also not a big fan of the culture of transient, minimum wage jobs these businesses are creating.
    You want to talk about the benefits of entrepreneurship, and the business opportunities provided by franchises? Great. Start that conversation. You want to trash a food writer, because he has an opinion about fast food? I don’t know, it seems like you’re just out there looking for an argument with anybody.

    • Finally, some sense. Haters want to hate, and anonymous hating on the internet is en vogue. Spitting hate is not productive conversation, it is just anger masturbation.

    • Stu is as much a food writer as Jason is an investigative reporter. At least Jason is honest about that fact.

  10. Almost as much as I detest fast-food restaurants, I detest the vitriol and social competitiveness that seems to have invaded Asheville culture in the past couple decades. Where has the old hippie love gone? More importantly, where are our Southern manners? Hipster angst and condescension has made for some very unfriendly vibes about town. Honestly, we should be more upset by the influx of uber-rich elderhipsters than fast food chains at this point. They are the biggest buzzkills ever and more destructive to this town’s culture than Chick-fil-A.

    Keep writing Stu, don’t worry about the comments either way. I’d not even validate the kooky ones with replies. You’re funny as shite. This town needs to get its humor back!! If you can get some hipsters to smile with your articles, you’re doing a good job.

    • and ps –
      While I detest fast-food restaurants, that section of Merrimon has always been lacking in any kind of local flavor (unless Hardee’s-turned-BBQjoint-turned-La Caretta, or the home health care place-turned-Greenlife count as local). The dead giant parking lot where HT is now was an eyesore for years.

  11. It never fails: Whenever I write one of my anti-fast food pieces, I get the most hate thrown back at me.

    Why is that? What makes people so dang angry when I trash on Fast Food? Why are they so defensive when it comes to this topic? Why am I the bad guy for speaking my opinion?

    Some of you people have to really assess why that is. For real. It’s a little weird and kind of disturbing.

    I get called everything from “libtard” to “elitist” and worse. I trash a corporate chain, and people trash me personally. Why?

    What is your emotional investment in corporate fast food chains, People?

    It seems like a lot of the haters are not huge supporters of the chains stores, but rather they just seem super-duper angry that I would dare to voice my opinion about them which is that THEY SUCK.

    I don’t get it. I really don’t.

    I will never ever ever waiver from my stance that Fast Food sucks and is a neighborhood killer.

    My evidence (as some idiot called for): LOOK AROUND YOU!!!

    • I get that you personally hate fast food, and have a righteous anger about the money-hungry corporate culture behind it, but why are you suprised that people take offense and lash back when you personally insult them? People don’t generally react kindly to repeatedly being called idiots, whether they’re from Dicklick and Dogballs, or right here in Asheville. Also, it’s hard to take any rant seriously when it acts like adding one fast food restaurant to a road that’s always been pretty full of fast food restaurants is some sort of tragic cultural sea change.

      You can try to deflect people’s arguments by claiming they’re all tragically misguided defenders of bad corporate food who are just trying to silence your opinions, but you’re wrong. No one really cares that much that you don’t like fast food . . . they just don’t get why you seem to care so much when other people do! You’re the one making sweeping assumptions about people’s character and intelligence because of their casual, possibly occasional, decisions about food. You’re the one being smug, self-righteous and condescending in your writing, and that sort of pose is always going to attract hostile responses. If you don’t like it, don’t ask for it.

      • Me too. What he said.

      • “Smug, self-righteous, and condescending.”

        I’ve been wondering why I find myself reading and commenting on most of Stu’s articles when I consistently don’t like the content or style. Thanks for clearing that up.

    • It’s waver, not waiver.

  12. A direct quote from the CVB’s 2012 tourism impact study: “Visitors to Asheville spent $1.5 billion in 2012, which generated $2.3 billion in total business sales, including indirect and induced impacts.” On…and this: “Including direct, indirect, and induced impacts, 22,924 jobs were sustained by visitors to Asheville in 2012 with total income of $614.5 million.”

