navigating the normal




Pulled Pork Burrito
For years, I have eyed the tiny restaurant nestled in the corner of a strip mall between a laundromat and music shop. I finally seized the opportunity to eat at the tiny Mexican food place when a friend and I were headed to Heartless Bastards at Isis. Wondering what we could do dinner, we wanted something casual but would provide more excitement than the over-priced and underwhelming options along that section of Haywood Road. Bandido’s was the perfect solution!

Like so many other establishments in Asheville, the service isn’t great. There is one server who seems to attend the entire floor. But that’s alright. The place is super casual and cheap. And delicious. These things, in my humble opinion, outweigh the average sevice. My friend and I both ordered the pulled pork burrito. It’s enough food for two meals. In the subsequent two times I’ve been since, I cut the burrito in half and automatically put it to the side to take it home and eat it later. The accoutremonts are also good. The guacamole is chunky and flavorful. The chips are doused if not in actual Old Bay, an Old Bay-like seasoning. The sangria was tart but tasty.

The menu is small but has many delicious looking entrees. I just can’t help but continue ordering the pulled pork burrito. But for an $8 burrito, free chips, and even two or three outdoor tables, Bandido’s is definitely in my rotation of approved places to eat.


The Hawaiian

Breakfast at City Bakery
My relationship with City Bakery has a complicated past. I used to hate. Now, however, I adore it. So I guess not all that complicated. It’s one of my favorite breakfasts in town because I now know what to order: the Hawaiian sandwich and the cinnamon roll. Also, their coffee is just good (it’s roasted by Dynamite) and their baristas are some of the few in this town that understand the meaning of “dry cappucino.” Don’t bother with the random selection of cupcakes or pies in the bakery case. Stick to City Bakery for these two breakfast delights!

Let me describe to you their Hawaiian breakfast sandwich layer-by-layer. First (and my most important) is the soft, sweet Hawaiian bun. It’s followed by big chunks of avocado, thick slices of bacon, sharp swiss cheese, layers of ham, and an aoli. There are so many things about this sandwich that I’m normally not into. I don’t like superfluous bacon. I tend to find swiss cheese bland. Aoli is rarely needed on anything. But the sum of this sandwich is so much greater than its parts. This isn’t a cheap sandwich either, but it’s worth it.

Pro tip: Get an egg added to it.

I’ve gone back and fourth on City Bakery’s cinnamon roll. I used to proclaim West End Bakery’s cinnamon roll  the best in town. Not anymore. The cinnamon-sugar to bread ratio is simply not adequate. It’s too dry. The City Bakery cinnamon roll, however,  gets better with every bite. It’s made of a phillo-like dough: flakey but substantial. The more you peel off, the gooeyier (gooeier?) it gets. When you’re done eating it, you know you’ve just done something very bad, but it tasted so good.

Pro tip: Get it warmed up in the toaster.

The Queen City

Charlotte, North Carolina
When taking a daytrip most people think to get out the city of Charlotte and head to the great outdoors of Asheville. Because I do things a little differently, I’ve been taking day trips to Charlotte over the past few months–to get out of town, to see shows, to meet up with the bestie. Charlotte certainly isn’t anywhere I want to live–ever. But it certainly has its fair share of food, drink, and entertainment. It is a quick two hours down the mountain, and like a pig on the truffle hunt, I can root out the places worth spending your money and time.

The first lesson you learn when trying to hike in one of the flattest areas of the state is that CrowdERs is crowdED. And of course it is! It’s the closest state park to the largest metropolitan area in North Carolina. It’s a touch uphill climb to the summit of Crowders Mountain State Park. Once you summit, you can start making your way down and through the miles of other trails in the park. Here’s a useful hiking analogy: state park hiking is to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom as national park hiking is to an actual African safari. All danger and surprise and hard work has been removed from state park hiking, but it’s still there and it still exists to appreciate the real thing and offer something to those who don’t have the ability or desire to do the real thing. Regardless of its complexity (or lack thereof), I enjoyed the views of the Charlotte sky line. And all the green. I’m so happy all the green is back. Welcome to summer!

Crowder’s Mountain State Park is an excellent place to be outside. The trails and trailheads are marked well. You can craft your own path to go as short or as long as you would like.

