I know somebody who knows Guy Fieri. Why am I mentioning this other than to confirm that I’m a celebrity hound? Because you kinda have to have a reason to be linking arms with Guy…and the reasons abound on the trophy mantle at Flat Rock Wood Room.
Open since October of last year, Flat Rock Wood Room is a labor of love (as restaurants usually are) for Kim Hicks and Wayne Blessing. Although she looks like a teenager, Kim has years of restaurant biz under her belt. About seven years ago, she was bit by the “dry rub” bug and embraced Memphis style BBQ with all her heart. After cutting her chops, so to speak, she and Wayne began competing…and winning…with a signature dry rub containing 14 herbs and spices that provide the bedrock of many of Kim’s signature dishes. Kim says, modestly, “Our goal here in the Southeastern Region was to take a top ten once.” The Midnight Burn Team has gone on to take multiple first place trophies, leaving just “top ten” in the dust.
With the move to WNC, Kim’s vision of a new BBQ “joint” expanded to include not just all things porcine, but a well-rounded menu that has something for everyone, including Neapolitan pizza that is cooked at around 850 degrees for no more than 90 seconds…count ’em…90! This is truly an art form and it was fun to watch as the cook took an instant-read temp of the flames, slid the paddle in to heat, removed it and slid that lighter-than-air 12-inch pizza round into the inferno, moving and shifting the paddle like a dance between the flames.
During a recent visit, I watched as a plate of BBQ nachos went sailing by to a nearby group of three. Piled to overflowing, the chips were mounded with pulled pork, cheddar, scallions and sour cream. I then watched those three demolish every chip, squirting sauce and generally making a lovely mess of themselves. I was busy making my own mess with The Barnyard. An enormous sandwich with beef brisket, apple wood bacon, provolone and capped off with a fried egg on grilled ciabatta bread, this was a real treat, made even more special with a side of mac and cheese…the best I’ve had in a while, thanks to the addition of a little of that secret dry rub. My friend tried the Chicken Tender Platter with coleslaw and fries. More like whole breasts, the ample portion of chicken was crunchy, spicy and tender. The slaw is creamy and on the sweet side and the fries were also graced with dry rub, making them jump with flavor.
A passion for micro-brews is also high on the list at the Wood Room. On my second visit, in which I enlisted my beer maestro, a 20-something who knows his way around hops and grains, we both did a beer flight. Choose between four to six 3-ounce pours of beer on tap (choices change frequently), they come to the table in a muffin tin that is marked to indicate what you are tasting. By beer three, I didn’t care; I was just having fun with it.
A Chicken Quesadilla was the appetizer of choice. Let me just say that every trip from here on in to the Wood Room will start with this. Flour tortillas filled with tender smoked and pulled chicken were pan fried to perfection and served with scallion tops, sour cream and a drizzle of BBQ sauce. My buddy got one slice. I got three.
And, since pizza goes with beer, he chose the daily special pizza, covered in pulled pork and sauce with a mound of fried onion rings in the center. I chose the Prosciutto Di Parma, a white pizza with fresh mozzarella, paper-thin prosciutto and a bounty of fresh arugula in the center (I’m eating my greens, Mom!) The crust is key to this style of pie…using “oo” flour imported from Italy that they combine with fresh yeast (as opposed to dry or activated, which, trust me, makes a difference and has caused many a baker to scream obscenities because it is temperamental). The resulting dough is light and airy with a nice “chew” to it and the Wood Room’s pies come out of that pyre of an oven perfectly baked, which is really nothing short of miraculous, in my opinion.
The overriding theme at the Flat Rock Wood Room is one of big tastes…there isn’t anything that doesn’t have a flavor profile of smoke, sweetness or spice, and that’s a good thing. You won’t find bland in any of the generous portions. Service both times was friendly and knowledgeable and the ambiance is easy. With the front porch already open for the season, kicking back outdoors with a Pale Ale in one hand and a chicken quesadilla in the other is a winning combination.