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Best of Hendersonville 2009

Hendersonville is getting big enough now that it really should have its own best-of list separate from Asheville's. Here are my top picks (based on eight years of living here) along with what they do best...

1. West First Wood-Fired Pizza (for salads, thin crust pizza, and pasta)
2. Flat Rock Village Bakery (for muffins, scones, breads, and other wood-fired goodies)
3. One Love Jamaican (for collards, corn bread, Jerk Chicken, Oxtail stew...hell, it's ALL good)
4. Umi (for sushi)
5. Flight (for wood-fired meats and various yummy dipping sauces)
6. Papa's & Beer (for tortas and tacos--though I still think the one on Brevard Road is better)
7. Blue Water (for fish and shellfish)

Pending: Never Blue (have only been once and it was just "okay"), Square 1, Mountain Deli, and Vue.

What else have I missed, guys?

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  1. You are SO RIGHT about #1 and #2. We're fortunate to have Scott and Dave in this area!

    1 Reply
    1. re: rupertpiper

      Here, here! And please give One Love a shot, too, if you haven't. It is a treasure, and the owners SUPER nice.

    2. Been trying think what mine would be.....here goes. No particular order.

      1. West First - yes, yes, yes, It's just ALL great. add to your list, their mussels/sauce are really good too. might just be the sauce that makes them so good, but I swear I could suck it up with a straw. served with Flat Rock Bakery bread?? HELLO!
      2. Never Blue - tapas, cocktails, and dessert. We have eaten there a zillion times and it's always been excellent. Note, the woman/co-owner who does the desserts is VERY pregnant, so I don't think she is actually baking most things right now (they have taught others how to do most desserts offered currently). She is due in early October, so I plan to revisit the desserts after that. :)
      3. Umi - for sushi
      4. Blue Water Seafood (they have good specials too, like All you can eat stuff)
      5. Mean Mr. Mustard - for lunch (twists on old favorites) and Sunday brunch.
      6. Inn on Church - for good porch sit. can be noisy from traffic, but is still VERY pleasant - also their prices seem much lower now
      7. Vue - for wine bar - great atmosphere and wine, knowledgeable staff, food was pricey, but haven't tried dinner there yet, heard good things - wish they'd get that rooftop bar open!! haha!
      8. Papas 'n' Beer - Mexican - not much atmosphere (191 one is better), but great everything else
      9. Flat Rock Bakery - muffins, scones, breads and sandwiches are great too (same folks as West First)
      10. Hannah's - pub food

      Pending: Back Room at Flat Rock Wine Shoppe (just haven't been there yet), Flight (don't care for their sometimes holier than thou attitude, but their food is good), Sq 1 (had a very so-so experience, would like to try again)

      7 Replies
      1. re: Scirocco

        Thanks for your list--and the reminder that I need to try Mr. Mustard! Have you tried Mt. Deli yet?

        1. re: Jeff C.

          No, but I'm thinking a friend has mentioned it recently and liked it?? I think the only complaints I heard early on was that they were somewhat limited in choice, but that was right after they opened. I don't eat out for lunch very often, so haven't gotten there yet.

          And fwiw, I also like One Love, but last time we went it was only ok and service was, well, very Jamaican, mahn. :)

          1. re: Scirocco

            Hmmm...even the best places have off-nights, but I've been about eight times now (for lunch and dinner) and have never had a bad experience.

            1. re: Jeff C.

              My teen son and I went to Mad Mr. Mustard's yesterday (Sunday) and had a great time. As Lennon/Beatle fans, we didn't mind the wait. Lots of art and collectibles to gaze upon. I had the special, Salmon Diane -- potato cake, salmon fillet and spinach on thick toast w/poached egg and a kicky brandy-cream sauce. Would have liked a tad more sauce, but didn't feel deprived. Son loved his open-faced Reuben, as big as his plate, loaded with kraut and drizzled w/1000 Island. Also have to mention the service -- busy, after-church crowd, but the staff stayed relaxed, quick and very friendly. We liked the place very much.

              1. re: kathleen purvis

                Sounds promising--consider it added to my "to-do" list!

                1. re: kathleen purvis

                  Went to MMM today. Had a great sandwich. Bob was playing music.

            2. re: Jeff C.

              I finally got to Mtn Deli on the small plate crawl and thought my corned beef sandwich was really good. I'd go back. Business seemed good and they also had what appeared to be a good selection (bigger than what I'd heard). I believe I heard the man behind the counter say that they slow roast their own meats too.