    Who needs any of that money, right? Just shut down Biltmore, barricade the Parkway off, tear down all the hotels, and Asheville will be just fine on its own. Uh-oh…guess we’d better change the name of that baseball team too.

    I mean, all the out-of-towners and corporate interests toward whom Stu spews his mindless and puerile vitriol never eat at The Early Girl or Tupelo Honey. They never shop at the Old Woolworth’s and support local artists. They don’t buy any gas in Asheville, nor go out to a movie, nor stop in at the pub for a tasty local brew.

    Yes they do. How do I know? I’m one of them. Not from Dicklick or Dogball, but close enough. And I’ve done everything I just mentioned. I come to visit Asheville often…ironically enough, because it’s the all-too-rare kind of place in which a raving, myopic simpleton like Stu is not just welcome, but can find a big old soapbox to rant from. God Bless America…and Asheville too!!

    I’d never eat at the new Chick-Fil-A, but if someone else does, how does it really hurt you as a local? I’d argue that it helps the community as a whole, by (as one respondent mentioned above) creating new jobs, and by providing more choices so that someone can take their screaming kids there instead of dragging them into Chai Pani so that I have to listen to them pitch a fit and ruin my dinner after I’ve just dropped $3000 (which as often as not goes directly into the local economy) to rent a nice little place near town for a two-week hiatus from the big city grind.

    Screw it, Stu…keep it all local, man. And watch your city dry up and blow away. You know, I freakin’ hate Urban Outfitters, but my 16-yr-old daughter drags me in there every time we’re in town. And some of that money she spends helps keep those employees fed and housed. And because we’re there, we probably also hit every store in a three-block radius, so they benefit too.

    And my God…don’t ever let Big Boi and Killer Mike in the Orange Peel again. Damn Atlantans. If they don’t have a mandolin in hand, turn ’em around at the city limits and send ’em packing.

    Forget corporate. Forget tourism. Just kill that big fat goose, cause lord knows, Asheville don’t need them golden eggs.

    Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees…do you even see the trees, man? It’s called choice. It’s called options. It’s called free enterprise, even when it’s not free-range, gluten-free and packaged in an organic hemp pouch. It’s what makes this a great country, man. It’s what they don’t have in North Korea.

    Can anyone here say “balance”? Ask your yogi about it. He/she knows.

    • Boom!! Well done!

      • It’s so CUTE that you named yourself after me, Stu Who? Imitation is the sincerest form of ass-kissery. Do you want to head-up my new fan club?

    • You Sir win the internet. Well done. Stu who?

    • You’ve missed the point of my piece altogether.

    • Um, Adrian. I didn;t read yir whole comment — too boring — but I will say that yes, I know tourism is important to Asheville. If you think that a Chic-Fil-A located less than a mile from the off-and-on ramps of 240 does a fucking thing to increase tourism, however, you’re insane.

      “Hey honey, let’s go to Asheville, I heard they’ve got a real good Chic-Fil-A there! Right off the dang highway!!!”

      “You don’t say? Right off the highway?!? Pack the kids, we’re going!”

      Avenues and boulevards that look like Anywhere, America detract from tourism.

      Don’t you think, Professor Stupid, as I do, that it’s a little more likely for those good folks from Dogballs, PA that I hypothesized, to pull off the highway, head straight for that drive-through, then get right back on the highway in a roar of car exhaust, chic-fil-litter, and fried chicken farts, continuing on their way to Numbnuts, Florida, where they were already going anyways?

      That does zero for Asheville, North Asheville, or the Five Points in terms of tourism.

      Yes, sure, it’s true, I did see people eating at McDonald’s in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in France, but I can guaran-damn-tee you that’s not what they came to Paris for.

