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The Admiral (A'ville, NC) : I didn't understand

When mark and others talked about how good The Admiral was, I thought they meant it was quirky and fun and had surprisingly good food for a dive bar. I totally did not understand they meant it's the best damn food in Asheville. By a mile.

We made the drive from Greenville last night. We got the last inside table around 7:30. With some help from our waitress, we had: The cheese plate, the arugula salad w/ Humbolt Fog, the Trigger Fish w/ squash purree and apple/bacon chutney, the lamb chop w/ bacon/pistachio brittle, the fried quail w/ blue corn grits and a fried egg. Jeff had a Wedge IPA and I had a glass of garnacha.

Holy Cow! Everything was fantastic. The cheeses were very good (especially the aged goat) and my super-picky husband loved the bressola. The arugula was lovely, nice dressing which went so well w/ the Humbolt fog I actually liked it more than I usually do. The Triggerfish was just ridiculously beautiful, with a firm but not tough, almost lobster-like texture. The fried quail was very nice but the grits and egg were what really stood out to me on that dish.

But the lamb...oh my lord, the lamb. We were sitting right next to the open kitchen, so we watched the chef build the plate, starting with cubes of pickled feta, topped w/ a bit of pistachio bacon brittle. Then a little pile of arugula to display the gorgeous lamb chops (2) which were rare as they could be, just the way we like them (interesting they didn't ask first, but more power to them!) They were excellent quality meat, no hint of mutton which I note a lot these days. They were smoked before grilled. Fab. But let's back up to the PISTACHIO BACON BRITTLE. Did you hear that ? I swore at that moment I would figure out how to make that. Divine. And they weren't chinzy with it, there was a lot on the plate.

At that point we were agog. It's been a long time since I've had a meal I liked that much. We compared the lovely cheese on our cheese plate to the "artisinal" cheese that came w/ our salad at Table last Saturday. Table's cheese according to the husband was "like if your sales rep from Sysco offered you the slightly upgraded industrial cheese." I compared the triggerfish to Charleston's FIG...it was just as good. I compared the salad to those one gets in Greenville...not only better, but at $6...cheaper.

So I thanked our waitress for steering us toward the Triggerfish and the Lamb, and asked her what she thought of the cake (Short Street). "I like the cake, but I like the pot de creme better." So we got the pot de creme, and you guessed it, it was very nice, and was sprinkled w/ Maldon sea salt, which pretty-much guarantees i'm gonna love it.

I feel compelled to think of SOMETHING negative to say (it's in my nature.) My wine, chosen from an interesting list, was fine but not special($7), the glass was what people considered a nice glass 6-8 years ago, before we were all spoiled by oversized pricey stemware. There...that's the best I can do. I loved the place. I'm in love w/ the chefs. I want them to open on Saturday for lunch. Barring that, I'm going to have to start planning longer rides, so we finish up around 5, when they open.

Thanks, Chowhounds, for the recommendation.

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  1. Thanks for the detailed and lovely review, Danna. Glad you enjoyed it. I'm just sorry they no longer serve Sunday brunch. It was wonderful.

    P.S. Did you check out the tres cool jukebox?

    1. Thanks for the great review! It has just moved up on our list....

      2 Replies
      1. re: Scirocco

        It truly possibly is the best restaurant in town.

        1. re: JKidd

          Now that Nova is gone I have to agree.

      2. I can not find a website - what are the prices like?

        9 Replies
        1. re: mustardgirl

          I think they're on MySpace. As for prices, it depends on what you get. The small plates are anywhere from $6-$8. The larger ones usually run from $12-$18. Very reasonable for the quality of the food.

          1. re: mustardgirl

            The meal I described above cost $69 before tip. I considered it a major bargain. I think our apps were $10...but let me again say the apps were as big as many entrees.

            1. re: danna

              Thanks, Danna, for the great review. Like you, I didn't get it until just now. Can't wait to try it as soon as we get back!

              1. re: danna

                I like it as well but husband does not. He finds it claustrophobic - I think it's the dark interior and low ceilings.

