12 Bones, Asheville. Asheville, NC has long been one of my favorite cities. While I found it beautiful during the summer of 1977 when I spent the summer there, in recent years it has undergone somewhat of a rejuvenation in the area of the arts and dining. With mountains on every side, the amazing Biltmore House, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can find dozens of things to do in Asheville. Of course, you know if I go there, we are going to check out BBQ! We had done the usual Google search for Asheville's best BBQ, and after reviewing the reviews and menus www.12bones.com, it was decided that we would put 12 Bones on top of our to do list. Upon arriving in the River Arts District, our GPS took us right to the place. Frankly, I was a little taken aback in that the joint is just that, a rather old building in the old warehouse district near the river. What was present, though, were a number of cars in the parking lot with a line all the way from the order counter to the door.
Once in the place, we scoped out the order counter where a rather young and energetic crowd manned both the counter but the kitchen as well. I placed my order of a bbq sandwich, baked beans, and collard greens. To my delight, 12 Bones serves up Cheerwine soda (unique largely to NC), so we fixed our soft drinks and awaited our order. The old joint was bustling with folks. The food that the wait staff was bringing by insured us that we had made the right decision to try 12 Bones. Within just a few minutes, our food arrived. Oh my, as you can tell from Debbie's salad in the back ground and my plate in the foreground, the food proportions were large. Debbie's salad came with pork, onion ring strings, and cornbread...and some of the best I've eaten in a while!
To get the salad out of the way, the only complaint Debbie had was that the salad dressing was rather spicy. No doubt, though, there was more than enough food for one person on this salad plate. The bbq was, well, just about the best I've had in a long time. The meat was clean with just enough smoke taste. The moisture content was perfect in that it was moist and not dry while being relatively lean and not fatty. On a scale of 1 to 5, a 4.5 rating seems to be about right. Truly among the best. The beans, too, were fantastic. With just enough chopped pork in the beans, they were flavorful with a hint of mustard in the base. I can only rank the collards about average. The appearance of them was fine. They had a healthy (or maybe unhealthy that is) amount of pork in them, but somehow they didn't rank up there with the best that I had ever had. 12 Bones sticks true to a bbq joint menu. You won't find catfish, hamburgers, or that kind of add on type of food. You just find real bbq meats to include pulled pork, ribs, brisket, chicken, and smoked turkey.
12 Bones in the Press. 12 Bones has served up some very famous folks. On at least two occasions, President Obama has dined at 12 Bones. They have been featured in a number of magazine and newspaper articles for among other things some pretty impressive awards among the Asheville dining scene. As shown in the photo above, they've even been awarded the "Good Morning America's Best Bite Challenge" award.
In case you forget to pick up a bottle of 12 Bones BBQ Sauce while you are at the story, don't worry...you can find it in just about every little gift shop and other stores in Asheville. The folks at 12 Bones have got to be making a killing on their (slightly pricey) sauce. In regards to their sauces, their mainstay is a slightly sweet tomato based sauce that is thicker than you typically find in NC. Their vinegar based sauce is about as thin as you'll find. If my memory serves me correctly, their mustard based sauce really was top notch in both consistency, spiciness, and overall taste.
All in all, if you are going to Asheville, this is a "must do" stop. At the river store, they are only open during the middle of the day on Monday through Friday. Why not on Saturday and Sunday? They flat don't have to be!!! The business during the 5 or so hours a day they are open each day is clearly brisk enough to make the business a success. I know there are a couple of other highly regarding bbq joints in Asheville, and I'll catch them next time, but there's no regrets for having chosen 12 Bones on this late June trip in 2013!