It’s happening again, dear reader. And as terrifying and unsettling as change can be, I am here with a heaping second helping. Eat up! (That was a Thanksgiving reference, by the way; I hope your holiday gathering left your heart as full as your stomach.)
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cayla Clark: I’m a playwright, comedian, producer, and longtime fan (and former calendar coordinator) of Xpress. I’ve wrangled up a hodgepodge crew of hilarious humans for November’s “Best Medicine,” including the multitalented Toni Brown, improv scene sweetheart Casey Gullickson and Donnie Rex Bishop, my co-host at Blind Date Live — a monthly dating show at The Grey Eagle.
Big thanks to Eric Brown and his relentless mustache for setting the (handle)bar too high in last month’s installment and of course, a warm holler to Morgan Marie, who birthed a beautiful “Best Medicine” baby and left Eric and me to raise it in this desolate wasteland of a town.
Just kidding, I love Asheville. And I love you, dear reader, even though you keep getting way too close to the bears.
Cayla Clark: Personally, I love the week or two following Thanksgiving even more than Turkey Day itself. My fridge is full-to-bursting with Tupperware, and I know I won’t have to throw down at Earth Fare till at least mid-December. I might get sick of soggy, coagulated green beans, sure, but generally speaking, leftovers are pretty much the greatest thing ever. If you’re in the mood to “take the rest home,” where do you go?
Casey Gullickson: This one is easy for me. The Detroit-style pizza from Asheville Pizza & Brewing is the correct and only answer. This is my favorite pizza of all time, anywhere.
I usually order the massive Detroit style with friends (I swear I have friends). But recently, I found myself alone at my house watching football. (My friends were out of town, ha-ha! They are always doing crazy things like going out of town without me — those guys). No matter! I ordered a mushroom- and green pepper-topped behemoth, ate 1/3 of it and stashed the rest in the fridge.
The next morning, I ate two more slices — cold, naked and alone. (Because, you know, my friends were out of town.) It was an entirely different meal. Not better or worse, just different. Maybe slightly more salty than the night prior because it was freshly seasoned with tears. I FaceTimed my friends to tell them about it, and they were superhappy that I was having such a wonderful experience by myself. Alone. Without them. (They are sooooo funny and also they exist!)
If this was a tradition, I’d call it, “Crying in front of the open fridge again, marinara sauce slowly dripping down my chin.” But it’s totally not a tradition because, you know, usually I split the pizza with friends.
Toni Brown: I’m a big fan of the taco truck that hangs out in the Haywood Country Club parking lot on the weekend. It has definitely become my go-to for drunk leftovers. It’s a Friday night ritual for me. I grab four tacos arabes and four asada tacos. Then I go next door to wait on my food and gracefully put away between two and three margaritas, sometimes seven. By then, I’ve usually forgotten that I ordered tacos, meaning I run over in a sweaty panic when the memory kicks in. Once I’ve secured the taco bag, I head back over to the country club, eat half of my tacos, have two more drinks and Uber home. Then, in the comfort of my home, I curl up with my dog and watch “Real Housewives of (insert city here, but usually Atlanta)” and eat the leftover tacos in bed. I like to call this tradition, “Past Toni thinking of future drunk Toni.”
Donnie Rex Bishop: Well, you see, I think the best place for leftovers, so to speak, is around the back of one of the finest chain doughnut establishments we have here in town. I won’t name which one because I’d be a fool to give away my secrets. But they make doughnuts so good that I’m willing to eat the large bags of them that they throw into the dumpster every night. There’s nothing worse than going out for a long night of dumpster diving only to come up empty-handed. But this place — this wonderful restaurant that can be found throughout these beautiful United States and creates the finest round-bread-with-a-hole-in-the-middle cuisine — is always guaranteed to have mounds and mounds of delicious orifice-shaped bites every time. They never disappoint!
