Has the Admiral been going through an identity crisis? It seems that might be the case — at least in some respects. Yes, the dinner service is fruitful, and the restaurant has never been busier. But sometimes it seems like the Admiral has lost some of what was so originally intriguing about a dive bar with some of the best food to be found in town.
To explain: Though nothing is changing about that dinner service that continues to garner the restaurant nods in numerous national publications, the Admiral is revisiting its roots. Most notably, the late-night menu is back — that of the creamy pimento cheese and pleasantly oily bahn mi — much to the delight of hungry west-side night-owls. By at least one account, the staff’s pretty pleased about the return of late-night food, too.
“We’ve been talking about it for a while, and we’re trying to be a bar again, trying to find some middle ground,” says Drew Maykuth, half of the Admiral’s chef duo that includes Elliott Moss. Maykuth indicates that the restaurant’s almost-total shift from dive to primarily fine-dining establishment might have driven a certain contingent of patrons away.
In the past, chefs Maykuth and Moss sometimes toyed with the late-night menu, often making it needlessly complicated. During one particularly interesting period of self-imposed abuse, the chefs created an order form that required diners to circle a seemingly random word or phrase — “monster truck” comes to mind — a name of a well-known figure of your choosing (I think Mao was somehow involved), as well as a price point. Your food would come out themed according to your order. Or not. The whole thing, while fun, required an open mind and a couple of drinks. Ideas like that, coupled with adding late-night service to already long workdays in the kitchen, contributed to the demise of the post-dinner menu.
“Yes, in the past it was a little stressful and overwhelming. But it’s really simple now,” Maykuth says. “We’ve found a late-night person who’s totally doing that and nothing else, so it’s out of our hands, which is nice,” says Maykuth. “And, selfishly, I want a burger to eat when I get off work,” he adds.
The menu will turn somewhat back to basics; besides that bahn mi (“I’ll probably eat five a week and gain 10 pounds,” says Maykuth), expect to find oysters, mussels, salads and stoner food like a poutine (fries with cheese curd and gravy) of the week, with a number of other rotating selections.
Prepare also to welcome back the Admiral’s burgers. “They’re simple, they’re good and they’re cooked sous-vide,” says Maykuth. “They’re awesome.” Awesome enough to garner a mention in GQ Magazine, especially when sandwiched between two grilled cheeses. Even better? Nothing on the late-night menu costs more than $10.
The crew sounds as excited to welcome back the late-night menu as the patrons. “We started out as a neighborhood bar, and we sort of lost that,” says Maykuth. “And, in all honesty, it’s offering a service to people. People used to love it. We used to be a bar and we’re not anymore … and we miss that as much as other people miss it.”
The Admiral serves its late-night menu from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Monday through Friday. Saturday nights are still given over to Hardcastle Hot Dogs, served outside from a cart. Oh, and you can now get your breakfast fix at the Admiral, too; the Eatbox food truck serves breakfast in the parking lot every morning.
The Admiral is located at 400 Haywood Road in West Asheville. For more information, visit http://theadmiralnc.com.