              2. re: mustardgirl

                I just stumbled across a website for them!!! Looks like they posted it in January. It is great to see the menu! Wish there were prices though. We are trying to get there in the next couple of weeks.


                1. re: Scirocco

                  wow! thanks!! I would have broken my no-eating-out-on-Valentine's Day rule if I had known Admiral was doing a tasting menu. Did you look at those pics??? HOLY COW!!!

                  1. re: danna

                    Yes, the pics are amazing!!! Gives me a good feel for what they offer. Wish I'd known about the tasting menu too....

                    1. re: danna

                      <points at Danna> I'll have wnat she's having! :-)

                      1. re: danna

                        oh, and responding to myself...I just re-read my original post, and I thought I should note that the glassware issue has been resolved. Nice, big , pretty glasses now.

                  2. glad you liked it. like you (as it's my nature as well), i've had to work hard to find concerns; and even when i do, they're well trumped by the overall experience. great food & (yes, this is mr. "everything's too expensive" writing this) a good value to boot.

                    1. Ate at The Admiral again last night and had some of the items Danna mentions above. It is a tribute to the consistency of the Admiral kitchen that all were just as wonderful as she says. Let me also add that if they are serving the sweet potato creme brulee with bacon brittle and bourbon whipped cream, you should order one for every member of your party, because it is THE BEST DAMN DESSERT EVER, and there might be a fork fight if you try to share one!

                      The best restaurant in Asheville. Period. And a helluva bargain. ($53.98--before tip--for two cocktails, a beer, the arugula salad, the triggerfish, the lambchops, and the aforementioned dessert.)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Jeff C.

                        We went back on Saturday. Arugula salad again, lamb chops (this time w/ fennel), piquillo hummos (I'm counting down to noon so I can eat the leftovers), oysters w/ cucumber mignonette, and the scallops entree. Damn, those scallops were fantastic. Just barely cooked, perfect amount of salt in the fine crust. I liked the 3 Brooms Sauv Blanc, enough that I had 2 and ran the bill up to $72. Still a bargain at this food quality.

                        I feel bad that I skipped the dessert. I was jonesin' for some Ultimate Ice Cream mocha stout.

                      2. We went this week and I cannot agree more with your opinion. Everything we had was beyond fantastic and it was a bargain for the quality AND quantity of food. The pork belly small plate was crispy and pretty out of hand, with local mushrooms and a pecorino crouton that was perfect, with a beautiful local egg. Short rib small plate was not that small and extremely yummy. Halibut, grits and collards with chorizo saffron broth ... I could go on and on, but I will just say I am so glad we tried it and we will be going back. I agree that the chefs at this place are amazing. Our waitress was attentive and good with the advice regarding the menu. This is my new favorite!

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: atruebluedevil

                          Can you make reservations or do you just show up and wait?

                          1. re: LGD

                            We made reservations, and I highly recommend that. We called for one night, and they were booked already, although I am sure you could just show up, but it looked like a long wait for some people when we were there .. you can eat at the bar which is good for the drop in crowd. It was just so good!

                            1. re: atruebluedevil

                              Wow... Does that mean the outside tables were full too? Or was it just a wait for inside? Or do they not serve dinner outside?

                              I'm so glad you had a great dinner! We went to two places in G'ville on Sat night (apps at each), both sucked, we should have made the drive to the Admiral.

                              1. re: danna

                                Dinner can be eaten outside, but orders have to be made at the bar. And obviously, it's the designated smoking area.

                                1. re: danna

                                  I'm not sure - we had called the night before and were told they were full, so we went ahead and made one. I think folks were eating outside too, although there was a wait.

                              2. re: LGD

                                definitely make reservations, even on a weeknight. They also now have a late-night menu featuring homemade specialty hot dogs made by a friend of the owner (can't remember the name, but he was a vendor at LAAFF)...

                                Also, every now and then (one Sunday a month-ish) they do a cookout/bbq-type meal at the Admiral, in lieu of brunch... they don't advertise, you just have to know... ask about it next time you're there. don't know if it will last through winter since it's been outside the last 2 times...

