Home to nine breweries, two distilleries, and one outstanding cindery, South Slope has well made a name for itself as the brewery capital of Asheville, NC. But in recent years, this neighborhood has also attracted its fair bit of delicious dining destinations as well (after all, who doesn’t feel a need for savory foods after several heavy beers?), and the Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ might just be the most beloved of all the newcomers.
Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ is an outstanding barbecue joint that ironically, for being in a Carolina town, is not a southern original BBQ joint. It boasts Kansas City BBQ; a city that tries to call itself the barbecue capital of the world (which plenty in the south would have some disagreement with) and which does have a very distinct type of BBQ due to its usage of local hardwoods and style of slow-cooking utilizing a tomato and molasses-based sauce. The restaurant is owned by a husband-and-wife duo that started their first Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ in Connecticut from a small fortune earned by the husband, Jamie “The Bear” McDonald’s, highly successful competitive eating career (the guy went global and remains ranked number one Independent Competitive Eater by All Pro Eating). The push to Asheville was funded in part by those successes as well as their winning a small business competition hosted by GoDaddy. It’s a fascinating story that those interested should look up more.
But back to Asheville’s South Slope Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ. You will find this tasty eatery near the heart of the district, on Coxe Avenue between Hillard Ave and Buxton Ave. The South Slope location started as a simple food truck in the fall of 2020, but it quickly expanded with ah an indoor dining area that was converted from an old auto and truck repair shop. Interestingly, the company has kept the food truck as the place where you will find the menu and make your orders, as well as being where much of the food continues to get made. Although the food truck at his Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ is not a truck per see, but rather an extra-large shuttle bus that makes it hard to miss when driving by.
So once you’ve placed your order, you can wait and then enjoy your dishes either in the newly outfitted interior dining room or outside enjoying that beautiful Asheville weather at one of their picnic tables.
Popular menu items at Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ include:
Brisket, Burnt Ends Combo
This two-meat combo platter is a must for those wanting to really sink their teeth into Kansas City-style BBQ. The platter comes with the choice of two sides from a long list of sides that includes BBQ beans, mashed sweet potato, cornbread, and mac and cheese. The mac and cheese come especially creamy.
Speaking of mac and cheese, the Bear Balls appetizer is pretty unique and a must-try for those who love their mac and cheese with extras. The Bear Balls come as a set of three for $9 and appear as massive balls of fried cornbread smothered in a cheese sauce and layered with bacon bits. Packed inside these cornbread balls is mac and cheese loaded with pulled pork.
Before you go, remember that while this is delicious barbecue, it is not a southern joint. They do not brew their own sweet tea and they also don’t have any Carolina sauces, just their Sweet Kansas City, Texas Pepper, and Grizzly sauces. And finally, the coleslaw comes with a strong vinegar base. So as long as you go expecting or anticipating a different flavor of barbecue, you’re sure to enjoy Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, but you might want to skip this one if you’re a southern-style traditionalist.
If you love your barbecue and smoked meats extra hot and spicy, make sure to ask for either the Texas Pepper or Grizzly Ghost Pepper sauces. Both of these will pack that hot peppery flavor without overwhelming the core taste of the dish.