      • Well brother, I’m not going to call you names. but I will propose this scenario. When a middle-income family from Dogballs (who actually have to work hard for a living) scrimps and saves for a year to bring the kids to Biltmore for the Christmas lights, finds a cheap hotel nearby and crams everyone into one room for a couple of nights…well, when they drive out the front gate after four or five hours on the estate, they are probably headed across the street to McDonald’s or Wendy’s with those kids. I doubt they are looking for Tempeh, Kale Pakora or grass-fed $30 steaks. Doesn’t mean they didn’t drop a bunch of other dime. Doesn’t mena they came here to go to Wendy’s. Just means they want quick and easy, regardless of how it’s packaged or whether it’s healthy. Again man…choice. Why you hating so hard on free choice? Are you ready for that trip to Afghanistan you proposed to another reader?

        Look at every road leading to Biltmore, Stu (Biltmore Ave, Hendersonville Rd, etc). Are you kidding? They all look like “Anywhere America”. How many people do you think pull off the highway, drive past a couple of fast-food joints, and tell the kids “No way we’re going to Biltmore…we’re turning around and driving back to Dogballs. I just saw a damn Wendy’s!”. Get real.

        And who the hell goes by the Merrimon exit from 240 on their way to Florida? Or to anywhere? That store will be 95% supported by locals. Guaranteed.

        I’m not a big proponent of fast food. Don’t eat it myself. Nasty, on the whole. I just don’t fear it like you do, and feel that having that choice serves a valid and desired service for some folks. If not, the market would dictate that it would not exist.

        Shoot, buddy…it’s a damn shame you have to stoop to name calling after whining on your Facebook page about how much “hate” you are getting here and begging your “friends” from Facebook to get on here and support you. Now you are the one spewing hate? I think maybe you need to take a long ride, clear you head, and spend a little less time being quite so deeply absorbed in your little food-critic sideline.

        It’s not personal, bro. It’s an online blog. It allows people to behave badly at arms-length, as you are obviously aware. Internet? You’re on it. By choice.

        Read my other post above, Stu (if your attention span will get you through it). You’ll see that while I don’t agree with your method or simplistic ideas, I do believe that what you are doing serves a purpose, and can actually achieve a very good end, even if it is largely infantile in its particular manifestation here.

        Feel frèe to rant, Stu…it’s great. Just grow up a little and thicken your skin if you are going to put yourself out there in a public forum spewing insults and generally writing in the manner of a self-absorbed, smug, know-it-all. That posture is fine…just be able to take it if you give it.

        You really should have read my whole comment, and not bothered to respond if you did not. And if you didn’t you certainly should not have led a response by bragging about it…poor form, truly. I think you missed my point, or failed to find the connections. Anyone who labels themselves a “writer” would take the time to do so, I believe. That’s called “doing your research”. Hell, Stu…I read your entire Chick-Fil-A rant and Burgerworx review that started this whole thing, and it was over-long trash. Very entertaining trash, but destined for the landfill nonetheless. It was rough going, but I made it through relatively unscathed.

        Are you joining my fan club now? How sweet!!

        You pal,

        Professor Stupid

      • Forgot to say..I’m so glad I have the week off with time to waste on this. This is an absolute hoot! Like a SouthPark marathon without the clever writing. I might actually have to start paying more regular attention to your nutty ranting going forward. Keep up the good work….I mean, the work.

    • Adrian, calling your support of corporate franchises ‘balance’ is noble, and worth consideration. But the fact is, corporate franchises are not harmless to the community they latch onto.

      You ask, “how does it really hurt you as a local?”
      Do you mean that question or is it rhetorical?

      The jobs supplied are not enough to live on, so their every day life must be subsidized by the local community through social service programs. This money that the corporate HQ saves then goes to building more of these places where more communities have to make up for their low wages.

      The food supplied is comes from places like Tyson farms, and as a RULE never from local agriculture. Please google Tyson farms employment and environmental practices to learn about how this NC based industry treats their migrant workers and the environment.

