You can't make a million off bad desserts

This is a pointless rant, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for awhile.

Asheville is a town with its bad features, certainly–but among those bad features isn’t a lack of good restaurants. We rock on the restaurant front, have an embarrassment of riches. And on the dessert front we’re good, too, from the spectacular creme brulee at Zambra’s to the variety of Hungarian delights at Old Europe to the nationally-known Chocolate Fetish. We’re talking handmade confections created by folks who love their art.

There’s a business location in town that’s cursed. All towns have them. This place was a music club for a long time (Be Here Now); then it turned into a comedy club that allowed anti-gay jokes but forbade jokes against Billy Graham. Unsurprisingly, it died very quickly. It’s a huge space, of course–as I said, it used to be a music club.

Recently it reopened as a dessert parlor. Beautiful woodwork inside, a big bar, jazz playing. Probably would seat a hundred or more people. The rent’s gotta be stratospheric–it’s in the middle of downtown, nestled amongst other restaurants, and two businesses have already been unable to pay the rent in as many years.

But c’mon. Desserts. Everyone likes pie, right? burundi and I went there, hoping for the best.

It was foul. All their desserts were the kind of previously-frozen crap you get off the back of a truck. Nothing was homemade. And that bar? My bartender friend reports that you can get fifty different shitty variations on the vodka martini, and that’s about it.

What on earth would possess someone to have such a bad business plan? The place is always empty (I’ve not seen more that six people in there at once since it opened a couple months ago), and no wonder: it really sucks. Not sucks in an “I give you an A for effort” way, like some other restaurants. No, it sucks in an “I can’t believe you thought this would work” way.

The place is going down, no question. Even if they’d hired a fantastic baker, it’d be going down: you can’t fill a restaurant with 100 dessert-eaters, not in a town this size. But at least then I would’ve understood: it would be a noble attempt by people who love desserts to share their joy.

Not this. This is a business-plan restaurant, and my spastic colon could come up with a better business plan.

What’s wrong with people?


I hear you.

There was a BBQ place opened down the road from where I work.
During the first month it opened I went in during lunch and ordered a lunch-special sandwich. It was decent enough but nothing special. In most other towns it may actually have had a chance but in Kansas City there are 15 or 20 GREAT BBQ places and about a halfazillion not so great but big-servings joints.

This place was neither and it was not in a very accessable location. So basically the joint was:

A) Not even close to the best tasting around
B) Small servings
C) Bad Location

I’m still amazed that these people thought they had a chance. I even went back a few weeks later thinking that maybe they just accidently didn’t build a good sandwich one time. Nope. Still smallish sandwich at a not smallish price and BBQ that was OK but nothing special.

They closed after 4 months.

Saw a sign that a Thai place was opening up near my house in the space where a Pizza Hut died. It’s across the street from a major University, adjoining a frat-boy bar and in front of a neighborhood known for housing students.

Hey, I thought, a cheap late-night noodle joint. Cool.

They went for an upscale clientele, selling lousy Pad Thai for $9. :rolleyes:

There was a place here that served sandwiches. Maybe they were good sandwiches. I don’t know. The name always turned me off. Best Toast.

Best Toast? Try saying that. Best…Toast. Wha? It doesn’t roll off the tongue; it stumbles off. And why would you want to go to a restarant that feels its claim to fame is toast. Good, best or mediocre, toast is still just toast. What inspired the owners to take that name?

It closed its doors as soon as the lease was out. Maybe six months. Then the space became a BBQ joint that became another BBQ joint that seems to be doing OK.

Consider yourself blessed. I can live without great desserts, I’m quite capable of making my own, and I rarely order dessert in a restaurant. A variety of dining choices, on the other hand…

Here in the Prison City, there are no really good Chinese joints. Passable, yes, when you’re desperate. One Thai place on the edge of town…4 tables and the guy is overworked. If the dining room is full, you can wait over an hour for a carry-out order…and that’s after calling it in and going to pick it up. Italian? There used to be a decent Mediterranean place with an interesting menu…it lasted about a year, then became a steak house, now it’s a sports bar. Greek? Only the Greek-owned “family restaurant” type with a few Greek dishes on the menu. Cajun? There’s a biker bar in town that has a Cajun chef, a good one, a few days a week. His daub is runny, though. Mexican? There’s a huge Hispanic population here, and the food is still mediocre at best. You can’t even get a really good pizza in this town.

