Small bites: Doc Brown’s BBQ gets cooking in Candler

MAC AND CHEESE PIE: At Doc Brown's BBQ in Candler, the mac and cheese goes quick. Its owner, historian and chef David  Brown, previously operated a food truck by the same name. He opened the brick-and-mortar eatery earlier this month.
MAC AND CHEESE PIE: At Doc Brown's BBQ in Candler, the mac and cheese goes quick. Its owner, historian and chef David Brown, previously operated a food truck by the same name. He opened the brick-and-mortar eatery earlier this month. Photo by Tipton Gentry, Portable Onsite Photography

David Brown recently opened his first brick-and-mortar venture, Doc Brown’s BBQ, in Candler. Having spent the previous three and a half years operating out of a food truck, Brown is the first to admit that his has been a circuitous journey to the world of barbecue.

In 1994, Brown left New England to earn his doctorate in American history at the University of South Carolina. One of the first restaurants Brown ate at was a place called Maurice’s Piggie Park BBQ. “That was an eye-opening experience,” he says. “They gave me this plate of yellow meat — this South Carolina golden mustard sauce — and I was like, ‘What is this?’ I saw a pork that was pink; I didn’t know it was from the wood smoke, I thought it was raw. I was a rube, you know?”

Brown, however, was also a quick study. He developed a deep interest in the history of the recipes. Over the last two decades, this fascination has led him down blue highways throughout the South, stopping at any and all barbecue joints — especially ones that appeared to operate out of former gas stations and other run-down spots. “I knew those were going to be the best,” he says.

In speaking with Brown, you quickly discover there is no way of separating the historian from the chef. “I don’t think of hamburgers and hot dogs as American food,” he says. “I think of Southern food as American food. You’ve got native ingredients, some European techniques and, of course, the labor from the forced immigration of the African slaves. These are the people that brought their own folkways.”

In discussing his menu, he can’t help but share historical tidbits. Macaroni pie, for example, originated from Barbados and Jamaica. “You’ve got to remember that Charleston was settled by Barbadians,” he says. “That’s why you’ll see, even up into Greenville, this particular square macaroni and cheese pie.”

Other menu items include pulled pork and beef, smoked house-made sausage, chicken bog, watermelon-cucumber salad, potato salad, corn casserole and slaw — a lot of slaw. At Doc Brown’s, guests have the option of slaw flights, which involve a sample of any four of Brown’s seven variations — creamy, vinegar, Lexington, Reid’s, Asian, jicama and mustard.

The reasoning is simple: “People get tribal with their slaw,” Brown says. He hopes these flights will encourage guests to expand their palates.

“I’m a teacher,” Brown says. “I’m a guy who can’t stop talking and wants you to be happy. I’m hospitable. I get a charge when someone eats my sandwich, and they look at the person sitting next to them satisfied … or when a 75-year-old woman puts her hand over her mouth and whispers that my potato salad might — might — be better than hers.”

His latest venture in Candler seats 37. Sandwiches run $6-$7, with plates going for $11-$12 and wood-smoked spare ribs costing $8-$24.

Doc Brown’s BBQ is at 1320 Smoky Park Highway, Candler. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For more information, visit avl.mx/389.

O Hole-y Night at Hole Doughnuts

Hole Doughnuts’ new owner, actress Hallee Hirsh, has announced that Hole will celebrate the holiday season with O Hole-y Night on Thursday, Dec. 22. Guests will find seasonal doughnut flavors for sale at the event, including brandy eggnog glaze, pfeffernusse, sugar and pine and panettone glaze. Carolers will perform throughout the evening.

O-Holey Night runs 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, at Hole Doughnuts, 168 Haywood Road. For details, visit avl.mx/38g

Feast of the Seven Fishes

On both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, Strada Italiano will host the traditional Catholic Feast of the Seven Fishes. The two-course dinner will begin with fritto misto tricolore salad with fried smelts, calamari fritti and lobster arancini served with baby winter greens, roasted red peppers, red onions, shaved pecorino and tomato-basil vinaigrette. The second course will include fresh squid ink linguini cioppino with scrimp, scallops, scungilli, mussels and clams served with arugula and garlic pesto ciabatta.

Reservations for the Feast of the Seven Fishes are available noon-9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, and 4 p.m.-late Saturday, Dec. 31. The meal is $35, not including tax, beverages or gratuity. Reservations can be made by calling 348-8448.

Changes at Bone and Broth

Bone and Broth, which opened in August, has plans to expand its small plates menu and add Sunday hours. Kirk Boone, the building’s owner and the restaurant’s co-partner, says both changes will be implemented after the holiday rush is over. Boone notes that chef Jay Medford has created a number of popular specials since Bone and Both’s launch, including a Scotch egg and others, which are being considered for the new menu. Sunday hours will likely be 4-11 p.m. More information to come.

Bone and Broth is at 94 Charlotte St. For updates, visit boneandbrothavl.com.

A-B Tech’s culinary team wins state title

Congratulations to A-B Tech’s student culinary team, which won its 18th state title on Dec. 3 at Central Piedmont Community College. In addition to placing first, team members Emma Wieber, Jessica Olin, Habiba Smallen, Nina Patterson and Emily Welch were awarded gold medals for their high scores. Next month, the team moves on to compete at the American Culinary Federation’s Southeast Regional competition at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte. If the team wins the regional championship, it will advance to the national level.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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