5 Riverside Drive is not the easiest place to find. It was on one of those roads winding along a river. When it comes to hunting and foraging I’m pretty tenacious and we wanted these ribs in a fierce way. A less committed person (like a man) may have given up or not attempted the mission at all without the aide of GPS. We smelled the aroma before we rounded the last bend finding The 12 Bones Smokehouse, Asheville, NC and we were full of great expectation. I was feeling a bit disheveled after spending the day exploring the nearby waterfalls, being exposed to a fine mist in addition to it being a cloudy, drizzling kind of day.
There’s so much to decide but with the guidance of a staff member we ordered the blueberry-chipotle and brown sugar dry rub ribs, along with BBQ brisket, jalapeno cheese grits, mashed sweet potatoes, corn pudding and a wedge salad. We planned to cart off enough food to feed a small army back at the house. I started to wander around following the wait staff bringing food out to some tables. I was trying nonchalantly to snap a few pictures of these plates while my daughter kept giving me the cut it out sign and patted the barstool. She accused me of behaving like a Japanese tourist taking pictures of every fart and fiddle I passed by.
Like an obedient mother, I climbed up on the stool and perused the beer menu perplexed as I am not much of a beer drinker.The bar guy come over to take our beer order and I couldn’t help notice how ruggedly adorable he was. I asked him if any of his beers were similar to Blue Moon. He gave me a crooked smile and a little attitude as he said, “ How about the Wit beer, as long as you can drink it without the orange.” I know when I’m being ridiculed (he’s thinking who is this Yankee chick that’s going to be all high maintenance)? I flashed him my most provocative smile and slid my SassTown.com business card over the bar to him and pretended like I always socialized so smoothly.
Somehow in a few minutes I had raised his opinion of me and he became engaging, interested and the man could definitely talk and work at the same time. My quiet prodding yielded the info I was burning for. Despite their fame from winning Good Morning America’s “Best Bites” award, a much publicized visit from then candidate Obama, and their popularity with the locals, the profit driven marketeer in me couldn’t help wonder about their limited hours of business. Turns out it is a combination of business philosophy, lack of space for expansion and their location in a warehouse district which isn’t very populated after work hours.
To top off the perfect find of great food at a good price our new friend also gave us the hottest in the know tip for the food adventurer that I have ever gotten. He very casually inquired if we had ever been to The Admiral in West Asheville? As we had not, we were informed about this non touristy hole in the wall place where some interesting drink and incredible food could be had. We were hooked and put it on the planner for the next evening. Back at my Dad’s place we enjoyed our booty from 12 Bones Smokehouse and fed 8 people plus had leftovers for $99. Everything about the food was fully satisfying to this here Yankee.
The following evening after a day of family fun we made our excuses and hit the West Asheville area in search of The Admiral. It is a more crusty side of town, not the area tourists are regularly routed too. It is more like the working man’s business area, peppered with dive bars, a lumber yard, auto repair garages and a lot of small independent businesses. The very small parking lot was full, so we had to street park a few blocks down. I felt slightly uneasy walking back to The Admiral because I’m a weenie when it comes to wandering in unfamiliar areas that are a little bit gritty. Using a little common sense we were perfectly fine, but I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a crowd was going to be inside the place.
I couldn’t have imagined it. Entering the dive bar chic establishment I pretended to be totally confident (you know the fake it until you make it philosophy) as we walked through the dimly lit table area and on up to the bar. I couldn’t help but notice the table full of biker looking fellas I had to squeeze past on my way. Despite my sassy sundress they didn’t seem to give me one bit a notice as they were too busy enjoying food that was definitely incongruous with the surroundings. I’m talking about grilled scallops over jasmine rice, rib eye steak with perfectly roasted and crisp fingerling potatoes, delicate frog legs and a delicious looking fish sandwich on ciabatta with an arugula salad on the side. At the next table an older trio were looking thoroughly satisfied with a concoction I later learned were the best Pub style bangers and mash.
We made our way to some seats at the bar next to the open kitchen where everyone was moving at a pretty fierce clip you don’t see all the time in the south. Our bartender was striking in a I don’t wear much make up kind of way (damn her)and quickly sold us on the special cocktail of the night: Watermelon-basil elixir with ginger, lime and citron Stoli. Holy mama it was the kind of drink that could lead the most straight laced gal astray, arriving home missing her panties. And looking around at the crowd I’m sure there were more than a few males that would have been very obliging to any hanky panky we could have suggested.
Despite the most eclectic looking group of patrons it was a completely satisfying evening with enough going on to keep me interested but nothing alarming. After an hour some of the middle aged diners left and a bit more of a rabble rousing 30ish crowd trickled in. Tattoos, denim and t-shirts were the common denominator. We chatted with the staff and quietly observed the most unpretentious bar serving up some seriously bad ass food (meaning Anthony Bourdain kind of good).
The small plate of sliced breast of duck on top of what was described as gazpacho of edamame and just picked jewel tomatoes proved to be a downright sultry experience. Shortly before we left one of the staff sat down at the bar beside me doodling over the plain photo copied menu and I politely inquired if they were changing up the menu. Chef Drew as it turns out, laughed and said he tweaked the menu daily according to his whims and what they scored at the farmer’s market .
About the only complaint I could find in the subsequent reviews of the place is that you never know what’s going to be on the menu and if you are silly enough to fall in love with a particular item you may be disappointed if it disappears for a time before it shows back up. Definitely worth a walk on the wild side.