I have to cut the local sushi place some slack, though…excellent quality. But it’s mutant sushi…eveything is about twice the size it should be.

Which is the basic theme for “wow, it’s a good restaurant” around here. Make the portions huge, don’t tax anyone’s tastebuds, and deep fry it. Oh, and salt the shit out of it, too, please. Or just serve steak and fried chicken. You’re golden. It’s a damned good thing I’m a good cook.

OTOH, it’s only a few miles to Naperville…absolutely anything you could possibly want. Korean, tapas, Mongolian, good Mediterranean, excellent sushi, inventive hard-to-categorize stuff…

Man, I love food.

Just don’t expect a decent meal in Joliet, IL.

My favorite - in my college town, there were already three beloved, competing pizza places that gave you delicious, huge, sub-$5 pies with free delivery (their drivers actually weren’t allowed to accept tips!).

Perfect market to open up a “take and bake” “gourmet” pizza place, right? Right? Oh, GOD, no!

This place opened up selling pies that you had to take home and cook yourself that were both smaller and more expensive than comparable pies from the big chains, who couldn’t even compete with the three locally owned places!

We had a “cursed” business location right next to campus. It started as a Denny’, then, then went through two more diner incarnations that quickly failed. At least when it was Denny’s, it was open late. Here’s a little clue folks, it’s a block and a half from the cafeteria. The cafeteria pretty much serves everything on your menu, and most of the students already have a mealplan. So what makes you think we want to pay $8 for a burger and fries when we can go to the cafe and eat the same food till we asplode? It wasn’t even the place to go drink coffee as the local coffee house was in the same building and hhad a better atmospere.

You gotta wonder if some of these places are tax write-offs.

TheInteruptingCow while I agree with you for the most part, but there are a few good eateries around here.
Heros and legends make some great sandwiches.Their Ragin Cajun chicken sandwich is really good. Senior Tequilas has great Carne Asada and the best Margaritas in town.There are a ton of little mom and pop Chinese restaurants in little strip malls, you just have to try them untill you find the one that suits your tastes (I’m partial to China Kitchen, across from the junior college)

No argument on the “eateries”… there’s good samitches and stuff to be found…just not truly interesting dining. I would have thought that variety would have creeped its way west by now… I’ve lived here since 1980.

I will agree that Senor Tequila’s may be the best (authentic and not overdone) Mexican restaurant in town. China Kitchen, I’m not familiar with…

What amazes me more…there’s a fellow Doper in town? Glory be…

I remember a few things from my college days; one was the corner across from the college. You’d think it would be a gold mine – the entire street was full of restaurants, but the corner across from the school had to coin money, didn’t it? One place after another: a cafe, an ice cream shop, a yogurt shop, a sandwich shop… they all died. The rent for that corner must have been truly ruinous, becasue those places were all busy as hell.

A more recent failure, perhaps more germane to this thread, was a bar not too far from where I work. It was tied to a brewery, and had tanks out back. They had decent food, if a little expensive, and great beer, and they were right on the water, within walking distance of the marina. Most of their custom was from workers in the business park, who stop for a beer or two after work. They got along all right, but a series of employees who gave away too much beer to friends had put a serious dent in the books, so the brewers decided to get out of the restaurant business. They sold the bar operation to their new manager, who promptly closed up shop for remodeling (cue ominous chords).

What did he do wrong? Well, he cut the bar’s floor space and built offices for rent – without a permit. The city council found out, and he didn’t see a business license or liquor license for over a year. By that time, the clientele had pretty much given up on the place – you had to go out of your way just to see if it was open yet. The few who hadn’t given up abandoned it when it reopened. You see, he had replaced the limited bar munchy menu (burgers, nachos, etc.) with pretentious overpriced crap that didn’t satisfy, didn’t look appetizing on the menu, and didn’t come quickly. The burgers were actually pretty interesting before – various exotic meats (ostrich, buffalo) in addition to the usual beef.

Worst of all, there was no draft beer. Yes, in a boneheaded moment of inspiration, the business genius decided that the brewery behind the bar was charging too much, so he wouldn’t carry their beer. Only thing is, they were still the owners of the taps. So they ripped them out, and the once-proud tied house was reduced to selling bottled beer. Bottled domestic beer.