      Also, the HQ for Chick Fil A is not local, and as a RULE is run by a board of directors that make sweeping decisions that effect all of their restaurants, regardless of their location and the values of the community around them. As a RULE these CEOs and board members are required to make whatever decisions they can to make sure they are making the most money for their investors, even if that means doing things that don’t work for the local communities.

      Gosh, I could go on. Do you really think that corporate Franchises are harmless? They’re just ‘easy’ for people. EASY to get a job there. EASY to drive through, EASY to eat all the time..EASY to afford…but all this EASE is an illusion, it is ease at an expense paid in personal health and community wellness.

      • Thanks Matt…thoughtful and well-reasoned reply, and with very valid points. But I still would disagree with you on the whole. You may be completely correct on all of these. This is, after all, opinion…right? You seem to get that, while many here do not. But I simply feel differently and hold a different stance.

        My arguments:

        1. Corporate fast food neither inherently harms nor helps any given community by its mere presence. It is simply there. Again, I get back to my main issue here…choice. They choose to provide chicken sandwiches and pay low wages. No one is compelled by any force to work there, nor to eat the sandwiches. I would argue that if one takes a low-wage job there and still requires some help from the “social safety net”, then he/she should at least require less assistance (and perhaps gain some self-esteem) since some income stream is now available. Or they could take two part time jobs and take no assistance. Or simply stay home, live on the dole and increase the burden on the safety net. Their choice. And I don’t have to eat the sandwich (and will not…yuck). My choice. And many people who choose to work there are doing so why? Because of choices. Other choices in their life (more education, work experience, etc) might have provided them with a better opportunity and/or more options. Likewise, certain choices (felony conviction, failed drug test) could prevent them from working even at Chick-Fil-A.

        It is not Chick-Fil-A’s job to support or enhance the community. They are a private, franchise business, and their primary job is to make money for the owner, which they do quite well. If no one eats there, they will fail. Simple, no? It IS the job of the local citizenry, local government and certain non-profit and social service entities to “support the community”. Unfortunately, they often come up short, but that is not the fault of Chick-Fil-A, nor any other privately owned businesss concern.

        I would argue that a Chick-Fil-A itself neither helps nor harms the community simply owing to its own nature and its presence. It could do either. Depends on the choices surrounding and shaping the enterprise in a given locale and at a given time.

        2. I know all about Tyson and their ilk. I grew up in eastern NC surrounded by the poultry industry. Yes, it sucks on many counts. But again, choice. I don’t have to support them with my dollars. I can cut out chicken today, or I can double down and eat it at every meal. Another low-wage and, in this case, brutal industry. But ask many chicken-plant workers, and they will tell you they’d rather have that crappy job at Columbia Farms / House of Raeford in Greenville, SC than have no job in Mexico (again…I grew up in Eastern NC, so I’ve actually spoken with some of these folks instead of just reading about them…I count myself fortunate in this regard). And yes…the birds are not treated well. They are a commodity. But this is the nature of the free market. We have commoditized our animal protein, do not treat it well, and are terribly disconnected from the living, breathing creatures which we consume so readily. Efficiency and market forces have dictated that Tyson continues to thrive, because not everyone can afford to eat free-range, gently-killed poultry. Caveat…I may be a little jaded and/or prejudiced here because I grew up eating meat from a freezer full of beef that my family raised. We birthed them, raised them and drove them to the slaughterhouse. It actually makes me feel a little more connected to my food for having had this experience, but it also means that I view the animals which I eat very differently from those which I pet, bathe, take to the vet, love for years, and then humanely euthanize to alleviate their suffering. Hypocrisy? Maybe…dunno. Hard to step back and view oneself clearly in such regards when they originate from such formative experiences, you know?

