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“Good food, interesting place.”
Review of Ben's Tune Up

Ben's Tune Up
Ranked #252 of 810 Restaurants in Asheville
Cuisines: American, Japanese
Dining options: After-hours
Restaurant details
Dining options: After-hours
Reviewed 25 November 2013

The food was good and the drinks are well made. Two of us had the special, some kind of curry dish that was delicious. Two of us had the fried chicken with rice that was also very tasty. Very very good service, friendly and hospitable. I would return.

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1  Thank ycarney
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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142 - 146 of 152 reviews

Reviewed 22 November 2013

Great menu, fabulous look and feel, excellent friendly service.....food, "not so much"...we ordered several different dishes and an appetizer. Portions were very generous but lacked my favorite ingredients.....flavor & taste. I don't know what was wrong since all of the choices were fresh and hot but just seemed to miss the mark. They will have to fix something to make this more than just an attractive bar.

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Thank Larry L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 November 2013

Went back to Ben's yet again, and had a very pleasant dinner and drinks. As before, the early-evening experience was the best -- 7:00-9:00 before the karaoke. Just really enjoying this place in its dinner incarnation... less fun for me after 10:00 when there's less to eat and loud music may predominate (depending on the night). My preference is serene spots -- late might at Ben's be more fun for someone else besides me... Service was also very good this time.

They're adapting to the colder weather (open courtyard) with heaters and enclosed areas. Seems as popular as ever. Went on a Wednesday evening. Food was consistent from previous dinner, very tasty and hearty. Beer selection good.

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Thank NC-Michael
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 October 2013

My first experience at Ben's on a Wednesday evening was definitely a "wow" experience. I went with two friends and sat on the nice raised platform in the corner. Ben's carries off the "distressed post-industrial" look that Asheville loves with more flair than most... eclectic decorations and layout were very attractive. Sort of a Japanese-flavor beer garden. (The open roof does lead one to wonder what would happen in a downpour, or during Asheville's blustery, snowy winter months... but in a dry October it was a very pleasant place to be.) I was bowled over, truly... the building's rough exterior belies the nice work done on the interior. It's almost invisible from the street, and looks sort of like an abandoned building. Nice surprise in the courtyard!

I had "Ben's ramen" and a nice IPA from Hi-Wire next door. The ramen isn't really Japanese-style -- more like thick, chewy udon-style noodles and big chunks of pork, minus the traditional Japanese garnishes -- but it was delicious. The other menu items looked intriguing, and my dinner partners were very happy. The waitress was so courteous, knowledgeable and attentive that I wanted to hug her when we left... it was a great evening. The place was also really clean and inviting, and obviously new.

Fast-forward to Saturday night. I came back with 10 friends for a birthday party based on my previous experience. But unfortunately we ran into the restaurant's Oktoberfest, and it was a completely different experience. At 10 PM the large menu shrinks to a bar menu of about 6 items. I had the katsu don, which was tasty enough, but really missed the previous experience. Later night at Ben's is about drinking, not food. Also had to track down wait staff, get our own drinks, etc. Not very helpful or friendly, but not rude, either. . On the other hand, with the very loud band (and amateurish, obscenity-laced rapping for the warm-up) it was hard to communicate much of anything. The place was fun for dancing when the real band came on, but too loud to talk much. A young crowd, the usual Asheville hipsters. Nice enough, but overall seemed disorganized and in need of a manager. Service was fair, but the server was clearly overwhelmed. The bathrooms reeked and were trashed, no towels, no toilet paper... a total change from the previous visit.

Again, it was a party night, but the place seem very unprepared to handle a crowd. I'd definitely go back to Ben's anytime to have the initial experience, but I wouldn't take most folks there later on a weekend night, or venture back there at that time myself. The food and ambience on the first visit (especially the Japanese-themed menu and nice beer selection) were real standouts; the bar scene on the weekend is the "meh" part for me. We'll just have to see which restaurant prevails on a third visit... worth a chance.

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Thank NC-Michael
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 September 2013

The opening of Ben's Tune Up in late June was one of the most highly anticipated food events of the summer in Asheville, but it turned out that the owners and cooks didn't know quite as much about running a restaurant as they thought they did. Early reviews from bloggers and diners were pretty negative, and the original chef/co-owner from The Admiral left after only about a month.

Ben's Tune Up has been open for a little more than two months, long enough to work out the early wrinkles, so we thought we'd give it a try.

On a Friday night, it was busier than I expected, though it seemed a lot of people were there just for a drink and a snack, not a full meal, and the couple seated next to us got up and left after looking at the menu.

The menu IS bizarre, even for Asheville. Despite the changes in the kitchen, the menu still leans toward Japanese dishes, such as a Japanese fried chicken appetizer with a yuzu white BBQ sauce (a relative bargain at $8), sashimi plates with several fish items such as tuna or swordfish ($10 to $30) and yakitori skewers (a choice of hanger steak, sweetbreads, scallop sausage, chicken wings or legs and chicken livers with miso mustard, sweet soy, fermented leaks and cabbage) for $14 to $40, along with a few oddball non-Asian choices.

Of course there are bowls of ramen noodles ($10 with broth, pork belly, nori and half a hard-boiled egg), which we found the least appealing of all the dishes on the menu. We left two-thirds of the bowl uneaten. Ramen noodles were supposed to be the focus of the Ben's Tune Up menu, along with its in-house brewed sake, but I wouldn't order the noodles again if you gave them to me free. I'm not a sake fan, so I didn't try it. Besides, the prices -- up to $40 for a 300 ml carafe -- put me off.

Some non-Japanese dishes are on the menu, including braised pig tails ($7) and oysters on the half shell ($18 for a half dozen) What is this world coming to? -- I used to get oysters on the half shell in New Orleans for 25 or 50 cents each.

I have to admit the outdoor dining area is charming, although if the owners put more than $5,000 into it they got ripped off -- it's nothing but concrete block walls with a few plant containers, picnic tables and assorted used furniture. Since 90% of the seating is open air -- and there's no roof -- I don't know what Ben's Tune Up will do in the winter. Guess they'll use a bunch of heaters.

Overall, though, the atmosphere is appealing, especially on a nice cool, clear night like tonight. The waitstaff was friendly and helpful. Most of the guests seemed to be youngish, 20s and 30s, with a definite skew toward the hipster category, though there were a few tables of geezers like us.

I do like the fact that liquor drinks, including good brands like Jack Daniel's, Beefeaters and Jameson, are all $6. PBR is just $2, and local beers are most $4.

Will Ben's Tune Up make it? I'm not sure. I like the location. I like the atmosphere. But the menu needs a total rethink if the restaurant is going to get repeat business from regular Asheville diners. I just don't think most Ashevillians are going to come in every week or two for bad ramen noodles, fried tofu and braised pig tails.

With a total of two drinks, one beer, two appetizers, and two entrees, plus tax and our usual generous tip, the two of us paid around $75. Not outrageous, but not a bargain, either.

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1  Thank LanSluderBelize
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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