              The crawl was a great, btw, we hit 12 restaurants in 10 hours (!!! - pace and restraint were key) and didn't have a bad thing to eat all day. It was a great way to try a little bit from several places. Went back to a few places that I liked much better than the first times I tried them (Sq 1 was better, Mezzaluna was better, Cypress Cellar still didn't have the flavor that I hope for, but it was fine). Mtn Deli was the only place we went that I hadn't been to before (I've eaten out a lot!).

          2. Ok, here's mine:

            1. West First
            2. Flat Rock VB
            3. West First
            4. FRVB
            5. West First......

            You get the idea.

            OK, seriously, if I had to go somewhere else, I'd think about One Love.

            To address some of the other places mentioned: The first time we went to Mt. Deli we were VERY pleased w/ the roast beef sandwich. But the next time we went, there were no "specials", i.e. no recently house cooked meat available. Seems like we ordered the roast beef sandwiches again, and they were fine, but not really great like before. If cold "deli meat" is all that's available, and most of it "bought", then I'm not really interested in going back.

            Never Blue: I agree w/ Jeff C., it's just "okay" I never leave there PO'ed, like I have many restaurants, but never wow'ed either. Apologies to Scirocco, but I think the desserts there are awful, by far the worst aspect of the place. The sangrias, however, are a different story. Delicious and inovative. If I just wanted to drink and have a snack (the latin chicken dip...whatever it's called) it would be a good spot. It's open all afternoon, unlike West First, so I go there sometimes despite my "okay" rating.

            Blue Water: I love those guys, the owners are super-nice, love the atmosphere (yes, I like eating in a fish store), but they really aren't very good cooks. I try to get the plainest thing I can when I go there...like steamed clams or something. The seafood is always fresh. Unfortunately, once they started serving dinner, they stopped being open past 2 on Saturday, so I haven't been there in awhile.

            You forgot Hubba Hubba! good ribs, good slaw, nice place to sit.

            5 Replies
            1. re: danna

              Thank you, Danna! I DID forget Hubba Hubba. Add it to my list immediately! (We actually used them for my son's post high-school commencement party, and everthing was wonderful.)

              As for Blue Water, I've only had very basic things there, broiled fish, creamed spinach, etc., and all have been solid if unspectacular. It's still currently the best seafood in Hendersonville (sadly).

              Never Blue--Went once, for dinner, and had the cuban sandwich, which was good, but the shoestring potatoes that came with were fried to a crisp and cut so thin and long they couldn't be speared nor would they balance on my fork. I ended up trying to grab them by the handful and cram them into my mouth (most fell in my napkin-covered lap or on the table). We skipped dessert.

              1. re: Jeff C.

                see, I guess that's why we're all different, I really like skinny crispy fries, so those are right up my alley. but you're right, they are definitely not built for forks! :)

                agree with Jeff on Blue Water, I've only had simple things as well. mussels and a simple preparations of fish and I think it is at least the best seafood option in town (other than sushi). I am an ex-New Englander, so am really missing good seafood options here! :) I DO always buy my fish from them as nothing is as good near my house (except possibly Poppies in Brevard). They have been claiming since last winter that they were going to do a smoke house. I wish they would finish that because I love good smoked fish (used to get a lot of it on trips to the Seattle area - MMmmm!).

                danna, am VERY surprised on your experience with the desserts at NB. I am a long-time baker and obnoxiously snobby when it comes to dessert. I had never found anywhere in town that had decent desserts before NB (including, surprisingly, WF). of course, again, people prefer different types of desserts and different characteristics (like with the skinny fries). am curious which ones you've tried? I love the bread puddings and cakes - especially the pineapple upside down cake and the tuxedo cake (although NOT the lava cake - very "eh"). lately, I will say that I have not cared for the desserts as much (nor have they had much variety), but I really don't think Jesse has been making them for the last few months as she has not felt well being so pregnant. So, desserts were back in the "ok" category lately.

                I like Hubba Hubba too and almost put it on my list, but with 12 Bones being so close for us, I've only been to Hubba Hubba once so wasn't sure that was enough experience to make a "best" list for me. I like 12 Bones a lot better.

                1. re: Scirocco

                  smoked fish: my friend made smoked salmon on a Big Green Egg and I totally embarrassed myself going back for 3rds and 4ths at a party recently. wound up just standing near the buffet so it became less obvious I was planning on eating the whole salmon ;-)

                  hubba hubba : yes, I like 12 bones better too. But if 12 Bones didn't exist, I'd be all over Hubba Hubba.

                  NB Desserts: we have so much in common...i'm obnoxious too ;-) I must admit, I have only had desserts from the buffets. Back when they used to do buffets every Sunday, and more recently on Mother's Day. perhaps she doesn't put her very best effort on the buffet. Since I've never specifically ordered a dessert there, I can't say precisely what I've had, other than various types of cakes and brownies.