God bless this (not so) hot and ready treat that I can take home and eat for days. There’s so much of it that I often feel like Scrooge McDuck jumping into his vault full of gold coins. Except, instead of gold coins, it’s fried bread that is only slightly stale and often not even moldy. I heard a rumor that the Patton location might be closing. If that’s true … well, I’ll be moving promptly. I like to call this tradition “One man’s trash is another man’s glazed, edible fleshlight.”
Cayla: Donnie’s Patton Avenue dumpster isn’t the only treasure trove on that forever traffic-laden, God-forsaken road. El Que Pasa has become my favorite go-to leftover joint in town. If you’ve never been, the vibes are always immaculate. Sit in the dining room for a nice meal with friends or family, or head to the bar for a completely different, drunk Toni-approved, experience.
Toni: Oh, my goodness, yes.
Cayla: The best part? The salsa bar. Here’s the routine — order some chicken enchiladas, completely ruin my appetite by gorging on complimentary chips and salsa, and take the entree home to be enjoyed the next morning. I usually go “Full Casey” and wolf down the cold meal naked in front of the open fridge. (Sometimes, I cry but that’s really more his thing.) The salsa bar is the kicker, the piece de resistance.
I’m actually planning on opening a food truck called I Swear This Is Gazpacho. I’m just going to serve free salsa in a biodegradable bowl. I’ve been taking the foundations course at Mountain BizWorks to try and get the idea off the ground, but my teacher keeps saying, “This is not a good idea, Cayla.” Whatever that means. Small businesses thrive in Asheville, and people love cold, vegetable soup. You say “tomato,” I say, “That will be $28.”
Cayla: As the leaves finish falling and the creepy peepers head back to wherever the heck they came from (Florida), us local Ashevilleans brace ourselves for an uncharacteristically cold winter. El Niño (Spanish for “The Niño”) is gearing up to pummel us with an above-average snowfall. Having been born in California — through no fault of my own — I am particularly ill-equipped to leave the house should the temperature drop below 75. What’s your favorite way to escape the blistering cold?
Casey: I guess staying inside my warm and safe house — by myself, alone — isn’t a very good answer. My other go-to is The Whale. Talk about cozy — holy harpoon. This place offers some of the best beer in town and makes me feel like I’m in a cabin in the woods with some of my best friends. That’s how friendly the beertenders are. They remind me of my best friends. (But obviously, they are not, because, as you know, I have best friends who actually exist.) If I feel a bit peckish, I can bounce over to Haywood Common for some boiled peanuts. Nothing more warming than boiled peanuts. I usually just pour them straight down my trousers. It’s like peeing your pants for adults. I’m pretty sure it’s a WNC thing.
Toni: When the crippling sense of dread from the sun setting at 5:30 p.m. takes hold, I like to escape the cold by going to the downtown YMCA. It’s a great way to stay warm, get my body ready for more tacos and scope out the hot dudes that I will never muster the courage to speak a word to. I also have a wicked resting bitch face, so no one ever approaches me, but hey — a girl can dream.
If I have enough time, I like to end each sweaty gym sesh with a visit to the sauna/steam room. It’s great: You get to hang out in a tiny hot space naked with strangers! Sometimes they even like to make conversations about really fun topics such as their kids’ bus schedules, what coffee shop has the best oat milk lavender latte or my personal favorite — politics. Who doesn’t want to have a heated conversation with a stranger who is also totally nude?
Cayla: If I do leave the comfort of home, you’ll find me curled up in a tattered pleather couch at Grail Moviehouse, inhaling buttered popcorn like it’s an Olympic sport. Actually, the Foundy in general is a great place to escape the cold. I can spend about 16 hours bouncing around Marquee. Usually, that’s because I get hopelessly turned around in there. Fortunately, it’s a stacked place to get lost. The last time it happened (winter of 2022), I built a fort out of blown-glass succulents, vintage postcards and a $1,200 chair. I survived on nonalcoholic Negronis and kind of Cast Away’d it up with a decorative orb named George Vanderbilt Jr. I was found by an employee after 30 minutes. Legend has it I was singing “Raise Up” by Petey Pablo and eating fistfuls of my own hair.