                                The Admiral
                                400 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806

                                1. re: sarahyla

                                  Oh, yummy! Two more excuses to go back soon!

                                  1. re: Jeff C.

                                    I don't think there would be anything wrong with telling your fellow Chowhounds if you found out about a Sunday brunch..hint ..hint.

                                    1. re: danna

                                      Haven't heard anything about them bringing it back, but will let you know if I do. Howzat?

                                  2. re: sarahyla

                                    hardcastle (as in jeremy from table) hot dogs. also, i believe, available at tod's tasties (sp?), although i can't recommend going there.

                                    1. re: mark

                                      Where/what is Tod's Tasties?

                                      1. re: Leepa

                                        resto in viva europa's old location on montford. primarily sandwiches, to my recollection, which is what i've had there. unfortunately, meagre, mediocre & overpriced are the most fitting descriptors, imo. i've avoided writing a review as the only positive thing i can say is that it fills an otherwise empty niche in the montford area. but i believe one can get hardcastle hot dogs there if so inclined and unwilling to wait for an admiral cookout.

                                        1. re: mark

                                          Was there again last night and had the braised shortribs of my dreams--topped with the most amazing crispy shallots!

                                          Word to the wise, however: Seating is limited, and given The Admiral's sudden popularity here and elsewhere, reservations are now a MUST.

                                          1. re: Jeff C.

                                            We had the shortribs when I was there too, and I agree ... dreamy. And those crispy shallots!

                                  3. re: LGD

                                    Yes, reservations are necessary. And boy, is it hopping on Saturdays...
                                    When my husband and I went a few weeks ago with an 8 PM reservation (yes, it was Saturday night...but we were weekend tourists), we had an hour wait. To be fair, something had gone wrong (there were other reservation-holders waiting). I'm from NYC, so I'm used to waiting (for pretty much everything), but the complication was that my husband had taken medicine that requires him to eat something within the hour. That, combined with the fact we were from out of town and had no idea what restaurants were close by, made things sticky. However, they comped our drinks and gave us a free slice of cake (we hadn't asked for either...I never assume comps) and were all in all very nice (and the cake was delicious, as was everything we ate). So I don't know whether Saturdays are just insane, we fell on a bad night, or someone messed up in the reservation book, but you may have a wait. Waiting at the bar is no hardship, and the drinks are reasonably priced. But...wow, is that place popular!

                                2. Have chosen this as my one place for dinner in Asheville and have reservations for Saturday night. Can't wait

                                  1. My dinner companion is not a foodie or a chowhound reader so her eyes got big as saucers when we entered The Admiral. She wasn't sure where I was taking here eventhough I had tried to give her a heads up. But she soon relaxed and realized she was in for a dining experience. only wish there were more than 2 of us so we could have sampled more dishes. She had the scallops and I had the pork chop. My collards were just right. The sweet potato creme brulee was good enough to lick the dish and her chocolate cake (even though it came from a bakery in the area) was spectacular. Place was really busy but once our server took our order, he gave us great attention. Would definitely go back and take more people. Had lunch on Sunday at Early Girl on Wall Street, downtown, and it was also delicious (local trout, squash casserole and stone ground grits.) Love to visit Asheville.

                                    1. Thank you, Asheville Chowhounds, THANK YOU SO MUCH for ranting about this place. I'm located currently in Michigan, but my husband and I travel to the ASheville area semi-regularly and i always check the boards for fresh info before heading down. All the rants put THE ADMIRAL on the "gotta" list for this trip.

                                      The first time we made it in was after 10 pm, with our stomachs growling from some loosey goosey planning that had us going to see a 7:15 showing of a movie that turned out to be nearly 3 hours long...anyway, long story short, I was ravenous, it was a weeknight, it was after 10. We had no idea what might still be open. We happened to find ourselves on Haywood and we figured it might be worth checking to see if the kitchen was still open at the Admiral. As luck would have it, they were just shifting to the late night menu. Man. There is nothing like stumbling into food heaven when you're insanely hungry. We got the bone marrow and toast, triggerfish, and a grilled cheese. And my mind exploded. AMAZING. So amazing. I am still having fond, daydreamy moments thinking about that piece of fish and her little pool of lemony brown butter and capers and aowm aowm aowm.