        3. You are correct…Chick-Fil-A’s headquarters is not local. It in south Atlanta. And the franchise owner may live in Asheville or may not. Dunno. But it is not the mission of this company to return all of their profits to the local communities, and anyone there will tell you that. They will pay local wages, may employ a local landscaper, might hire a local guy to pressure wash the sidewalks and parking lots, may supply a non-profit with free food for volunteers working a fundraiser, etc. But yes…some, and likely most, of the bottom-line profits will flow out of town. And this is just fine. Let me give you an analogy. GE was pretty much universally lauded recently for very significant expansion in western NC (Sweeten Creek Rd facility and the one in West Jefferson). They pay excellent wages (for mostly skilled labor), use local contractors for many things, and are generally a tremendous boon for the local economy. But every quarter, I get a dividend check from GE. That check does not go to some cashier at Ingles just because he happens to live in the area where the plant is located. In order to access the capital markets, grow and sustain operations, and continue providing local jobs, companies have to pay off those who supply the investment capital which sustains them. Which in the case at hand, means a lot of the money from Chick-Fil-A will flow to Atlanta and to the franchisee. As it should. They have taken on a significant risk in establishing and growing a business, and deserve to be rewarded. There are a few admirable souls who start living-wage businesses and are content to make $25K per year for the rest of their lives in order to provide jobs and build community, but they are saints, and rara avis besides. And I would argue that if everyone did business that way, our economy as we know it would crumble in short order, and then we would all be eating organically, because we’d be out of work and foraging.

        Okay…maybe that’s a bit over-the-top, but I think you see my basic point.

        Again, I’m not a fast-food fan, but I simply can’t get the outcry over this new restaurant. Patronize them or don’t. It’s that easy. CIt all comes down to choice, and I’m so glad we all have it.

        By the way, aren’t there two other locations on Tunnel Rd and Hendersonville Rd? Is anyone out front picketing those locations today? If so, I’d be curious to know.

        Thanks again, Matt, for a thoughtful and insightful argument. You may be completely right on all counts. I just choose to disagree. Thank god for the US Constitution, so I can do so in a public forum without fear of retribution for expressing an opinion. And thank god for living in a country where people can lose their marbles over a new Chick-Fil-A opening when there are already two of them in town!

        Have a god one, my man. Pax vobiscum.

      • By the way…does your last name start with a “T” and are you from Vermont? Just curious if you are someone I know.

        • Thanks for thoughtful reply. It helps to know where you’re coming from.
          My last name starts with an M, I haven’t been to Vermont, yet.

  13. Why do you all care what Stu Helm thinks? He wrote one funny review (the 1st one) for some friends that got posted here and he has been irrelevant since. If he really cared about Asheville he would be more proactive in our community. This soapbox Jason has provided him is crumbling. Stu who?

    • 33 (and counting) comments suggests that you are in the minority

    • His followers don’t set the bar very high when it comes to entertainment.

    • Stu who, you’re so funny! You are so obviously all over my tits, it’s a little bit pathetic, but I love it! But, I want you to know, I have a girlfriend already, so I’m not available, sorry! And I have a lot of friends too, so I don’t have room for you there either. Oh well, just keep reading and being my number one super fan, and that’ll work out just great for you!

      Again, I absolutely love it that you’ve named yourself after me. That is the cutest thing I think Ive ever seen in my life.

      Now be honest: does the fact that I’m actually responding to you giving you a boner right now? Even just a tiny one?

      You don’t have to answer that. It was rhetorical. We all know it’s true.

    • Okay, I’m a little fascinated by your fascination with me Stu Jr… er, I mean Stu 2… Dang it! I mean Stu Who?

      So, let me get this straight:

      You read my 1st review and thought it was funny.

      You read my 2nd review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 3rd review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 4th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 5th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 6th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 7th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 8th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 9th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 10th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 11th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 12th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 13th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 14th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      You read my 15th review and didn’t think it was funny.

      And then you read this review and don’t think it’s funny.

      You must really love unfunny and irrelevant food reviews!

      Fascinating.

