Name: 12 Bones Smokehouse
Address: 3578 Sweeten Creek Road, Arden, NC 28704
Order: Speedy: Two half rack of ribs, rib taster, beer; Monk: Pulled pork plate and sliced brisket plate with collards, baked beans, vinegar slaw, and cucumber salad, Pisgah Pale Ale (link to menu)
Price: Speedy: $34; Monk: $20
Monk: One joint that’s been on our hit list ever since we started the blog 2+ years ago was 12 Bones Smokehouse in Asheville. All of our past visits came pre-blog, with the River Arts location outside of downtown Asheville being nearest and dearest to our heart. They actually do have two locations – one in River Arts and another in nearby Arden, out towards the airport – and on this day we found ourselves in Arden (more on that in the future).
Speedy: This was my first visit to the Arden location, and other than the location, I think I liked it better than the River Arts locale. It’s bigger and has similar outdoor seating. The old gas station atmosphere has a really nice feel to it, so I enjoyed it very much. As for the order, Monk and I went a little crazy. We ended up ordering three bones of each type of rib offered, a brisket plate, a pork plate, sides, and beers. It was definitely a lot of food, but we were hungry, so the order wasn’t out of line.
Monk: For once I didn’t sabotage myself and eat anything before a barbecue meal! As for the food, the pork just didn’t have the smokiness in the bark that I prefer, which is likely due to being smoked in a Southern Pride gasser. It’s pretty clear that the pork is not the focus of 12 Bones, which shouldn’t be all that surprising considering the name.
Speedy: All things considered, I thought the pork was pretty decent. While it won’t win any awards on this blog, it had good tenderness, and I thought there was a touch of wood flavor (though not enough). It’s clear by the wood piles of oak and hickory in the back that 12 Bones does make a concerted effort to impart smoke flavor into their gas cooks, so for a gas cooker, I think this is some of the better pork I’ve had.
Monk: The brisket was pretty unfortunate, really. It was very thinly sliced (think sliced deli roast beef on setting 2 or 3) and thus had dried out considerably by the time we got the food. Plus, similar to the pork it didn’t have the smoke or smoke ring in the bark. I had not gotten the brisket here before and based on this visit, customers should avoid it as well.
Speedy: But let’s be honest – you don’t go to a place called 12 Bones for the brisket. The ribs are as good as you’ll find anywhere. 12 Bones is known for its unique and eclectic sauces, and on this day, they had their standard salt/pepper rub, brown sugar, and chipotle blueberry ribs, along with special smoked apple and pineapple habanero ribs. Monk and I decided to order 3 bones of each flavor. The ribs themselves are always cooked perfectly – tender without actually falling from the bone. The different sauces allow for different flavors, but I have noticed that 12 bones generally produces a very sweet rib, which is in contrast to the vinegar-y tang I’m used to when eating ‘cue. I think it ends up working very well and kudos to them for thinking outside the BBQ box.
Monk: The ribs are definitely the highlight at 12 Bones, but holy heck watch out for those sauced with pineapple habanero. They start out sweet but can get you on the back end, particularly if you aren’t expecting it. And I definitely got got.
12 Bones has southern sides, but not all are necessarily what you think of when it comes to barbecue. A slice of cornbread comes with each plate, and I loved it. Had I not been stuffed by all of the meat, I would have eaten mine and possibly Speedy’s. The collards, baked beans, vinegar slaw, and cucumber salad all had merit and I would recommend any of them as a side choice. Again, not all were traditional barbecue sides but still worthy of an order.
Speedy: You stay away from my cornbread, Monk! That stuff was delicious. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – you can’t get 5 hogs for sides if you don’t offer hush puppies, but 12 Bones gives you everything else you could want.
All in all, a meal at 12 Bones Smokehouse is a great experience. I had previously never ordered anything but ribs, and I don’t think I ever will again. I understand offering other meats, but really, if you order something other than ribs, it’s your own fault if you don’t enjoy the meal. So man up, order the ribs, and enjoy!
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 3 hogs
Ribs – 4.5 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4 Hogs