The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Asheville’

Mellow Mushroom (Asheville Brewery)

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 12, 2009

Well, for those of you following up on my post about the Asheville Brewery for our dinner excursion last night, I have some bad news. We went to the Asheville Brewery for dinner, and couldn’t get seated. We made eye contact with several bartenders and waitresses, and tried to flag down a couple, but no one would come over and seat us! We waited over 5 minutes and decided that, aside from feeling a little insulted, figured if the service was this crappy to get seated, what chance did we have to get decent service to get food!

I feel like I have been uber-critical of service in the last week, as I have had several crummy experiences, but I don’t really think that’s the case. Yes, I am critical, just ask my wife. Things can always be better, and if you’re not looking to idenfiy ways to improve, then you’ll never be able to make smart choices regarding the use of resources TO improve. Being critical isn’t necessarily being mean, it’s identifying shortfalls between current performance and ideal performance. Point being, this week, the service HAS been bad, far worse than any other time I recall; I’m not just being hyper-critical.

So, we left the Asheville Brewery and went looking for somewhere else to dine. Amanda had seen a jovial place as we had cruised town in the morning, and thought it might be a fun place to try, in light of our recent dissappointment. We found ourselves eating at the Mellow Mushroom.
My recommendation: Try it. Aside from the fun environment, they had a great beer selection, and a “crunchy” menu.
Overall: It was a good experience. I would go back, for sure, but I would order something completely different, both to drink and to eat. The food was good, but just wasn’t what I was into. The service was good, but a little out of place for a restaurant decorated with so many neon mushrooms.
Ambiance: Certainly one of the biggest draws of the place. It had a huge outdoor seating area, but temperature was in the low-50s with a quiet breeze, so we sat inside. There was a stuffed-moose mounted on the wall, a wooden grizzly bear, a disco ball with appropriate lighting, all the Christmas lights you could want, even in April, and a 54″ x 42″ dance floor that my wife and I couldn’t figure out. It was a fun looking place, and the servers generally seemed to be in the mood.
Menu: Subs, salads, pizza, and calzones, again. Nothing really all that inspired, for a meat eater like me, but if you were a vegetarian, you were set! I had never seen so many tofu and tempeh dishes in my life. Basically, if they had a meet product, they had its equal in tofu, and again in tempeh. They had a great beer selection, again, with probably 15+ draughts, mostly of local descent.
Something you won’t find on most menus: Aside from the huge assortment of tofu and tempeh, they had a mushroom pizza with portabello, shittake, and button mushrooms which looked great.
Service: Our service was professional and attentive, which seemed almost out of place in this very free-spirited restaurant. Our server was not particularly bubbly, which I would have expected, but was fast, effective, and friendly. We were amazed, after our non-run-in with the Asheville Brewery, how quickly people were acknowledged at the door, and if the hostess wasn’t RIGHT THERE, a server would immediately seat a waiting party. Once again, the efficiency seemed almost out of place, but was much appreciated.
Food: After the large lunch (I was still tasting my chili a little bit), I decide to go with a simple Chef’s salad. It was a little disappointing, really. I think I was analytically in the mood for a simple salad, for all the right reasons; calories, density, etc, but when I got it, it really didn’t hit the spot, and I was looking for something else. Fortunately, Amanda had another calzone (she really likes calzones), and she offered me some, and it was excellent. It had tomatoes and spinach inside, in addition to cheeses and garlic, and was encrusted with some parmessan cheese. It scratched my itch. I also had the Pisgah Pale Ale (Pisgah Brewing Company, Black Moutain, NC, certified organic beer). It was good, but honestly, it was served about 2-3 degrees too warm for me to REALLY enjoy it. It’s on my list to try again, though. It was my first organic beer, and while it threw me a little bit, it had all the makings of an excellent beer. Amanda had the Pyramid Apricot (Seattle, WA), which I hadn’t had in several years, and it was very tasty, too. All this, for another ~$25. Didn’t think we could complain about that!
50 Broadway
Asheville, NC 28801

Mellow Mushroom Pizza on Urbanspoon

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Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 11, 2009

As we drove around Asheville at 2 pm, we realized it had been several hours since we had eaten. We were hungry. With so many options in downtown Asheville, how were we to choose? Amanda found the Asheville Brewery and Pizza place, and as we swung by, it looked awfully closed. Sure enough, they WERE closed, but opened at 4 pm. Wonderful, we had our dinner plans. I do like a good local brewery. But what about lunch? As we got back in the car and bumped back into downtown (the brewery is a small handful of blocks out of downtown), Amanda said it was MY job to select our lunchtime eatery. Well, at the next light, I saw Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria. THAT was our lunching spot.


My recommendation: If you’re in Asheville, try it. It was good food, with a wide assortment of tastes, and a great draught beer selection. If you don’t set your hopes really high, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Overall: Worth every nickel. I had a hard time selecting a beer, as they had over 25 on tap, mostly domestic, with a very large selection of NC beers, most of which I had never heard. The food was pretty good, too.

Ambiance: The restaurant was an appliance store in the 1920s. It has nice tall ceilings, and a lot of “attractive” wood paneling. It’s shooting for a “modern” German restaurant look. Not “modern” like I commented about the Crave Dessert Bar, where you’d expect to pay $12 for a martini, just because the stem of the glass helix-shaped, but “modern” in the sense that the beer wasn’t actually sitting in a barrel out back, but rather in some chiller in a keg. Otherwise, it’s like any other pub.