                  I agree with you that West First desserts aren't fantastic. surprisingly, indeed!

                  A propos of nothing, I'm totally excited ...we're going to drive up to Asheville tonight and try the Admiral. We NEVER go out on a weeknight, so I'm all a twitter! It's a treat to try some place that's not open for lunch.

                  1. re: danna

                    Ooo, would love to hear your view of the Admiral. Haven't been yet. on the list.

                    re: NB - I did have some desserts at this past year's buffet for mother's day and they were still very good although not quite up to their dinner choices. Haven't tried her brownies (don't think she's made them in a long long time). on a side note - I have recently found the Brownie Love of My Life - Katharine Hepburn Brownies - extreeeemely fudgey (almost underbaked really) and soooo good. Brownies used to be the ONLY dessert I didn't make from scratch because I never liked homemade ones - always too cakey, but these are perfect for me. and easy.

                    damn. now I want one. those size 2's are never gonna work again. :-/

                    1. re: Scirocco

                      I'm having serious issues w/ my size 2's. I'll have to look up the KH Brownies. Currently, the Epicurious triple chocolates are my go-to. Indeed, I am a fan of underbaking. I like my steak, my salmon, even my turkey rare! So why not cookies and brownies ;-)

                      I'll let you know what I think of the Admiral.

            2. Perhaps somewhat "lower scale" than some of the recommendations for a best-of list, but what about Hot Dog World?
              I went there on a local's recommendation and was impressed. The place was jammed, but the staff is fast, friendly and efficient. Home-made soups, etc, the food was good for what it was and the overall "experience" of the place was very good. I'd go back for sure.

              3 Replies
              1. re: fcbaldwin

                I notice that place is always packed. Is "hot dog world" some kind of ironic name, or is that mainly what they have?

                1. re: danna

                  I've only been one time because I live out of the area (central Va.), but I believe it is a family owned and operated hot dog/hamburger/other fast food place. And yes, I understand that it's always packed, a good sign yes? And it's cheap. So, what's not to like about a cheap, good basic food place with fast service? No irony in the name.

                  1. re: fcbaldwin

                    As long as your expectations aren't too high and you don't have a problem with frozen beef patties and french fries, Hot Dog World isn't bad. They also make a pretty decent veggie burger, surprisingly enough...

              2. i grew up in H'ville, but haven't spent any real time there in almost 20(!) years. I live in Durham now and cook/bake professionally; I have to say it's heartwarming to read and hear about how the dining choices have changed since i was a kid. my first kitchen/restaurant jobs were at the poplar lodge and impressions (was that the name? on main street?)!
                sounds like i need to get back that way and check some of these places out.

                5 Replies
                1. re: pheebs

                  I have only lived here for about 5 years and am amazed at the difference in restaurant choices from when we moved here to now. It's truly astounding. And good quality too, not just quantity. Expressions is the one you are thinking of and yes, it used to be one of the only "shows in town" along with Flight. Expressions closed a couple years ago, but the space has been recently leased by the owners of Hannah Flannigan's and will be a new Caribbean themed restaurant with tropical colors inside and low cost entrees. I think it's supposed to open shortly after the new year?? I noticed on Tuesday it was all painted on the outside.

                  1. re: pheebs

                    funny! I used to really like Expressions, but the last time I went before it closed, it was not good at all. It must have gone downhill when pheebs left ;-) I think the Poplar Lodge is still going, my parents are very impressed with it.

                    1. re: danna

                      We had a couple good meals at Expressions when we first moved here, but the last time (maybe a year before it closed), it really wasn't good. I had fish (trout maybe?) and it had a TON of bones in it. I couldn't eat it. I told the server about it and it was sort of shrugged off as "oh well." We never went back for dinner. We did go to their upstairs once in awhile though - nice comfy bar/lounge space. I hope the new place does something fun with the upstairs space.

                      Hmm, Poplar Lodge. Eh. Except for the nice view. I heard their salad bar was good, but they discontinued that awhile back. Too many other better choices (IMO).

                      1. re: Scirocco

                        please note that i was a hostess in high school at the poplar lodge! no actual kitchen experience, but a fun job to have on the week ends. that salad bar always wigged me out anyway!

                        1. re: pheebs

                          no worries, pheebs, that wasn't a comment on you. :) Just a comment on their food quality/options vs. what's available in town today. lots of choices now.

                  2. How about Sinbad's (last time we were there it was incredible) and Suber Daddy's Soul Food - also wonderful!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: littlemissy

                      Daddy D's has the best fried chicken around!! moist with a great "crust". sides are hit and miss though. owners are super nice too.