Bull and Beggar: laying it on the line

The Bull and Beggar, brainchild of Matt Dawes (formerly of Table) and Drew Wallace (co-owner of The Admiral), is one of those places that should be a huge hit right out of the gate. 

I’m going to lay it on the line here. A no punches pulled review, so hold on.

Ashevillians love unique. They also love great food, of which there is an overwhelming choice. This is the arena Bull and Beggar has entered, off a gravel road/parking lot, in the shadow of an overpass, in Asheville’s River Arts District.

In Bull and Beggar, Dawes and Wallace created a beautiful interior space in what was a loading dock, behind an unmarked door. Scratch that. There are two doors, one marked “007”, the other marked by a towering Tyrannosaurus Rex sculpture.

Out front is a counter that seats half a dozen or so, from which you can take in parking lot action and trains going by (satellite view).

Parking lot action doesn’t sound interesting unless you know Wedge Brewing is in the same building and they host Food Trucks and outdoor movies.

The Bull and Beggar

Being my first time at B&B, I approached as any other consumer would, recognizing the eatery from an online photo. The exterior shot on their FB Page shows signage, but being overlaid onto the photo, it wasn’t there in reality. I then chose the door that was propped open slightly and proceeded to walk in behind the bar. It took a sec to figure out what had happened, and by that time we were being gently ushered out by the bartender. Don’t chose poorly.

“We don’t have a sign and we don’t advertise,” said Drew Wallace, one of the restaurant’s co-owners. “We believe in word of mouth in getting people in the door.” Read full article in The Manual

Inside decor is one-and-a-half floors of industrial-chic, feeling elegant and casual at the same time. It’s hard to see in the photo below, but there is balcony-type seating up the stairs.

The Bull and Beggar

Four of us sat at the bar for a drinks before dinner, a chat with each other and the bartender (very nice guy) and a bowl of Hush Puppies ($5) with whipped maple butter for dipping – excellent. It got pretty hot sitting with our backs to large, mostly west-facing windows, but we learned plans are in the works for an awning.

Folks sitting next to us ordered this beautiful tray of oysters. Really stunning. Thanks go out to them for holding off until I could get a shot.

The Bull and Beggar

The Bull and Beggar
View from our table in the back, left side.

Bull and Beggar does not have a website. For now, they’re relying on a Facebook Page. The latest menu on that page was posted July 17th. Since then, there have been minor changes in offerings and price. So use that image to get a general idea of what to expect, but don’t rely on it for specifics.

Friend une chose to begin her meal with Boudin Balls ($5). These are a classic: seasoned pork meat, including liver, that’s been rolled into a ball and deep fried. They were served with a Cajun Remoulade. Yummy!

The Bull and Beggar

Because this friend is known to B&B chefs as a consummate foodie, they sent out a special plate of Pork Tongue served with seasoned butter beans and light salad greens. Try this beautiful mix of tender, flavorful meat and veggies if it’s available. You won’t be sorry.

The Bull and Beggar

Skate Wing ($20). If you’re not familiar with Skate, read fascinating information (mermaid’s purse) here. The fish was served with an interesting and tasty choice of side, lentils. It was topped, from what I could see, with a mixture that included pine nuts, garlic, raisins and capers. I had a taste of the Skate – nice – but didn’t get to try the topping mixture.

The Bull and Beggar

Friend deux ordered a salad of Butter Lettuce, Maytag Blue Cheese and croutons tossed in a Buttermilk Dressing. Read more about Maytag Blue Cheese on their website. Yes, it was good, but oh my, those croutons!

The Bull and Beggar

She finished off her meal with a Lobster Roll. Want a little kick with your roll? A small bowl of chopped roasted chili comes with. Portioned on the smaller side, this dish is on the menu under “Snacks”.

The Bull and Beggar

A little wine with dinner never hurts. I was still nursing my cocktail, so didn’t have any of what I think was Chateau La Rame Bordeaux ($9/glass).

The Bull and Beggar

Friend trois went with the Roasted Chicken ($21). AKA bowl o’ chicken – just made that up. Tasting just the meat, I can report delicious, tender chicken I’d like to order on my next visit.

The Bull and Beggar

Lastly, the Filet Mignon I decided to order as a treat. And at $30, it should be a treat. Here’s a little background on the dish from Emily Patrick’s July, 2013 Bull and Beggar article:

“In that spirit, he’s bringing back the filet mignon, which has fallen out of favor in recent years because of its low fat (and therefore, flavor) content.”

“But what’s more, he’s improving it. “We’re serving it with a 2-inch pipe marrow bone with a spoon in it and Madeira sauce made from lots and lots of veal bones that also has marrow mounted into it as well,” he says. “So all the flavor that you’re missing in the filet mignon that you might find in a rib-eye, we’re putting back on the plate.”

The Bull and Beggar

I hadn’t thought much about those quotes until I took the first filet bite. Fabulously crusty and flavorful outside – bland, and a little chewy inside.

This led to a discussion on flavor and tenderness of grass vs grain fed beef. I also began thinking of Chef’s “putting [flavor] back on the plate” comment as more of a, here’s what we’ve done to make up for a lackluster filet.

Yes, the bone marrow and madeira sause were very, very good, but I’m sorry, for $30, the filet should be excellent on its own. And I’ve had plenty of filets that were.

Comments from any Chefs/readers out there who’ve had this dish, or are familiar with this cut of meat, and want to “help me understand” (politely) why my take is off, are welcome.

I also ordered the Tartiflette ($7), potatoes au gratin on steroids. With no way to cut the greens or dig through them, to those luscious-cheesy potatoes, eating this was impossible without making a mess on the table. I slipped my fork in from the side for a sample. Fabulous, but the rest went home with me to have later – on a plate.

Bull and Beggar

Bottom Line – I like The Bull and Beggar. Like the guys behind it. Overall, like the food. It’s definitely worth going. When you do, let me know what you think.

Epicurean Notes:

  • People being people, love to be “in the know”, conspiratorially telling friends about a restaurant that’s so great they don’t need a sign, website, or advertising. That works if the restaurant in question is serving killer food or is so unique you just have to experience it.
  • Many tables were empty the Tuesday night we were at B&B. But, out front, long rows of picnic tables were full with folks eating food from the El Kimchi Food Truck parked outside Wedge Brewing. Maybe B&B gets busy later at night?
  • Next time I go, if they let me in, I think I’ll try a few “snacks” or “small plates”.

The Bull and Beggar (Facebook Page)
37 Paynes Way
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 575-9443

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