Jack of the Wood, Asheville NC

The best meal and the best experience that we had on our most recent trip to Asheville came at a themed pub which has not earned a reputation for great food. That’s not to say we’ve heard anything bad about it, just that it doesn’t come up in conversation as one of the city’s great places. I’d like, briefly, to address that, because Jack of the Wood surprised us by being an extremely good and inviting little place with simply wonderful pub food.

Well, if we had been exhausted at lunch, we were completely spent by supper. We’d seen more music and walked around and shopped and sweated and my son rejoined us to complain that his knee was hurting. Nevertheless, we hobbled our way to Jack of the Wood around 5:30 in pretty good spirits. I was anxious to try their house porter – Asheville is definitely a place for local breweries and wineries to show off their wares – and Marie, figuring that I might like that, was ready to take the wheel and drive most of the way home.

I’d looked over Jack of the Wood’s website before we left and figured I’d try the fish and chips, a meal I often really enjoy but rarely end up ordering. I checked with my son and he said he was fine with splitting a large plate with me. Actually, we weren’t completely sure whether we could eat here at all with him in tow, and it wasn’t until we arrived that we got the okay for a thirteen year-old to join us. You never really know with pubs. This pub was simply splendid, with a great wait staff and a fun, vibrant attitude. They have live music most evenings around 9 pm, and I imagine it gets loud and very fun.

Our cod was very tasty and flavorful, and the beer was superb. I do not drink very much anymore, since concluding that I really enjoy a strong ginger ale even more than the finest, darkest, heaviest stout, and since concluding that I had little business enjoying stouts or porters of any kind while raising two kids by myself on a very tight budget. I didn’t need to be either drunk or broke, you understand. Consequently, my once-impressive booze tolerance has whittled away to nothing, and when I do indulge in some place’s specially crafted brews, it takes only about two pints for me to start feeling pretty goofy, and I’m sure three would make me even stupider than usual.

Marie, who enjoyed a very good Reuben at the pub, wandered back up Haywood after dinner to pick up some more caramels at The Chocolate Fetish while my son and I looked over a small coffee shop – slash – radical bookstore which I found impressive. Within twenty minutes, we were waving goodbye to Asheville, and within forty, I was asleep. I stayed zonked out until we started down that absurd roller coaster of a hill just north of Franklin; I don’t suppose anybody could sleep through that, no matter how much porter they’d quaffed.

We’ll be heading back to Asheville in November. I think we’ll give one or two places a second visit, and also make room for a couple of new discoveries. And one of these days, we really should make time to go explore a little more of the rest of the state; there seems to be a hell of a lot to see!

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