Merrimon Avenue is Patton Avenue’s generally nicer younger brother. While you will age two to three years at any point that you decide to take a left on Merrimon, once you actually start moving, it’s generally a decent pace. Compare that to Patton, where my crumbled skeleton resides at the traffic lights beside The Rush, withered from the starvation that occurred waiting for it to turn green (this is being written by a ghost), when you deal with Merrimon, you have a usually pleasant drive.
At the bottom of Merrimon Valley, an untamed place marked by a turn that will lead you to the University of Asheville, some haunted buildings, and a frozen yogurt place, sits Luella’s Bar-B-Que. From the outside, Luella’s looks like the kind of Bar-B-Que place that you’d imagine trudging to in three feet of snow, desperate for shelter. It seems to glow brown and gold, and the sign in front has a pig on it, because the best way to get yourself prepared to eat something is to see what it looked like when it could still walk.
I’ve been burned by barbecue places before, which is surprising since North Carolina is known for its transcendent barbecue experiences, barbecue so good that you get in annoying arguments with people from Texas about it. I have not had that many experiences, since most of the barbecue restaurants I’ve been to are named things like Aunt Grandma’s Homestyle Countriest Country Kitchen, and the only thing you get out of your visit is learning what a stale bun tastes like when it’s been bathed in microwave sweat. It doesn’t help that each of these places is built like someone took a shrink ray to the frame of an Ingles. If I wanted to experience what a pork dinner was like when you’ve put me in a sweltering former Dairy Queen (but future dentist’s office,) I’d have more picnics in furniture stores.
As soon as I pulled into the place, I knew that I was going to enjoy it. Little kids were hula-hooping outside, while their parents talked, waiting for their last names to be called so that they could be seated. I was then struck by the notion that when the apocalypse finally hits, and Asheville is a wasteland, where cloaked figures offer you nuked, grass fed beef in exchange for craft beer bottle cap currency, this is the same sight that I will see – little kids hula hooping freely in parking lots. It’s how The Road Warrior would’ve turned out if I had written The Road Warrior from the driver’s seat of my car at Luella’s Bar-B-Que.
I ate there with my friend Colin, a man I know from his beard. I hate to objectify his rugged male form, and for refusing to see him for anything above or below his chin and neck, but I couldn’t tell you what Colin’s face looks like. One day, Colin will pull off a hat and reveal that, under the shadow of its brim, he was an alligator the whole time, and I will only be surprised for long enough to accept the fact that alligators can grow beards. Then, I’ll probably be devoured.
I decided to go with the standard dinner choice, the benchmark of all meals: the chopped barbecue sandwich, with hushpuppies, water, and mac & cheese. I know that there are more restaurant critic-friendly choices than mac & cheese, but I’m a large child. If they had an option to add a Batman bib to the meal, and a birthday song, I would’ve asked for two.
The barbecue didn’t disappoint. They didn’t give me any bullshit about whether the barbecue was “tomato” or “vinegar” based, because what that usually means is that I’m going to end up deciding whether I want two or one bites of my sandwich, respectively. The whole plate was just solidly cooked, and, in the case of the sandwich and the mac & cheese, some of the best I’ve had since I moved to Asheville. I didn’t mention the hushpuppies, because it’s hard to fuck up hushpuppies. Hushpuppies are something that you order when you know that both your hands and your mouth are going to get bored before the entrée comes, and you have enough excess butter on the table to make them an option.
Also, they get a 4 out of 5 stars on the whiskey sour scale, losing a star because it was a little too sour. I try to get a whiskey sour at any place that will serve them, because, one day, I’d like to rate every whiskey sour in the world. It’s a pipe dream, but I know that if there’s any part of my body that will go the distance for the advancement of mankind, it’s my liver.
In conclusion, Luella’s Bar-B-Que is rad. Eat there.
(This is the first in my line of “Asheville Reviews.” I’d like to write more about the city I live in, in the style that I usually write.)