  14. City “leaders” seem to be hell bent on turning Asheville into just another same-o lame-o non-descript corporate $$$$ town. They need the money badly to carry on with pet projects, but also because they cannot rely on water revenues to inflate the general fund. Charm and uniqueness be damned.

  15. Justin Clark says:

    With regards to HT/Chick Filet and Moe’s properties, in each case the development is increasing the productivity of the land in an inner section of the city. The HT/Chick Filet was an abandoned auto garage, the Moe’s site was a razed residential lot. In each case, we’re building up from basically nothing. It has to be admitted, these developments are a good thing for our region. The economic activity will provide a handful of jobs to the county and a little profit to someone in a wealthier city or state. From an urbanist’s perspective, because most of this land will be covered in asphalt, the improvement will be limited versus its true potential.
    However, this one recognizes that this is a step in the right direction.

    I won’t go so far as to admit they’re not ugly. Trader Joe’s did a decent job with the silly fake windows. HT did not, and it’s down in a pit. Chick Filet’s…. well, a Chick Filet; and Moe’s a Moe’s.

    Additionally, it can certainly be argued that the extra auto traffic brings increased collisions, pollution, noise, and delay. As well, the extra curb cuts will erode pedestrian comfort on an already chilling highway (I’m lookin’ at you, Jus’ Running). These conditions may combine to reduce the neighborhood’s safety, land value, and quality of life.

    A concept I mull from time to time is the use of individual property parking vs. nodal parking garages. Is it wise to continue requiring developments to provide parking, or should the city work to develop garages that could provide access to all of a neighborhood’s business section with ease and comfort, while also freeing up land for more concentrated neighborhood development?

    Either way, I shop at HT. It’s great to have a 24 hour full supermarket so close to home. It makes the neighborhood. If things keep going well, and North becomes the great neighborhood-oriented place it could be, we’ll all still be thanking HT for being so ready to serve for years to come. Or, maybe just remember these “big-box” places aren’t exactly built to last.

  16. All these replies and I still can’t for the life of me figure out why you care what the fuck Stu Helm thinks. Stu who?

    • You wrote one of the replies! Ha ha! That’s hilarious! Don’t you see? YOU wrote one of the replies!!! And that is fucking Hilarious to me!!! I love it.

  17. doghaus28815 says:

    got no complaints about hairy-steeter, (no typo here, quite intentional). yep, it’s a chain. but, so far it’s well-run, super clean, and staffed really well. products are fresh…check out the seafood! and the checkout lines are staffed all the time i have been there. i’m wishing for one in east ashe!

  18. “Non chain store downtown” ? Huh? Jimmy Johns, Mast, Doc Chey’s, Farm Burger, Mellow Mush, Urban Outfitters, Aloft Hotel, not to mention all the national banks. Certainly, far better than any of the shitty drive through fast food places on Merrimon, but not exactly mom and pop either.

  19. You mentioned Clyde’s….at first, I was like, how the hell can a Ashevillian know about Clydes? There are 3 Clydes now…SSM, Kincheloe, and St. Ignace. But at each Clydes’ the same 43 seagulls visit each one.

  20. It interest me that this author states that, “Chick-fil-A and its ilk are neighborhood killers.” Yet gives no support of this. My question is, how is Chick-fil-A a neighborhood killer? It seems that they certainly help neighborhoods by offering employment to those who need jobs as well as local economy stimulus.

    However the author did express this, as if it may have been support for the preceeding statement: “I had always hoped Merrimon would get more foot-and-bike-friendly, but now it looks like it’s going to be more and more car-friendly.”

    So if that is the reason he feels that Chick-fil-A is a neighborhook killer than my only reply is, get off your ass and do something. Perhaps either 1) run for local office or 2) find the funds available to open up something that would encourage foot and bike traffic.

    Yet it remains obvious after reading the entire article that this author is just another Libtard on the bandwagon attacking Chick-fil-A for no apparent reason. As if you take the time you can see there isn’t much difference between the first and second topics of this article other than the apparent attack on Chick-fil-A.

