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Jan 2, 2012 05:25 PM

The Junction = YUM (Asheville)

Having some Low Country foodie friends in town over the New Years weekend, we wanted to take them somewhere that would compete with their beloved Charleston. The choice for us was an easy one and needed little discussion, The Junction. I called several days before and left a message. That afternoon, I received a phone call from the owner confirming my reservation and asking if we had any special need or request.

Upon arrival, we were promptly seated, given menus and a dazzling cocktail list. The restaurant was alive, full of everyone from the ultra hip and posh to the casual and relaxed. Being New Years Eve, The Junction had a marvelous buzz, wait staff dashing colorful sparkling cocktails, patrons necks snapping at each passing perfect plate, owners checking and double checking on each exceptional bite.

First up cocktail hour. The boys choice was a boring double shot of Makers. However, I had the “Piper” a beautiful sparkly peach colored cocktail served up. The ingredients included sparkling wine, vodka, Campri, St. Germaine and spiced pineapple. This cocktail was New Years Eve in a glass, I sadly was the DD for the night and could only go one round with Piper, but make no mistake, I plan to take her on again VERY soon.

After much soul searching our table of 5 was able to narrow to our final food choice, all making promises to share. I was the only one who ordered off the nightly menu and the other members of the party ordered one of three amazing specials. I had the pan seared gnocchi, it was accompanied by tender braised short rib, thick smoky sweet bacon, plump mushrooms and sweet potatoes. The gnocchi were potato pillows of goodness, the house cured bacon was perfection and I’m not really sure what they did to the mushrooms but I have never had better, they literally burst with wine, butter and lemon. Two of our friends had the Rib Eye special. When they saw they could cut the steak with their fork, all promises to share forgotten. Two days later they both continued to rave about not being able to remember a more “satisfying meal” and “I didn’t know steak could taste like that.” Yet another order was the quail special, it was filled with a maple and sausage stuffing and served with the best damn collard greens I have ever eaten braised in Pisgah Pale and what I suspect to be baby angels. I myself did not get to taste the quail (not a poultry gal) but again there was not a bite left over even if I had wanted one. The final dish was the burger special; now, I know you must be asking yourself, why save the burger to write about last? Well, just loosen your waistband and listen up. This Hickory Nut Gap beef was prepared very rare (at my boyfriend’s request) topped with a braised short rib, a GENEROUS hunk of foie gras and finished off with a spicy creamy sauce of deliciousness. I am not kidding when I say I had to stop him from licking the plate, one bite of that burger and I had to stop myself…

With fabulous service, food and atmosphere I really cannot recommend The Junction more. I was told they will be starting brunch this weekend, happy New Years to me!

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  1. Wow! You are making my mouth water. The Junction was one of two choices for lunch with a friend next Tuesday (the other being the nearby White Duck Taco). You have just sealed the deal for me - The Junction it is! Plus, I've already been to White Duck Taco and know I like it....

    The Junction has been on my short-list for awhile. AND I have a Groupon for it burning a hole in my pocket. Win-win!!

    10 Replies
    1. re: Scirocco

      Bad news, Scirocco, "winter hours" at the Junction preclude lunch. I've actually stood outside and drooled twice recently, the second time because I couldn't remember if it were just Sat lunch that had been 86ed or all lunches. It was all.

      Now I note above that brunches start this weekend? suppose that means lunch as well? I'll have to check their facebook page, they seem to be responsoive to questions there.

      thanks for the review, caiogirl. We search for bloody burgers. Did you note whether a burger w/out short ribs and foie is available. My husband doesn't like either,strangely.

      1. re: danna

        i was there for new year's eve as well. i believe the menu changes with some frequency (not sure what that what might be), but, yes, there was a more standard-type burger on the main menu.

        to scirocco: i believe white duck is closed for the winter right now. may be mistaken - call first.

        1. re: danna

          Awwwwwwwwwww. Oh well. I'll double check for next week.

          Hmmm...I think my Groupon is for lunch and expires in Feb or March. Wonder how that works??? I only bought it during the fall.

          Me three for the bloody burgers!