During my colder-months venture when hiking wasn’t an appealing option, Ikea was my method of steps accumulation. I hate shopping. Except at Ikea. We used to trip it five hours to the Woodbridge Ikea before it finally came to Charlotte seven years ago. So a two hour drive to hang out at Ikea for a minimum of three hours ain’t bad.

Beyond hiking around a mountain and a massive Swedish retailer, there’s plenty to eat and drink in the Queen City. My favorite places I found to drink were Birdsong Brewing Company and Bulldog Beer and Wine. The beer, the outdoor space, and the barrels of peanuts at Birdsong won me over. It really doesn’t take much more than those three elements for me to call a brewery a success. Bulldog was a little divey with cornhole (ugh), darts (yay!), popcorn (hell yes), and Foothills Jade. They also had a Ballast Pointe (I heart San Diego beers) Mango IPA.

I did not enjoy The Olde Mecklenberg Brewery. It’s not my scene, and I didn’t like the beer. They had no pale ales or IPAs. The closest they came was a pilsener. It wasn’t even a good pilsener. The place had a good outdoor space, but it was full. If Crowders Mountain is the Disney World of parks, then Olde Meck is the Ghost Town in the Sky of breweries.

A quick rundown of the food and a note about paying it forward. The salted caramel brownie at Amelie’s is decadent and delicious. It’s open 24 hours, which is the best part. Late dessert is the best dessert. The Common Market was a great place to chill with a beer and a sandwich–regardless of the Bernie stickers peppered everywhere. Perhaps they’ll change them out to Hillary soon. Little Spoon was just alright. They served their coffee in bowls and their bacon tasted more like pork chops than bacon. It was too expensive, and the cinnamon toast I make at home was leaps and bounds better.

After my hike at Crowders, I headed to Price’s Chicken Coop. Fried chicken. Potato rounds. Cole slaw. Hush puppies. Merita roll. Sweet tea. There was a lot, and it was hot. In a white to-go box, I sat on the street corner with my tiny packet of ketchup for the mound of potatoes and grease dripping down my hands from the juicy wings and breast. Price’s is a take-out establishment. It is also a cash-only establishment. I had none, but a very nice man named Victor offered to buy my lunch for me. He asked me to pay it forward. When I get the opportunity, I most certainly will.

Charlotte gets all the shows. And sometimes we must go to the music when the music does not come to us. This year that included Santigold and X Ambassadors at the Fillmore. The venue is bigger than I’m used to with the Orange Peel (and basically any other venues I elect to see concerts at), but you simply can’t discount it because they book everyone. It’s not a bad venue.



AVL Date: Yoga, Burgers, & Beer

A $20 Date Idea!
Last night I went on a fabulous date with three people whom I love dearly. We drank beer; we ate the best burger in town; we made plans for the future. And it cost less than twenty bucks.

It started with a little exercise and ended with a lot of indulgence. My favorite yoga class in town is Michael Greenfield’s Warm Vinyasa Flow at Asheville Community Yoga. It’s a sliding scale where you can choose what you want to pay from $5 to $15. It’s the best workout in town. You leave hot, wet, and healed.

From there, head to the Bull and Beggar. Only on Monday night they offer a $6 burger with a purchase of a drink. It can be any drink a beer, wine, Coke, or even one of their homemade sodas. If there aren’t seats at the bar, put your name on the list and head to The Wedge.

An Ironrail Rail at the Wedge will only set you back $3.50 before tip. Tip people! Absolutely the cheapest, yet tastiest, IPA in town.

Then get cozied up the bar back at Bull and Beggar. People. This is absolutely the best burger in this town. It’s like if In-N-Out’s Animal-style decided to be high art instead of lowbrow fast food. There’s melty cheese and caramelized onions atop two thing and perfectly (read: medium rare) cooked hamburger patties. The bread and butter pickles shoved in are sweet and tangy. The fries that come with are perfectly crunchy and salty.

Do it all on a warm, cloudless spring evening. This is what it’s about.

PS: To all the single dudes out there…the first time I did this excursion, the bar at Bull and Beggar was brimming with ladies. Not one man in the bunch. Looked like an excellent place to pick up the fabulous women of this town–eating burgers and drinking beer.

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