A big thanks to Nick and Rochelle, for getting out there and providing great food coverage on their trip.
-The Food Monster
previous posts can be found on Greensboro, NC and New York, NY
As you may have noticed, I am not often inspired by something enough to write about it. Today was one of those occasions that inspired me. I was out walking around downtown Asheville with my good friend Matt Shepard. He suggested a turn down a side street and led me into a door on our right to grab a light bite to eat and a beer. The place we went into was called The Vault, located at #7 Rankin Ave. in downtown Asheville. I suggest you go and find it for yourself. Few are the times that so many pleasing aspects can be found in one bar (they refer to themselves as a cocktail lounge, but any restaurant would be proud to serve their fare). The decor was just classy enough to remain playful in it’s art decor style without trying too hard or being pretentious. The sidewalk out front extends out into the street to make a great outdoor seating area, and had me wishing that it was spring so I could sit out late into the evening drinking 20 oz pint after pint. There is very pleasant afternoon light in this place because the whole front wall is made of glass block, which if I had heard about I would have thought would be cheesy, but in fact is not at all cheesy. The french onion soup I had, however, was cheesy in the best of ways. Top notch soup. Anyone can make french onion soup and anyone can slather it with bad cheese. This was not any cheese, though. It was excellent. The combo of the half crisp half soup-drenched croutons and the subtle smokiness of the cheese was spot on. At $4 it was also a steal. However, the soup is not what inspired this posting. It was the beer…….and the service. Matt slid up to the bar and exchanged some small talk with the bartender Dustin, and upon hearing that they had Valdez Coffee Stout, promptly ordered two.
I break the paragraph here to further accentuate the following statement:
The people at Pisgah Brewing Co. in Black Mountain N.C. know how to make beer.
At least stout. Pisgah Brewing Company‘s Valdez Coffee Stout is without a close second the best coffee stout I have ever had. It is not at all the sickly sweet that I have come to expect when I’m presented with a coffee stout. This is truly what coffee stout is meant to be. A cross between the taste of fine malt, and good coffee, lightly hopped and ever so slightly nutty. Not Folger’s. Good coffee. Those of you that know me will understand the gravity of the those two words used together.
Our very reasonably priced ($5) 20 oz. pints of Valdez were served to us by a seasoned professional. Dustin, who is a local artist, is one of those bartenders from the old days when bartenders made you feel at home - like you were in your own living room, and he just happened to be there making you drinks. He was attentive, present and put me totally at ease from moment one. He also made the apt comment that if he didn’t work there five nights a week, he would still be there nearly as much because the place is great and they are virtually giving their excellent food away. Actually they are giving the food away. A sign on the wall behind the bar reads:
At this point if you are reading this and you are less than a 3 hour drive from Asheville, you should be lacing up your shoes and heading out the door, calling good-bye to whoever isn’t moving fast enough to keep up.
In addition to a visit to The Vault Cocktail Lounge (www.rankinvault.com) I strongly suggest you head over to Black Mountain (a short drive east) and check out Pisgah Brewing Company (www.pisgahbrewing.com), who are after only a few short years in operation putting out beer that I forecast will shortly be receiving national acclaim. Their taproom is open Tuesday thru Friday and if the rest of their organic beer is as good as what I had today……… well let’s just say if you come this week, you’ll likely see me there.
On a return visit to the Vault (after hearing my review Chelle wanted to see the place) I discovered why it has the name Rankin Vault. I was so taken with the beer and the soup last time I didn’t really get a chance to look around. This time I did and it seems that the lounge is part of what used to be an old bank building. It has a huge vault in the back that has been turned into a private room with a big screen TV, couches, and curtains that remind me a bit of twin peaks or vaudeville. Sort of otherworldly in it’s quietness too. Definitely worth checking out.