Donnie Rex: When winter hits, I like to bury myself deep within my dark, dark soul. Kind of like Casey’s first answer about the Detroit-style pizza but way less sad. It’s warmer than you’d think in the depths of my despair! The constant existential dread keeps me sweating like you wouldn’t believe. And once my tears have fallen and start to get cold, I’ll throw them in a “mind pot” (don’t ask) and heat them over the flames of my shame and guilt that keep my soul furnace burning. The downtown YMCA sounds like a close second, though.
Cayla: Cuffing season is in full swing. As if dating in Asheville wasn’t hard enough, now we have the added pressure of finding a short-term partner(s) with whom to pass the coldest days of the year. If you’re single and ready to jingle, where are you going to scope hotties? Er, coldies? If you’re already cuffed, where are you taking your sweetie on a romantic li’l datey date?
Casey: It’s true what they say about grocery stores: They have a lot of food in them. And it’s also true that they’re great for finding sexy singles. The key is this: You have to go to the grocery store that attracts the kind of people you’re interested in. Interested in people who like a good deal? Aldi. Interested in people who want to spend $8 on a gallon of milk? Whole Foods. Interested in people who practice meditation and yoga simply to not go insane while trying to navigate the Trader Joe’s parking lot? Trader Joe’s. Personally, I like to mix it up. I recently got a Sam’s Club membership. Not so much for the groceries or for meeting potential romantic partners. I just thought being in a club of some sort would help me make some friends. So far, it has not.
Toni: I really like to wow my dates with obscure information and tangents about my special interests, so I like to look for hotties at the comic-book store. Comic Envy is one of my favorites. Lots of singles there.
Allow me to set the scene:
In walk two incredibly hot people (one of them being myself, of course), and they both begin scouring the shelves for the same new Rich Tommaso graphic novel about a seal that is also a spy. We are both so wrapped up in trying to find it that we don’t notice each other. Then BAM! We run into each other, look up and realize whoa … this is my soul mate. I start spouting off facts about the author, and now we’re in love.
This has yet to work for me.
Clark: Back when I was young and wild and free (about four months ago), I used to scope out local singles at The Whale. However, there was this one guy who would loudly “talk” to his best friends on a gourd, shouting things like, “Hey guys, I saved you some Detroit-style pizza for you,” and, “Ha-ha! You guys are so funny; I am so glad you exist.”
Now that I’m cuffed AF, my man and I frequently go on romantic little dates to the mini-golf spot on Patton, Tropical Gardens. Our relationship has nearly ended every time we go because apparently, he’s Tiger Woods (because he’s good at golf, not the whole sex addiction thing). But we have fun before he sinks his first hole-in-one, while I spend the next 45 minutes chasing a purple ball around a giraffe.
Donnie Rex: Well, I am seeing someone right now, NBD. We’re both into heavy necking and sweaty handholding while at the movies. I think we’ve actually seen Cayla at Grail a couple times.
Cayla: Oh, those incessant slurping sounds coming from the back left corner of the theater? That was you?
Donnie Rex: Yes, that was us and will continue to be! We call our movie dates “middle schooling.” I’m actually a method actor, so I have my mom drop us off and pick us up. (She’s the worst!) To get us really into the role-playing, we’ll buy tickets (with my mom’s money) for something like Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie only to sneak into The Marvels later. We’re so bad!
Later on, we’ll walk around the Asheville Mall and make out in front of Auntie Anne’s until the mall security guard makes us stop. Sometimes we’ll even pretend we’re stealing stuff from the Claire’s, but since we’re adults and can actually go to jail for something like this, we end up paying for it (even though it’s typically nothing either of us can use, and we’re both pretty poor because, you know, we live in Asheville). I now have more fake diamond, butterfly-shaped clip-on earrings than I know what to do with. I wonder if my landlord would be into them.