5 Riverside Drive
Once, M didn’t like BBQ ribs. Too many experiences with gristly, fatty, underwhelming spares and baby backs had led him to a life filled with pulled pork and brisket. Not that he was complaining – these are meals for the gods. But on a drive through Asheville, we decided to give ribs one more chance, at a widely praised smokehouse by the Asheville riverfront. A long story short: M likes ribs now. Loves ribs. Craves them. A slab of six ribs at 12 Bones (and nothing else, mind you) single-handedly changed his barbecue life. Like any good rib place, 12 Bones does not give you much time: open only 11-4 on weekdays (or until the food runs out, whichever is first), by the time we arrived at 10:30 there was already a line. We were lucky to be early: there were multiple rub glazes to pick, and at the last minute, knowing the ribs were famous, M decided to opt for a standard 6-bones rack of brown sugar glaze. Among other potential choices was pineapple habanero, but we felt that could have been getting a little too playful if we wanted to get something traditional for our first time. There is something primordial about a rack of ribs that come out on an aluminum plate. No sides, no nothing else. And they did not need anything: the rack of ribs in the background of this photo were easily the best we have ever had – just amazing. Perfectly smoked, all the fat had melted away, leaving behind perfectly tender, well-seasoned, and artfully glazed rack of certified culinary cavemanliness. Extra points for the fun outdoor seating area! Meanwhile, as M was salivating over his rib plate, L was busy on her usual: pulled pork. It was good, but not memorable in comparison to the ribs. A solid, light smoke flavor with a sweet North Carolina vinegar sauce made for a worthy contribution to our meal. Between us, we split cornbread, macaroni and cheese, and cucumber salad as sides. But again, the star here is the ribs: if you have a chance to stop in Asheville, definitely pay a visit to 12 Bones.
A side note: while in Asheville, be sure to check out the city’s riverfront arts and antiques district! There is something about BBQ in North Carolina that attracts it to art. Where else can you find an 1960s Illinois Democratic Party pin for a dollar?