          1. re: danna


            The Junction has delicious burgers...sans short ribs and foie as well. We went several weeks ago and are yearning to get back. My wife is gluten free and The Junction offered a gluten free bread with the burger. We were impressed with most every aspect of the place. The owner was away from the front when we left and made a special trip outside to be sure we were happy...

            1. re: danna

              I just saw on their site that they are offering brunch on Sat/Sun from "about 10:30 - 2:30" starting in January. No lunch during the week, but they are honoring the lunch Groupons for dinner or brunch. Guess I'll just have to suck it up and go to dinner there. Life's tough. :)

              And yup, White Duck Taco closed until 1/23. I'll have to make other plans for lunch next week!

              1. re: Scirocco

                I hesitate to say this...but I'm starting to go off White Duck just a little bit. I've been there 3 times now, and the Bankok shrimp taco is just ridiculously delicious...and everything else I've had has ranged from good-not-great to icky. I hated the jerk was loaded w/ (allspice?) didn't taste like jerk at all and I suspect the chicken quality was poor to start with.

                I got the salsa sampler and was disappointed in that as well. I guess I was spoiled by salsa at Salsa's all those years ago. It is SUCH a cute place though, and packed every time I go.

                Thanks for the Junction info.

                1. re: danna

                  Danna--Agree on the jerk chicken taco. I think the Asian-themed tacos are where White Duck really shines. They had a Thai-style chicken taco a few weeks ago that was almost as good as the Bangkok Shrimp. Also: Have you tried the duck taco?

                  1. re: Jeff C.

                    duck w/ mole? I think that's the first one I ever had there. I believe I put that in the good category. I've been meaning to try the tofu bahn mi style, but since my hsuband is not a tofu fan, i keep trying other meat-related stuff.

              2. re: danna

                White Duck Taco is on their winter holiday a la 12 Bones, I believe. To reopen later this month, iirc.

                Oops. Just saw Scirocco's post. Sorry for the duplicate info.

                1. re: Leepa

                  Carnitas at White Duck is where it's at! I too have a Groupon for The Junction burning a hole in my pocket and this post has inspired me to use it up tomorrow night. Will report back!

            2. Oh Lord forgive me. This Mississippi Girl just had the best shrimp and grits ever at The Junction. City Grocery in Oxford, Ms I am so,so sorry.

              12 Replies
              1. re: caiogirl

                I had them last night too...delish! My husband had the short ribs over truffled creamed potatoes (amazing) and we started with the salmon croquettes which also rocked. I had two Piper cocktails and he had two Dark and Stormys - they make a great cocktail here. Only complaint was that service was S-L-O-W and it took a while for us to get our food but we were sitting at the bar enjoying our drinks so we didn't mind.

                I'd put The Junction right up there with the other great restaurants in town. In fact I'd even go so far as to say that I thought last night's meal topped what we enjoyed at The Admiral the week of Christmas!

                1. re: miss piggy

                  I need to go back! Any good desserts?

                  1. re: Jeff C.

                    we went tonight and Jeff, I'll answer your question first (since desserts are near and dear to my heart!). I'm assuming desserts change daily (no menu offered). There were two choices tonight - NY style cheesecake and a flourless chocolate tart. The tart sounded good, but we have Katharine Hepburn brownies at home so we opted out (awesome brownies - google it if you like really fudgey brownies). So, can't comment on quality, but I'm guessing there are only a couple offered each night.

                    Dinner was great though. Service was good (it said on the menu that my chicken would take 15 - 20 mins - no biggie). I got the fried chicken with mashed sweet potatoes w/caramelized onion gravy and balsamic vinegar. Really good. And my husband got the gnocchi described above. He hates mushrooms, so they kindly gave them to us on the side and I happily devoured them. :) We shared a bowl of caramelize parsnip soup. Interesting flavor - we liked it. I had a $7 cab for wine. Total pre-tip was $36. Portions are typical small plate size, with my chicken being slightly larger (listed on their "supper" portion of the menu). But, still, the chicken was only $12.

                    It is pretty noisy in there (lots of hard surfaces), so don't go there if anyone is hard of hearing. I think the bar area would be a lot quieter.