                                      Wound up getting reservations two more times during our week in the area, and there wasn't a disappointment among them. (tried the celeriac soup, the grilled romaine hearts, bangers and mash, lamb shank, flatiron steak, veal gnocchi.) Seriously. What's not to love? Friendly, funny staff, relaxed atmosphere, totally amazing food, constantly changing, always surprising menu, decent prices. I'm in love. I'm so impressed that the Asheville public totally supports places like this, and that the attitude of the establishment is so welcoming and friendly. If anybody tried to open a "gatropub" in my home city, the public would scorn the place (despite being cheaper than stinkin' OUTBACK) out of suspicion and fear of "hoity toity" foods. Sad, sad, sad but true.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: dingey

                                        Thanks for the splendid review...and for reminding Asheville-area Hounds that we have MUCH to be thankful for!

                                        FYI: Was back last Friday and the place was as packed as I've seen it. It would now be INSANE not to make reservatioins. (They had to turn away a party of ten while we were there.)

                                      2. Danna, thanks for your post. I too had seen mention of the Admiral, but until you explained the menu I had not gotten it either.

                                        I finally got to try them on this visit back home - WOW! It was very hard to decide what to order since most of the menu appealed to me. My friend and I tried 2 small plates and one large plate and a dessert. The food was delicious, prepared perfectly, nicely plated. Portions were generous. Quality was first rate. This is now on my must visit list when I am in town.

                                        Perfect day -Sunny Point for breakfast, The Admiral for dinner and being with good friends to boot! Oh, and a quick visit to Amazing Savings for goodies to bring home.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: meatn3

                                          wow, that WAS a perfect day! i love Amazing Savings when I'm in the right mood. Treasure hunting for food!

                                          1. re: danna

                                            They had Dinosaur BBQ sauce and Baconaise!!!

                                          1. We dined at the Admiral last night. What a great restaurant. Our waitress was swamped but really friendly and helpful. We had the short ribs which were lean and quite tasty although the 64 degree egg did not add to the meal. One member of our party likes the eggs more done and one less done. The mussels were a huge hit as an appetizer. The broth was so good that we went through a loaf of bread sopping the sauce. I though my friend was going to request a straw! My scallops and fennel sausage was also quite good although the sausage component was flavoring for the lentil side and not what I anticipated. The chocolate ganache dessert was also a standout. We will definitely be back on our next Asheville trip. Why can't every community have a restaurant like this?

                                            1. Well, we FINALLY got here last night! The quick and dirty was that we LOVED it and would definitely go back. Love the atmosphere, love the food. 25 minutes away? What's not to like?

                                              The only thing that surprised me was that the prices seemed a bit higher than what others reported. I will attach pics of the menu. Do they seem in line with past menu prices? The big plates only had two items less than $20, the rest ranging from $22 - $26. Even the small plates seemed to have more items at $10 and up than previously reported. BUT, that would not stop us from returning. Just a heads-up to anyone else going.

                                              My husband and I got two small plates first - he got the roasted cauliflower/blue cheese bisque with creme fraiche and pistachios ($6) and I got the duck breast with sweet potato puree, brussels sprouts, bacon-apricot chutney ($10). Both were fantastic and good sized. Actually, those were the stars of the evening to me. Oh, and I had a really nice red zin that I'm trying to locate online now "Tiare"??....(at $8, a good price and got a generous pour!). My husband got a "Dark and Stormy" which had their homemade ginger syrup? ale? mixed with dark rum. He didn't really care for it only because the ginger was REALLY strong. But, he finished it. :)

                                              We then got two "big plates" - my husband got the fried chicken with mashed potatoes, collards (fabulous) and black truffle "jus" ($19). I got the Diver Scallops with fingerling potatoes, asparagus ($23). Scallops were cooked perfectly although there were only about four, so not enough of them - haha!!

