Posted by: wrmcnutt | May 27, 2009

Restaurant Review – Jack O’ the Wood Ashville, NC

A common bumper-sticker in Ashville, NC, is “Keep Ashville Weird!”  In a town like that, you can expect to find quirky eateries.  Oddly, Jack of the Wood, at the corner of Patton and Coxe, isn’t one.  The atmosphere is particularly “normal,” at least by Ashville standards. I came to Jack as I often do, in my eternal quest to a good Irish pub.  They feel like home, and I’m able to relax in comfort.  Mind you, no two pubs are the same, and they shouldn’t be.  But there is a welcoming character that all pubs share, and Jack comes close. The floor is of cracked concrete and the walls are both painted and unfinished brick.  There are assorted photos of Ashville landmarks, and, of course ,the required series of antique Guiness ads.  There’s a small raised stage for musical acts.  The walls are painted with “green man-esque” murals and all of the ironwork in the pub looks to be hand-wrought steel leafiness.  It’s dark in there, as a pub should be.    The atmosphere wasn’t quite right, but Saturday afternoon isn’t really “pub time.”  It’s hard to be a good “public house” with the glaring light of day shining in your windows. Pub windows should reflect beer advertisements out, not have daylight glaring in.  But that’s not the pub’s fault.

The menuwas a fairly standard American pub menu.  You know: cheese fries, buffalo wings, and the like.  Like any good attempt at an Irish pub, though they had the standards on their entree menu: fish and chips, Shepard’s pie, and Irish Stew.  Then they go and spoil it by adding fish tacos.  Ew.  But then, I’m in Ashville, right?  And so I soldier on.  I mean, there’s Irish decor, and if there’s no Irish music, at least it’s not like the horrors of San Antonio.  I ordered, of course, the Shepard’s Pie.  I am, as they say, a connoisseur. The Pie was excellent.  The filling had corn added to it.  Generally not my choice as it’s not a traditional Irish food, but it certainly didn’t hurt the pie any.   My wife had a Guinness Pub burger from the sandwich menu.  It was served promptly and the way she ordered it (medium well), and was epic in size, with a huge bun to go with it.  The texture and flavor were all she could ask from a burger. It was juicy, but not so much that the bun got soggy. The side salad was a spring mix with bitter herbs, dried croutons, finely dices tomatoes, all of which were fresh, ripe, and flavorful.  The dressing was a sharp, well-seasoned vinaigrette.

My wife also reported out that the ladies room, like the men’s room, had chalkboards for expressing oneself, probably in an effort to keep down the graffiti.  However, it only had a small, non-handicapped stall.  I’m not sure how they get away with it there; Ashville is the only town I know more politically-correct than Berkley California.  Well, ok, aside from San Francisco.  Both restrooms were also very clean, and lack that “bar bathroom smell” so common in American drinkeries. 

Now to the meat of the matter.  Jack of the Wood bills itself as a brewpub.  While technically I want all brewpubs to have the brewery on site, Jack has it’s speciality beers brewed at a nearby brewery and  offers “beer flights,” collections of tasting size portions of their brews.  These are a great way to taste a wide variety of beers without having to call a cab to get back to your B&B. We found the Gold – Light English Ale to be a bit thin.  The Pale Ale was odd for us.  We could smell the hops, but not taste them.  The ESB lived up to it’s name, not too bitter.  It has a sweet finish, which moderated the bitterness in general.  The Porter was sweeter than the average porter, and had coffee tones to it.  The IPA was smoothly complex and left us remembering it for hours. 

I’m not a bourbon drinker, but my notes on the bourbon list were “good Lord.”

To, to sum up, I give Jack of the Wood

Three pints of five for atmosphere,

Two and a half pints of five for service,

And three pints of five for cuisine. 

That comes to 2.8 pints, and a better than average dining experience.

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  1. if your traveling with a vegetarian Salsa’s is good, its tiny, all earthy hippy but great Mexican / Carribean fusion food. Its also an art gallery, painting on walls are for sale…….one point, servings are friggin huge, and if they say its not TOO spicy, its spicy for some, my companion got misty from the heat

  2. I’ve been to Salsa. I saw some graffite recommending the Jalapeno Martini, and I couldn’t resist.

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