    None the less, cudos Stu Helm for being just another Libtard idiot writing another article that doesn’t make much sense.

    Ciao~

  21. Stu –

    I just fell in love with you and your writing all over again. I grew up in the Sault and am proud to be a Yooper, just 1.5 miles from Clyde’s. That place sets the standard. I was up there this past summer and had to take my kids and wife to the place where great burgers were invented. We ate burgers and watched the freighters go by. Burger bliss.

    Jason W

  22. BURGERWORX is a great burger joint!! The kids and I have been making a bi-monthly jaunt on Friday evenings to BurgerWorx since it opened and Stu is spot-on about the burgers, the fries, and the soda dispenser. My kids love mixing up the flavors. The staff are wonderful, always friendly and helpful, and make the visit a pleasant one. The burgers are definitely the draw for me and the myriad of offerings to put on the burger are an added bonus. Thanks for yet another great article on an excellent restaurant, Stu! Keep it coming!!!

    • burgerworx is amazinnng and their fries too num num num

    • Before Farm Burger came to town, Burgerworx was my fave. I did not feel right going to more upscale restaurants and ordering a burger, and Burgerworx was the only burger joint within the downtown area. I like FB better, but I still go to BW occasionally for old time’s sake.

      They also have the cleanest, best-smelling and most visually attractive bathroom downtown. Well…a few of the posh joints may have better facilities, but I rarely go for posh, so I wouldn’t know.

  23. i absolutely agree. i lived in the jefferson building for a few years and i absolutely loved merrimon back then. i now avoid it at as much as possible. it’s become the i-26 of asheville. also, the legendary comedian, magician & actor, Harry Anderson, used to live right by there. he moved when they built the trader joe’s and harris teeter…. coincidence?…. i think not.
    ; )

  24. That area of Merrimon had a Hardee’s for YEARS before it got replaced by La Caretta which got replaced by Trader Joe’s. Across the street there is a Bojangle’s. Go further up north on Merrimon and there is a Wendy’s which has been there for close to 30 years and a McDonald’s which has been there for 35+ years.

    There’s a Subway and a Jersey Mike’s across the street from that McDonald’s and just down the street from it there is a Bruegger’s Bagels which is in the same building that housed a Pizza Hut since the 1970’s. The same area had a Burger King for many years and back in the 70’s there was a really greasy fast food place called King of the Road in what is now the ABC Store (look for the sign of the Biltmore location of King of the Road prominently displyaed in the Peter Sellers’ Shirley MacLaine movie “Being There”.)

    In short, fast food on Merrimon isn’t anything new. But this really isn’t about fast food in general, is it? This is about specific fast food — Chick-fil-a. But there is some good news! Nobody will be required to eat there!

  25. Plastic Paddy says:

    It does not matter which Chick-fil-a you go in to, it will be clean and the help will be friendly. The food is what the food is and a Chick-fil-a sandwich that I order today will taste just like the first one I had in an Aurora, CO. mall in 1977.

  26. For those of us who head north out of downtown on foot or bike, Broadway is the obvious choice despite the crumbling sidewalks. Then if you need to go farther north, WT Weaver, Murdock, and Kimberly are super friendly too.
    I wish every street could be pedestrian and bike friendly, but using secondary roads and non-direct routes is a pretty good compromise. When someone gets their face shot at by a motorist on Merrimon, I’ll fire up the outrage.. but for now it ain’t too bad.

    • It will only be a matter of time before Broadway “de-volves” into a similar mess…

      The good news (if there is any) is that at least it already is a wider and divided street with larger sidewalks than Merrimon…

      • ashevillain says:

        I’ve always thought that was funny…the street built for more traffic has less and the street built for less traffic has more. Similar issue with Biltmore vs. McDowell.