                                              Dessert had some interesting choices (as you can see in the menu). The one that really threw me was the seared foie gras Krispy Kreme (yes, Krispy Kreme) bread pudding with creme anglaise and hazelnuts. It just seemed like a REALLY odd combo (sort of nightsweats of Julia Child meets Paula Deen). I was intrigued, but at $13, I wasn't quite ready to take the risk. BUT, the server then told me (as he saw me struggling) that they could do it without the foie gras for $6. Ok, now I'll try it. I know. Wimp. I just couldn't wrap my head around the flavor/texture combo AND the server had gotten about 50/50 feedback that it was good and it was bad. So, I was happy with my decision to go for the foie gras-less version. It was good, but didn't blow me away. Another in our party got the white chocolate mousse with berries and homemade marshmallow and I wish I had gotten that instead. It looked really good!

                                              Service was very good - things a bit slow coming out of the kitchen, but it was packed full and we weren't in any hurry at all. We had a great time! Total pre-tax and tip was about $75.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: Scirocco

                                                while quality remains excellent, prices have risen & portions shrunk. my wife & i have noted on recent visits that, while small plate prices remain about the same as in the past, the portions are smaller, and entree prices are higher while portions remain fairly consistent. while not drastic, it is, unfortunately, sufficient for us to drop them from the "value" column and scoot them into "special occasions" column. these days we just can't afford to leave hungry for the same $s we used to spend.

                                                1. re: Scirocco

                                                  thanks so much for posting the menu pics! damn, i wish they had frog legs when we were there.

                                                  We were there Saturday 27th and some of the same things were on the menu then. My husband has now had that fried chicken/mashed potatoes/collards dish for the 2nd time and I'm afraid he may never be able to pass it up! i had the mushroom "bolognese" and thought it was great...Jeff did not agree. We also had trigger fish w/ gnocci, elk tacos, the grilled romaine salad (the anchovies were superb) and white choc mousse/marshmallow 2 glasses of wine $95.

                                                  Yes, we're spending a bit more there now...I think it's becuase they have more and more offerings in the entrees column that we want. When we first started eating there, we would get 4-5 apps and no entrees. I think the entree prices may be a couple of dollars more, too. I have not noticed the app sizes getting smaller, though. If I would lay off the wine and just order 2 apps, I think I could be full and still call it a bargain.

                                                  1. re: danna

                                                    Cheap eats it ain't. (Never was.) But I still contend that when you factor quality, innovation, and presentation in with those prices, The Admiral is still an excellent value. For example, I recently had a comparable meal at the similarly excellent and innovative Five & Ten in Athens, GA. Damage for two: $125, excluding tip. I can't imagine the same meal costing much more than $80 at The Admiral.

                                                    1. re: Jeff C.

                                                      Oh, I wasn't expecting cheap and I completely agree that quality comes at a price and I certainly don't mind paying for it. It just was a bit higher than I expected. In an earlier post, you had recalled the big plates being $12 - $18 and even adding a couple bucks to that (since that was back in Sept), it was still a bit higher (most big plates being $21 - $26), so I was just curious if that was a new development or not. Like I said, we still loved it and the prices wouldn't stop us from going back. I just wanted to let people know so they could budget accordingly. :)

                                                      And, Danna, that was our problem as well - got too excited and tried too many things! I think next time, we would stick to (or try to) two small plates a piece, plus drinks and maybe dessert if it looks tempting. The small plates we got were very generous and the big plates weren't a whole lot bigger than the small plates we got, but for more than twice the price. Probably depends on the dish too.

                                                      forgot to mention too that re: parking, the first block or so of Michigan Ave near the restaurant is now a no parking zone and they are ticketing and/or towing. So, just a heads-up to park elsewhere. The staff came around to the tables to warn us. Apparently, this is a recent change.

                                                      1. re: Scirocco

                                                        Thanks for the heads-up on the parking situation, Scirocco.

                                                        1. re: Scirocco

                                                          Michigan is the cross street that intersects Haywood at the restaurant?

                                                          1. re: danna

                                                            yes, the one that runs between the gas station and the porch area of the restaurant. apparently, the residents started getting ticked that they couldn't park in front of their houses. :-/