Asheville Barbeque Battle

Asheville, North Carolina for Memorial Day Weekend. 12 Bones. Luella’s. Appetites. We’re all winners here.

My barbeque expertise is in Texas, not North Carolina, which means historically I’m all about brisket not pork, but I love good pig parts when I can get them, and this weekend opportunity knocked like shave-and-a-haircut to Roger Rabbit. We sampled baby back ribs, pulled pork, and a variety of sides from the regionally famous 12 Bones and from Luella’s, another well-regarded local joint.

12 Bones Ribs

12 Bones Ribs

(how did that lime get in there?)  Here are our results from the taste test.

Ribs: essentially a tie, both half-racks were meaty and juicy; 12 Bones were a bit longer, thinner, curvier, and more blackened at the ends, and maybe just a bit juicier; if I had to pick one I would pick 12 Bones but Luella’s ribs are plenty good.  12 Bones are also less expensive ($10 vs. $12.95 including two sides per each order).

Luella's Ribs

Luella's Ribs

Pulled/chopped pork: Luella’s was good but dry, with vinegary overtones, and chopped too fine for my taste. 12 Bones was the winner here with big juicy chunks o’ pig.

Collard greens: veggies were, surprisingly, the biggest differentiator between the restaurants; 12 Bones collards were bright, vibrant green with pork flavor despite little evident bacon, well-balanced bacon-vinegar goodness; Luella’s greens were maybe a bit overcooked, washed-out color, big chunks of bacon but less pork flavor.

12 Bones Pulled Pork Platter

12 Bones Pulled Pork Platter

Coleslaw: 12 Bones slaw was exemplary, tangy, vinegary, mustard seeds, all slaw should aspire to this level of quality; Luella’s was no better than KFC.

Mac’n’cheese: biggest disappointment overall, both were pale, bland, and not particularly creamy, clearly an afterthought.

Luella's Chopped Pork Platter

Luella's Chopped Pork Platter

Beans: Luella’s served up some good looking mixed bean salad but it didn’t have much flavor, more ketchupy than anything despite any visible evidence of ketchup; 12 Bones was more standard baked beans styley but still nothing special; no real winner here, as both paled in comparison to your better Texas bbq joint sides of beans (e.g. Kreutz Market).

Bonus Starch: because mac/cheese and various potato options are never enough, we get cornbread from 12 Bones and hush puppies from Luella’s; both good; the cornbread was moist and delicately corny, a fine example of the genre; the hush puppies were a little on the heavy side, but hey, hush puppies, tasty.

Overall, a clear win for top-ranked 12 Bones. If I found myself at Luella’s again I would stick to ribs and hush puppies.  If I find myself in Asheville again, I will go straight to 12 Bones. That said, we found several other excellent eating options this weekend, more about which in a day or so.

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4 responses to “Asheville Barbeque Battle

  1. Since you invoked the Kreutz name I felt like I just had to chime in. I have to admit that I didn’t remember Kreutz offering any sides…or plates…or utensils…or bbq sauce…or anything other than white bread, butcher paper and a roll of paper towels for the sissys. But I gather you’re right, they do have some limited sides. Apparently they also got all fancy and now accept credit cards.
    I also remember my visit there being one of the hottest experiences of my life. Dang, that was a hot day!

  2. Kreutz does not have a lot of sides, but they do offer smoky beans, and they are fabulous. When the brisket and beans are that good, you don’t need sauce or other sides, just a beverage and a lot of paper towels (bbq sauce is for sissies, paper towels are a necessary occupational hazard).

  3. Ha, looks like I’m not the only Wheaton-ite testing out BBQ in other states!

  4. Woohoo Ashley! I have never been to KC, glad you had a good bbq experience. Also re Houston, Mrs. Me’s parental units live in Rice Village — haven’t been to Hungry’s, but I highly recommend the po’boy sandwiches from Antone’s. We always get them on our way out of Dodge to eat on the airplane. Also the Gingerman, fun beer bar where Mrs. Me bartended, back in the day.

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