  27. Chick Fil-A provides convenient parking to go across the road to Plant (now with traffic light) and parking at Moe’s to go to Homegrown could save you making the left turn of death to get across Merrimon.

  28. Vlad Emrick says:

    “Those are actual neighborhoods up in there, Man! They don’t need a bunch of idiots from Dicklick, Indiana and Dogballs, Pennsylvania pulling off of 240 in a steady stream, loading-up on garbage food, and promptly leaving North Asheville with nothing but litter, car exhaust, road rage, and fart clouds.”

    I’d be willing to bet the people who patronize chain restaurants in North Asheville aren’t from Dicklick and Dogballs, but from right here in Buncombe County.

  29. “I’ll just say, that as a former resident of North Asheville for 8 years”

    So you don’t live in North Asheville now?

  30. First. World. Problems.

  31. Subway, Wendy’s, McDonalds, Jersey Mikes, Breuggers, Honeybaked Ham, Atlanta Bread, Dunkin Donuts, Bojangles, Harris Teeter, Fresh Market, (Ingles)Fuddruckers, etc…….. and ChicFilA was the one that did it to ya? I’m pretty sure chains out number ‘non-chains’ and it’s pretty much always been that way. (and I take your measly 8 years (wich evidently makes you native these days) and trump it with a born and raised (in view of beaver lake) of 35+ years.
    Point I’m getting at here is, get of your soap box! Your personal disdain for chicFilA is quite evident, but don’t act like its something new! It’s just a freakin chicFilA so come the fu!k balls down (in your language)

    • Oh, I hate them all, make no mistake about it, Mike, and I have ranted for years about them, individually and as a group. I wrote a long screed against fast food on Ashvegas a few months back. If I had my way, I’d wish them all into the cornfield forever and ever. Fast food culture is a fucked-up mess and I will never ever back down from that stance. The least we can do is try to keep it out of our neighborhoods when we can, and be vocal about it when we can’t stop their encroachment. Harris Teeter, Fresh Market, and Ingles? Those are grocery stores, Mike. My rant is specifically about fast food restaurants, using Chic-Fil-A as my example.

    • And, certainly, “come the fu!k balls down” is not my language. I don’t even know what the fuck that means.

      If you meant to type, “calm the fuck-balls down,” I sympathize with your typo situation, as I am prone to them myself, but I have never used that expression in my life.

  32. william e. carter says:

    You can have your opinions about corporate food. Great that’s what this country is all about. Filthy Mouth needs your burger stuck down it.

    • It never fails: Whenever I write one of my anti-fast food pieces, I get the most hate thrown back at me.

      Why is that? What makes people so dang angry when I trash on Fast Food? Why are they so defensive when it comes to this topic? Why am I the bad guy for speaking my opinion?

      Some of you people have to really assess why that is. For real. It’s a little weird and kind of disturbing.

      I get called everything from “libtard” to “elitist” and worse. I trash a corporate chain, and people trash me personally. Why?

      What is your emotional investment in corporate fast food chains, People?

      It seems like a lot of the haters are not huge supporters of the chains stores, but rather they just seem super-duper angry that I would dare to voice my opinion about them which is that THEY SUCK.

      I don’t get it. I really don’t.

      I will never ever ever waiver from my stance that Fast Food sucks and is a neighborhood killer.

      My evidence (as some idiot called for): LOOK AROUND YOU!!!

      • I think you strike my liberal/elitist labelling nerve with the following: you trash fast food and bring up Fuddruckers and then give a detailed favorable review of Burgerworx in which the description is roughly identical to the process at Fuddruckers or a fast food chain. For almost twice the price, according to your estimate. The subtleties of the food are well described but I seriously doubt there is that much difference in the food quality between Fuddruckers and Burgerworx. Perhaps, but that is your level of study and not mine.
        If I had to water down an answer to your question, it would be highlighted in this particular review.
        I coincidentally happen to agree with the first half of this article but I am under no illusion that I am libtard/elitist for doing so.

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