Menu: Pizza, Calzones, Sandwiches, and Pitas. The toppings list, available for almost any item on the menu, was the interesting part. It was clearly catering to the “crunchy” crowd that inhabits Asheville, and included pineapple, squash, spinach, and black beans. Not that any of these things are odd, in and of themselves, but black beans on my pizza would be different.

Something you won’t find on most menus: Fiddlesticks. The restaurant makes its own sourdough from scratch every day, from unbleached, unbromated flour. Fiddlesticks look, on the surface, like french fries, but are sticks of the sourdough, cut into strips, dipped in spicy/sweet sauce, and lightly fried, then served with blue cheese and peppercorn ranch sauces. They were a served a little cold, but were very good.

Service: Standard, run-of-the-mill service. The waitress was nice, took care of everything, and things came out in a reasonably timely manner. She made no mistakes, but made pleasant smalltalk.

Food: We saw they had calzones, so we decided to split a calzone (mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, butter, sourdough crust), and added mushrooms, black beans, and “beefalo” (a low fat, no hormone beef) to the calzone. I had a “cup” of chili and we shared the previously-mentioned “fiddlesticks.” I say “cup,” because it came in a bowl. It was a smallish bowl, but a bowl nonetheless. Had I known, I probably would have skipped the calzone, which was also huge, so as not to have to have brought my half of the calzone home (which is now sitting in our hotel’s fridge). Everything was above average, noting the cold fiddlesticks, and the meal was very well priced, including the beer, for ~$25.

42 Biltmore
Asheville, NC 28801

Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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Asheville, NC – Great Place to See.

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 11, 2009

My wife and I have TALKED about doing more weekend traveling since we arrived in Charlotte, 18 months ago, but we just haven’t gotten around to it. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had plans to go to Charleston, and never ended up booking the hotel. It’s a bummer. Last night, we decided going to going to Asheville this weekend and seeing the Biltmore Estate would be a larf. So, we booked a hotel, and got up this morning to come see what Asheville has to offer.

Cost: ~$80 (see below) per night

Room: Big. We got the nicest(most expensive) room in the hotel. If you’re not familiar with Rodeway Inn, it’s a part of the Choice Hotels group. I’m a Diamond member (2 years running) and I generally stay in Choice Hotels religiously. Mostly because they are consistently good (not great), and include all the amenities I want in a hotel. See my other blog for my law of hotel value, for more on hotel amenities.

Anyway, the Rodeway in is at the bottom of the barrel for the Choice Hotels, with the exception of maybe the Suburban hotel chain, and MAYBE Econo Lodge. Amanda read some great reviews about the hotel though; not that the hotel was “awesome” but how it consistently outperformed the cheap and dirty perception that the Rodeway has. So, we decided to give it a try, but as a bit of insurance, we got a king suite. The room was great; flat screen tv, refrigerator, microwave, king bed, sleeper sofa, desk, free wi-fi. Perhaps more importantly, the room looked as if it’s consistently cleaned well. For $80, it’s a good deal. They had rooms from $54 (AAA rate), but with 2 queens, no sofa bed. I will definitely consider the Rodeway again, but I will be just as hesitant, as I think this might be a geographic fluke.

Cost: ~$50 per person
Thoughts: We haven’t made our way to the Biltmore house, proper, yet. Today we did the winery and farm. It was great. I had heard lacklustre comments about the Biltmore Estate. Nothing particularly specific, but just generally, “It’s not all that.” Well, I don’t know that I’ll call what I saw today “all that,” but I will definitely return. The winery was nice, but it wasn’t guided, and we waited almost 40 minutes to get to take the “self-guided” tour. Having a guided tour would have been nice, as you basically just saw the wine fermenters, the barrel storeroom, and a bunch of ribbons they have acquired (assumably won) over the course of the winery, which is about 25 years. The farmyard was fun, basically a very small petting zoo. Having spent a little time on a farm growing up (my grandfather still lives on his farm, which he worked his whole adult life), and having a couple friends with less than 10 digits, I am always a little hesitant at petting live farm animals, but Amanda seemed to have a good time.
Tomorrow we’re going to the house, which we drove by today and were subsequently impressed (175,000 sf). We’ll also hit the gardens and conservatory. We’re not sure what to expect on Easter Sunday, but we need to get in some good walking and work up an appetite for the Melting Pot tomorrow night.

Cost: Whatever you spend shopping
Thoughts: We were really impressed. I knew there was a little downtown area in Asheville, and as we drove by the two city blocks next to the Biltmore, decorated like a 14th-century village, I thought we’d seen it all; but no! There is a significant downtown area. If you have been to Boulder, CO, or Ann Arbor, MI, you’ll see several similarities. Small stores, with almost no chains. Folks in button downs and folks in camouflage, strolling down the street. Clearly the area was very dog friendly. An eclectic mix of shops made lined the streets for several, several blocks, and not just on the “main street,” but as you got off main street, for multiple blocks, the fun, downtown environment proceeded. It was wonderful. We drove around for 20 minutes before we found a nice place to eat. See my entry on Barley’s Taproom. We also found the Asheville Brewery, which we’ll hit for dinner tonight. I try to exploit every opportunity to go to a new brewery.

Overall: So far, and I’ll edit this post tomorrow, this has been a wonderful short excursion from Charlotte. The town has a small feel, but clearly has some bustling industry. The people have been friendly, and the price has been right. I hope tonight and tomorrow is just more of the same.

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