Tax writeoff? Nah. My best guess is that some out-of-towner wanted to move to Asheville and came up with the business plan as an excuse for the move, knowing nothing about food, Asheville, or the food in Asheville. The decor really is quite lovely; if it were a tax writeoff, I’d expect it to look crappy in addition to serving crap.

but yeah, InterruptingCow, I definitely count my blessings. As I said, we DO have a great little dessert place in town; even if Eastern European desserts contain more gelatin that I like, I can tell that they’re top-notch for their genre. And they’re beautiful, and they’re always packed.


That’s redundant.

Here in Murfreesboro there is a building about 1 block from the local Cop Shop, Main Fire Hall, City Hall, Public Library & Water/Sewers.
5 restaurants opened there, most of 'em steak/western themed.

All died a slow dead.

It’s a liquor store now

There was a “cursed” corner about two blocks from my house. It was a “Italy’s Little Kitchen” for a while, and then it went through several changes of business, and finally decided to be the EN Sushi restaurant, which can be seen in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. We went there once, and found the food to be good, but overpriced and meager. Still, it has now been EN for several years, so the Curse Of The Corner appears to have been lifted.

A place opened near me that was built from scratch and outfitted as a Sport’s Bar. TV’s hanging off the walls and ceiling. Food was ok, but it just never took off and eventually shut down. Did I mention it was a Sport’s Bar? It was closed Monday nights (when football was on at a reasonable time.) Idiots.

Hee! That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. I mean, I know nothing about sports, except that usually the team with the most points is ahead. So that’s the kind of boneheaded mistake I might make if I opened a sports bar.

So I don’t open a goddamn sports bar.

You shouldn’t make a business of something you don’t know anything about. Doesn’t work.

When my wife lived in Raleigh, we’d occasionally go out to bars, and every single bar in Raleigh (well, almost all of them) were these horrible little faux-Irish things created by an MBA with no sense of barriness whatsoever. They sucked. But at least their food and beer was palatable, in a sterile, soulless way.


A good rant, Daniel. And you’re right, the market will take care of those sods. Incidentally, my wife and mother-in-law are going to Biltmore House in Asheville next week for some sort of candlelight thing. She (the mother-in-law) is coming in from Phoenix, and their trip is our Christmas present to her. Where would you recommend they have dinner?

Hmm…depends on what they’re interested in. Here are my recommendations for different food types:

  • Schmancy: I’ve not been to the highest-end restaurants in town, but it’s easy to set yourself back fifty bucks a person at The Flying Frog, and the food there is fabulous. It’s kind of a French/Vietnamese/Indian mix, done by folks who really are about the quality of food. You can get appetizers on the upstairs menu for a reasonable price, and so the upstairs has become one of our semiregular stops: their Indian sampler plate is wonderful.
  • Tapas: there’s a great tapas bar in town called Zambra’s. The chef there is one of these evil genius chefs who puts lavender in your steamed mussels, saffron in your flan, and makes it work. Really tasty.
  • Italian: The same evil genius chef has opened an Italian restaurant called Tomatoes, which I highly recommend. They make their gnocchi in-house, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to eat the storebought kind after having had these fluffy revelations.
  • Vegetarian: I know, I know. Still, The Laughing Seed is something of an institution–I have a nonvegetarian aunt who makes a point of eating there whenever she’s in Asheville. They’ve gone upscale in the last few months, though, so I don’t know if they’re still as good as they used to be.
  • Middle Eastern: The Jerusalem Garden has got great Middle-Eastern food, and in the evenings there are belly dancers dancing to live music. It’s where burundi and I had our rehearsal dinner. Ask to be seated in the back room: it’s swathed in a billowing tent.

There are other great restaurants in town (Heiwa Shokudo for Japanese food, The Noodle Shop for traditional Chinese food, Salsa’s for decidedly untraditional Mexican food, Asheville Pizza Company for pizza and great beer, and Tupelo Honey for superior Southern eatin), but those places are all pretty informal; if you’re looking for a place for an Event Dinner, I’d recommend one of the places above.

Of course, Biltmore also has fancy restaurants, and if ambience is most important, you probably can’t beat one of theirs. But you’re paying for ambience out there, not for good food.


Thanks, I’ll let her know. Any places with good just-plain-southern food? Great fried chicken, real creamed potatoes, collards made from scratch, green beans cooked in fatback, that sort of thing?