What's cooking in Black Mountain? Apparently a lot

Ben Fortson

What’s in a name?

Fodder Stack, Black Bottom, The Big Boy, Skinny Pig, The Cleveland, The Rachel, Red Hots, Mountain Mama, The Lunker, The Barnyard, Baby Blue.

These could easily be hipster monikers for the latest bluegrass bands; provocative titles for funky line dances; local nicknames for gnarly French Broad whitewater runs; or vaguely descriptive one-liners for climbing routes on the ever popular Table Rock.

But more likely - actually, very likely - this is the vernacular of a subculture serving deep dish delicacies by way of enticing, folksy taglines.

How do I know? Fortunately for me, I’ve ordered a few of these babies and you probably have to. They’re all menu items found at Black Mountain eateries.

Granted, there’s a fine line between folksy and embarrassing entree titles. Most people find it awkward ordering something that sounds corny when it rolls off your tongue, like say, “give me… ahh… er... ‘Eggs over my Hammy,'" but for the most part Black Mountain has steered clear of exasperating menu items.

But what the Dark City hasn’t avoided is a clear and present path toward restaurant nirvana.

Believe it or not, at least on a restaurant-per-capita scale, as of 2018 Black Mountain has exceeded New York City on the gastronomic meter with almost twice the number of eateries per eater.

If this sounds ridiculously impossible, consider these facts: in 1975, Black Mountain had a sum total of six food establishments that could potentially pass as a restaurant; today, Black Mountain boasts a whopping 47 food institutions, complete with good food, friendly servers and spacious dining accommodations (at least bigger than the closet once occupied by Ike’s Pizza on Old 70). All this for a town proper of 6.7 square miles.

Not only does this put New York City in jeopardy of losing food-face, but it does so in a remarkably redneck, elegant sort of way. Predictably, as the front porch of western North Carolina, we offer an assortment of barbecues, fried foods, burger joints and fast food chains. Then it gets metropolitan with Thai, French, German, Chinese and an assortment of mountain-flavored bistros and urban-esque crafty pizza joints (then there’s Worldly Weiners, which is in some kind of category all by itself).

With all these mostly-classy European cuisines and Asian delicacies, upscale-folksy and down-home good-eating establishments, New York City is shaking in its sous-chef boots.

If you’re the inquisitive type, and mildly cognizant that you live in a place with coves and hollers, you’re wondering, “How the heck did this happen?!” There are no easy answers to this question, but for the sake of foodies and cuisine historians let’s take a stab at it.

One deduction is the so-called, “Land-Food Hypothesis." According to culinary experts, this theory suggests a directly-proportional relationship between residential real estate agents and local restaurants.

Specifically, for every 9.2 local real estate agents (gainfully employed or not) a local economy can muster one restaurant. Working backwards, this formula translates into about 432-real estate agents for Black Mountain.

Obviously, given the super-saturated, stratospheric number of agents selling earth in Black Mountain, and the incredulous binge of restaurants, this formula has some credibility.

It’s also important to mention what may not be so obvious. Real estate agents typically sell land and homes. People buy them--sometimes at extravagant prices--move in and then get hungry. If you’ve spent a wad on a patch of ground and some 2x4’s, then you are more likely to spend a wad on food.

In fact, you might even want good food. Although our Land-Food Hypothesis fails to mention these wealth-driven, gastrointestinal links, we feel they may surely play into the equation. Then again, we’re just guessing.

Another clue may be found in not-so-local migration patterns. In 1975, Black Mountain was a sleepy past-its-heyday factory town, on it’s way to becoming Old Fort (an even sleepier past-its-heyday factory town).

By the 1990’s, Asheville was barrelling toward tourist stardom (something about magical vortexes and mountain air) while Buncombe County economies were experiencing a brisk influx of cash, in part due to an influx of what southerners call Yankees (Floridians) and Real Yankees (New Jerseyans, and the like).

A number of these folks, tourists and both kinds of Yankees, spilled into Black Mountain, and they too liked good food.

Contemplating our clues thus far, it’s probably safe to say there is some kind of correlation between population dynamics and eating institutions (people with expendable cash eat-out more often). Although this doesn’t exactly sound profound, it does offer some explanation for why Black Mountain menu items have expanded beyond Happy Meals and Lexington-style barbecue (and why a 1,200-square-foot home in Black Mountain is now worth a quarter-of-a-million dollars).

Yet, for all our gastric-gymnastics we are still left with the central question. A question New Yorkers are jealously vexed to answer: “How does teeny-tiny Black Mountain support its mother-lode of fine eateries?”

Perhaps there’s really only one way to find out. “I’ll take a Fodder Stack please. Hold the hot sauce.”