                    We would absolutely go back. Enjoyed it very much!

                    1. re: Scirocco

                      Thanks for the report, Scirocco. We're going tomorrow night. It'll be our second visit. Had the best Fried Green Tomatoes ever last visit--a dish I've never much cared for. Anyway, I'm looking forward to it.

                  2. re: miss piggy

                    Miss Piggy! Sounds like you and your husband have great taste. That is exactly what my boyfriend and I ate. We intended to share but each liked our own so much we did not haha. I thought the short ribs were awesome and the truffles potatoes we very good. Service was a bit slow, through that has not been my normal experience. On New Years they were slammed and service was flawless so hopefully a fluke!

                    1. re: caiogirl

                      Here's my post second visit two cents: First, the service was excellent and not at all slow, though I should add that they weren't all that busy at six on a Saturday night. (Maybe the Junction crowd prefers to eat late?) The dining room is echoey and a bit too spare--would it kill them to add vases or votives or something besides flatware to the chrome-topped tables? I had the Good Memory cocktail, which was a tad sweet but still one of the best tequila-based cocktails I've had. Wife had the Dark Storm (aka a Dark & Stormy), which she liked but thought not in the same league as The Admiral's (The Junction uses bottled ginger ale, for one thing). The Salmon Croquettes app. was super fresh and tasty but served on an exceptionally bland bed of green spinachy sauce with the odd piece of crimini mushroom. Entrees were the excellent if a tad overdone shortrib and the sweet tea brined fried chicken. The Junction chef is fond of stacking ingredients, which is fine with me, except when the plates are so darn small. This makes it very difficult when cutting meat off a bone to do so without also knocking perfectly good food off the plate altogether. I also felt the cloying sweetness of the chicken marred what was otherwise a fine dish. Dessert was a thin slice of "Mexican Chocolate Tart"--think dark chocolate cheesecake with hints of cayenne. This was also tasty but served without so much as a blob of whipping cream, a spig of mint, or even a dusting of powered sugar to spruce up the forlorn presentation. Total, pre-tip: $68. Verdict: Still a good restaurant, still not quite a great restaurant.

                      1. re: Jeff C.

                        bingo! generally good, usually with a stand out or two accompanied with a few misses. some smallish portions (ie pickled fried green tomatoes) for the $, others (ie fried okra) were a decent value. good drinks, at slightly better than downtown prices (tho still too $). dessert is not their thing. service has been good in my experience and owners are really nice and very much involved. nice place for a drink on the porch during the summer months. overall, need to up their game or drop their prices to see me on any regular basis.

                        1. re: mark

                          Hey, Mark: Did you ever get a chance to try White Duck Taco? How about The Asheville Public?

                          1. re: Jeff C.

                            been there a few times. for the most part, what i've had has been good, and prices are reasonable. i have found most things to be a tad on the sweet side for my taste; items one would expect to be sweet have been too sweet for me.

                            1. re: mark

                              Got it. I do think the sweet-sour combo works pretty well on the Bangkok Shrimp Taco, though.

                        2. re: Jeff C.

                          Thanks for the report!

                          Agreed on the small plates - I picked more than one piece of my chicken off the table to put it back on the plate (I tried not to think about the cleanliness factor - wasn't gonna waste the food!). Didn't notice it being particularly sweet, but then my other moniker is "sweet tooth", so hints of sweet not a problem for this chick. :) Remember, I'm the one who added more juice to the Storm's Devil's Oasis! I thought the chicken batter was a tad dark, although the interior was still super moist, but I still enjoyed it greatly, mostly because I liked how it all came together with the sides/sauces.

                          Would love to eat outdoors as that was really my only negative - too noisy in there. It's hard to hear me in good conditions, so I found myself shouting a bit across the 2 person table.

                          Good to know on dessert....

                          1. re: Scirocco

                            Seems the concept has changed since they opened ... Bigger plates, more food ... Shrimp n grits is very good, 4 shrimp for $17, expensive for small portion. The chef is very good and packs a lot of flavor into dishes.