Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Asheville Eats

I hope this post finds you all well and happy after celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah.  I'm sure everyone has had their fill of other people's holiday tweets, Facebook posts and photo sharing, so I'm not going to do that to you.

Instead, I want to tell you about a little restaurant we checked out while in Asheville over the holiday.   My sister Katherine took us to Universal Joint.  What a cool, cute, funky little place!  It's totally got the kind of vibe that gets me and Neil going.  It's an old gas station building that has been turned into a local microbrew and sandwich shop.  There are photos of what the place looked like in the old days as a gas station and the garage's roll-up doors are still in place.  The garage contains a bar, tables and displays a chalkboard with a pretty extensive list of microbeers.  We chose to eat in the garage.  There is also outdoor seating available.

The menu is fresh, simple and well rounded.  You can see a copy of it on http://www.urbanspoon.com or at the restaurant's website.  We'll start with mine:  I chose the U Joint burger.  I'm pretty critical of burgers.  This one passed my tests easily.  First, it was flavorful meat that was not overcooked.  That's right, it still had some juice left in it!  The tomato was ruby red, romaine was crisp and the bun wasn't out of a plastic Sunbeam bag.  The accoutrements were what attracted me to the U Joint.  Topped with diced, fresh jalapeno, monterey jack cheese, beautiful bacon and ranch.  The ranch came on the side which allowed me to see it.  I didn't ask, but I'm pretty positive it was homemade.  It tasted light and fresh and completely non-bottled.  The burger was accompanied by a nice garlicky pickle which is just perfect in my opinion.  And to complete the dish, I chose TATER TOTS.  Now, come on!  You gotta love any place that serves tater tots.  And, to make it even better...they were perfectly crispy and properly salted.   I was giving my lunch a huge thumbs up even though I could only eat 1/2 of the hamburger.

As it arrives, I'm liking what I'm seeing

The U Joint: gotta do some serious squishing to get it to fit in your mouth!

Neil went the "what on Earth is that like?"  route and ordered the smoked N.C. trout reuben.  Yes, I said reuben.  It was just that.  Sauerkraut, Russian dressing, rye bread and lots of smoky fresh fish.  I was skeptical, I have to admit.  But, I tried it and was very pleasantly surprised.  Neil's final assessment?  He said it was better than a regular reuben. He chose the spinach salad as his side.  It was a nice bowl of baby spinach leaves, cucumber, red onion and grape tomatoes.  I love it when a salad is offered as a side.

This gets the "it's just so crazy it might work" award

My brother-in-law, Darren, ordered the mushroom & swiss burger.  His was like mine in that it was a big, fresh hamburger on that same nice bun, only his was covered with a generous ration of mushrooms under melty Swiss cheese.  It must have been pretty damn good because once he took that first bite, we didn't hear a word out of him until it was all gone.

Nice cheesy mushroom burger with tots

My sister Katherine went with the gyro.  She and I can be pretty critical of Greek food because we grew up with a lot of Greek people and we cook Greek food in our homes, using their recipes.  It was served with the tzatziki on the side.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to sample her sandwich but Katherine said it was good.  I couldn't get much out of her because she was tending to my beautiful nine-month-old niece as she was trying to eat.  Those of you with kids understand.  She got parmesan fries as her side item.  The fries were very well cooked and the sprinkling of parm gave them a nice little something extra.

The gyro with parmesan dusted fries

Universal Joint is my kinda joint.  Cool, eclectic atmosphere combined with fresh, well-prepared food and great beer.  When you are in Asheville, I'd suggest you check it out.  I know I'll be going back there. 

Universal Joint on Urbanspoon

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