I randomly picked up this book called Deacon King Kong at the Orlando Airport back in February, simply based on its colorful cover. It ended up being one of my favorite recent reads, in large part because it had a happy ending.
I think too many writers (and this extends to TV, movies, books, etc.) fall into this trap where in order to be “literary” or “prestige,” the ending needs to be ambiguous or tragic. I think that’s fine when it works, but too often, things feel dark and gritty for feeling dark and gritty’s sake. Prestige can be feel good, right?
Deacon King Kong was a real feel-good read! While the book covers dark topics—it’s set in a fictional 1960s housing project, and characters include undercover cops, corrupt cops, mafiosos, heroin kingpins, drug dealers, and drunks—yet never loses its sense of humor—I found myself doing real-life LOLs several times while reading. Deacon King Kong reminds me of my favorite show of all time—Friday Night Lights (#TEXASFOREVER)—in that it’s a story about mostly good people trying to do good things, and it didn’t feel the need to have the majority of those good people have tragic endings just for the sake of it. Happy endings are underrated (as is the canceled too-soon half-hour comedy Happy Endings, which I implore everyone to start watching NOW).
I bring this up because I had a nice happy ending last weekend during my visit to the Sawhorse Restaurant in West Asheville.
Two different people had recommended Sawhorse to me as one of Asheville’s hidden gems—it’s definitely off the beaten path, not on either Haywood or Patton Avenues, but rather on the New Leicester Highway (and almost in the confines of Leicester itself). Both people who recommended it had told me it specialized in “northern cuisine.” When, being from the great white north, I inquired as to what “northern cuisine” entails (as far as I know, there’s not “northern cooking” the way there is “southern cooking”), one couldn’t extrapolate further. One clarified that it was “Adirondack cooking,” which confused and intrigued me even more because unless everything is slathered in maple syrup, I’m not sure what kind of cooking the Adirondacks are known for. I checked out the menu, and what do you know, there’s a heavy maple theme. As someone with an extensive collection of various kinds of maple syrup, I need to purchase every time I visit (while I’ve only managed to get back up there once since moving down here, I was an at least twice a year Adirondack guy back in my PA days) but never seem to use (they look great on a pantry shelf!), I was sold (their neon Genesee sign also sold me).
My parents were visiting last weekend, and we had reservations for a wine tour at Addison Farms Vineyard at 2 PM on Saturday (highly recommended, and I’ll cover that in another post), which is out in Leicester, about a twenty-minute ride from downtown Asheville. Since Addison Farms is out in Leicester, it was the perfect time to check out Sawhorse. We arrived right after twelve, which I thought would give us more than enough time to get to our wine tour on time. The parking lot was packed, but there wasn’t a line when we got inside. When the host came over, I told him a table for three, and his verbatim response was, “That’ll be fifteen/twenty minutes. Give me your phone number, and then you could wait in your car.” Maybe I’m just feeling especially sensitive, but that’s a bit rude, especially on a day that was 27°, no?
We went out and waited in the car…for twenty-five minutes. Since we saw people exit and others enter, my mother ran back in to check on our table. Fifteen minutes later, she called us and said she got one. My father and I joined her, and she told us that when she got into the restaurant, she’d seen the host seat a group that had come in after us. When she’d inquired about our table (not even bringing this up), just saying it’d been well past 20 minutes, the host got snappy with her and, as an explanation, simply said, “it’s brunch!” I also noticed a car full of people who’d arrived once we were waiting in our car (they’d parked next to us) already seated.
People mess up when it’s busy. I get that, but it felt like the host had sent us to our car, hoping we’d just leave. Is this the place to bring up that I also feel like sometimes the hipsters of West Asheville are racist towards preppy-looking families in LL Bean Boots and fitted North Face puffer coats? No? Well, forget I even brought it up!
Our waitress was perfectly pleasant, and we ordered right away, but as someone who loves being on time for things, I was already getting stressed about being late to the wine tour. The stress amplified as we waited 5, 10, 20 minutes for our meals, compounded by the fact that every time I called the vineyard to let them know we’d probably be late, I just got an answering machine. My mother suggested just leaving, but at this point, I figured the fast-food options between Sawhorse and the Vineyard would be limited, and doing a wine tour while starving wouldn’t end well, so we waited it out.
My mother got pancakes, my father just the eggs and maple sausage special, and I got a chicken club sandwich with chipotle/malt mayo and fries. My mother and I both got maple eclairs. When the food finally came, I was hoping it was awful, to be honest. I was hungry, stressed, cranky, and wanted a reason to completely dismiss the Sawhorse. It wasn’t, though. The chicken club was one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a while, and their fries were phenomenal. I don’t know if the hot sauce on the table was homemade or not (The Sawhorse feels like the type of place that would have homemade hot sauce), but it was also excellent and was a solid addition to the sandwich and my fries. Obviously, the maple eclair was excellent. Based on the food alone, I’m all for giving Sawhorse a second chance.
We ended up being only fifteen minutes late to the wine tour and found that Addison Farms is a very small, very laid-back winery, and they didn’t care one bit. Much like Deacon King Kong, Saturday was a feel-good time all around!