Well, we’ve talked about all the fun things to do in Ashevile, NC. There are the great outdoors, the wonderful shopping, the quirky attractions.
But a traveler’s got to eat – and Asheville doesn’t mess around when it comes to food. In fact, they take foodie adventures to a whole new level with their Foodtopian Society program, so when you eat in Asheville, more than likely you’ll be having locally produced goods, all served with love and hospitality on the side. Asheville is one of the few cities I’ve been to where I didn’t see hardly any chain establishments during my entire trip.
Here are some tips for great places to eat in Asheville, NC. This list isn’t exhaustive – one couldn’t possibly eat everywhere in Asheville, and if you did you’d have to buy new clothes on your way home.
Best Old Fashioned Home Cooking: Tupelo Honey or Mayfel’s
Want some good ol’ cooking, North Carolina style? Think shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes? Well, either Tupelo Honey or Mayfel’s are your best bet. I couldn’t recommend one without the other, because each has such a superb (and gut-busting) menu, from fresh homemade biscuits at Tupelo Honey (pictured), or Mayfel’s classy fried greens paired perfectly with a cocktail. They’re both perfect for that North Carolina experience, and both can get packed, so be prepared for a wait or try to go off peak times. (Conveniently, they’re next to each other, making it easy to swap choices if you have to.) Come hungry, and wear stretchy pants.
Tip: After you’ve walked around the block a couple of times, maybe you want to stop by the The Soda Fountain (in the old Woolworth’s building) for a milkshake. Or just a coke.
Best Coffee in Asheville: Old World Coffee
Need a pick me up after a long night of beer tasting in Asheville? Or just want to power your way around the Urban Trail or other sights? Old World Coffee is your best bet. Love the friendly staff here, the small but well situated outdoor tables, and of course, they pour the perfect espresso.
Most Unique Foodie Venue in Asheville: Potato Chip Company
Really, a venue that only sells gourmet potato ships? Yup – that’s what you’ll find here in Asheville. But what do they mean by a gourmet chip? Well, how about chips with lavender honey, bleu cheese crumbles, and sea salt, prepared fresh? Or maybe you’d rather have some plantain chips with smoked sea salt and warm chocolate? Or, sweet potato chips with cajun seasoning? Yup – seriously – if you want to stop for a sightseeing snack, this is the place.
Best Place for Drinks: Battery Park Book Exchange
Asheville’s Battery Park Book Exchange just epitomises the cool, quirky, fun vibe of the city. It’s a book store and champagne bar, one of the main residents of the Grove Arcade, an architectural attraction in itself. Dogs are not only welcome, at times they seem to be the ones in charge. And with a superb champagne menu (other drinks are available), and seats which allow you a great opportunity to people watch, this is a must must must stop.
Tip: A great place to go after a glass of champagne? Bouchon, Asheville’s famed creperie, where you can enjoy tasty crepes with a glass of wine.
Most Fun, Friendly, and Delicious Restaurant: Salsa’s
Perhaps one of my personal faves for fun places to eat in Asheville – NC style, but Carribean food. What does that mean? Well, the dishes are certainly Caribbean, but the restaurant makes their own hot sauce (for sale, so be sure to sample some at dinner), and their cocktails are superb. My vote goes for anything with sweet potato, and they also are strong with the starters, so be sure to try a couple of things – gives you the excuse for a second drink as well.
Best Vegetarian Restaurant in Asheville: Laughing seed Cafe
Even vegetarians who haven’t been to Asheville know about The Laughing Seed Cafe. It’s got a big heart, and even if you aren’t technically vegetarian (but you do like your veggies), you’ll definitely find something you’ll like. Breakfast is a popular choice, but there isn’t anything bad on the menu.
Best Chillout Zone and Outdoor Patio: Mellow Mushroom
Nice sunny day in Asheville? Then head for Mellow Mushroom‘s expansive patio for simple but tasty calzones and pizza’s. Sure, the name (and the corresponding sign) remind me of a cheap college hangout, but sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when the food is good and the vibe is mellow, as advertised.
Western North Carolina has almost 12,000 farms and 36 area farmer’s and tailgate markets – 17 of them in Asheville. The city has 250 independent restaurants, 7 microbreweries, and has been serving up field to table since the early 1800s (which was, er, the only choice back then!).
Best Only-In-The-Know Restaurant: The Admiral
My friend Margo found out about The Admiral, and the description that was provided was something along the lines of “a dive bar with a Michelin chef.” I couldn’t agree more, because not only is the Admiral tucked away in a somewhat industrial district part of town, it’s also kind of…well, dive bar looking. Inside it’s ok, but on the surface, it’s a bit rough. But serious, the menu here includes Michelin-star delicacies at burger barn prices. It’s incredible. Just go – words can’t describe this terrific spot.
Hot Tip: Want more Michelin-starred food? Then head for Curate, a tapas bar which has a chef who trained under the one, the only, “best chef in the world,” Ferran Adria.
Best Baked Good/Pastry in Asheville: The West end Bakery Cinnamon Roll
It was nearly by accident that I found this gem, as we were on the hunt for some tasty pastries to keep us sustained while heading out of town for some hiking to some of the waterfalls of the Western Carolinas. We managed to stumble upon this great bakery which I had heard about, but didn’t realise their cinnamon roll was so famous. As it should be – just the right amount of icing, a sticky layer of cinnamon that’s just as earthy as it is sweet, all baked just perfectly. Their sandwiches and other pastries are also delicious.
Best Asheville Brewery and Food: Lexington Avenue Brewery (LAB)
Asheville is home to several superb breweries, earning it the title of “Beer City” – you don’t have to go far to get a cold beverage. But for the foodies who want a brew, Lexington Avenue Brewery (LAB) is your best bet. This place was so good I ate here twice during my trip. Must Have’s: venison nachos, lab burger, and oh-yum-yum fish tacos. (My only complaint is that the desserts are a little weak.)
Best Non-Downtown Foodie District
If you’re hungry and want to get out of downtown, then head for Asheville’s River Arts District, which in a few years may outshine downtown itself - after all, one of the area’s main restaurants, 12 Bones, is one of President Obama’s favorite places to eat in Asheville, NC. (And, he doesn’t even live in Asheville.) There’s also the wonderful soups and sandwiches at The Junction, as well as brews and snacks from Wedge Brewery or maybe you’d like to hit the White Duck Taco Shop. There is tons of good food here, but I think this area is only getting started.
Best Ice Cream in Asheville: the Biltmore Creamery
When you visit the Biltmore Estate, you get a lot for your money – but did you know you can also do wine tastings (and, er, ice cream tastings)? I had several folk mention to me their love for the Biltmore Creamery, and I have to say I agree with them. Whether it’s a heaping bowl of hand-scooped deliciousness, or one of their fun dreamsicle floats, you’ll find just the thing for both the adults and the children.
What do you think are the best places to eat in Asheville, NC?
Photos by author except JPott (Coffee), Gourmet Chip Company Venue photo, Salas Venue Photo, Amber Karnes (Laughing Seed Cafe), Kolin Toney (Mellow Mushroom), mygothlaundry (The Admiral), , West End bakery venue photo, ltbeyer (Lex Ave Brewery), Alaina B (River Arts District).