De Soto Lounge Keeps it Real
There’s something pleasantly grungy about West Asheville’s new De Soto Lounge. Low lighting, dark grey cinderblock walls and black ceilings keep the corporates away, while beckoning to the wandering townie. The place is long, sparsely and sweetly furnished with some arcade games in the back room, and I felt immediately at home. Mainly because I knew 60% of the clientele, but also because the service was familiar yet nonchalant like my mom when you come over to her house. Her motto is, “I’m not going to nag or fawn all over you, but you are welcome to all I have.” It’s more authentic hospitality, and makes one feel like family.
They certainly hold their own amongst Asheville’s raging beery mania. They keep their drafts local and offer just enough variety. I went with my current obsession, Big Boss Brewery’s Belgian Blonde, Hell’s Belle outta Raleigh. Folks will find some of the old faithful options, like Highland’s oatmeal porter and another local pale ale or two. It wasn’t a wine night for me, but again I thought they offered an interesting array of choices, although a commitment to staying simple and not overwhelming. I was especially pleased to see a vinho verde included amongst the whites.
The food still needs some work, but I trust they are well on their way to an interesting and affordable pub menu of small platters. I thought the chips and chipotle salsa hit the spot perfectly with a nice sweet and smoky heat. But with gastropubs like the Admiral down the way, they have their work cut out for them. The menu pointed customers in the direction of pimento cheese, but I just can’t muster up enough excitement to spend $8-$10 on it (even though it came with veggies or crackers or something). I tried the M and M platter, a Spanish-themed plate of Manchego cheese and Marcona almonds with quince jam and crostini.
My understanding of crostini is a cross between a crouton and a canape, and crostini is nearly always lightly toasted and topped with olive oil, pesto, tapenade or sauce to soften the crispy bread. This was hard tack, tooth-shattering bread, paired with Manchego, an equally hard and crumbly cheese. I did not find this pairing successful, I would rather have had a cracker with the Manchego or else a softer cheese or spread to pair with the crostini. My noshing companion felt the same way.
So many Asheville pubs offer very impressive versions of a cheese platter, and I would rather see the De Soto Lounge try something different like cheese puffs, or maybe a have a little fun and create a pu-pu platter of 1960′s party snacks, dressed up and modernized.
From their website it looks as though De Soto is open to suggestions and still finding their way in the kitchen, but they’ve got the booze, the location, and the vibe just right. I plan on becoming a regular, and I hope to see you there.