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Don’t Miss: The Admiral in Asheville, North Carolina

Don’t Miss: The Admiral in Asheville, North Carolina


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It may be the hype, but for good reason

Asheville is in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Thirty minutes after our 9:15 p.m. reservation (which was the only available time two weeks in advance), my boyfriend and I were seated in a tall booth near the entrance of Asheville’s The Admiral. I had been trying to have a meal at this praised restaurant ever since I lived in Asheville two years ago, and especially since founding chef Elliott Moss was nominated for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.

It was a Saturday night in late April and the former body shop restaurant/dive bar’s small space was abuzz: the waitstaff hovered over tables, gregarious diners relaxed in their chairs, and the line positioned steaming tenderloin and rib-eye cuts underneath rosy heat lamps. The radiating warmth of adjoining dining room, bar, and kitchen abated my late-night appetite.

Since we were celebrating a birthday, and it was easily 10 p.m., we didn’t hold back. To start, we ordered a half-dozen oyster mix from Maryland and Massachusetts (a move outside of my normal comfort zone considering the restaurant is in the mountains of western North Carolina) alongside sweetbreads in a simple Marsala sauce garnished with thin radish slices. For what it’s worth, both of us eventually used our fingers to mop up any remaining juice or brine.

We also ordered the house-smoked duck with mole, fingerling potatoes, and orange over a compressed fennel salad with salty peanuts and sesame espuma, as well as the fried quail and waffles topped with maple black pepper butter, tomatillo bacon crema and smoked almonds. While the first course lived up to its voluptuous description, I was somewhat disappointed with dry and crunchy waffles. They were simply overcooked.

We would have ordered dessert if we hadn’t already made plans to share dessert from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. We would have also stayed for drinks and swing dancing (the staff pushes back dinner tables to make a dance floor) if I hadn’t had to catch a flight back to New York the following morning. Next time around, though (dry waffles aside), we will make plans to finish our evening at this "blue collar meets white tablecloth" venue.


Don’t Miss: The Admiral in Asheville, North Carolina - Recipes

From the reviews and pictures this seems like fine dining. We almost turned around when we pulled up. It was in a sketchy area and looked like a dive bar with homeless people hanging around. We had dressed for fine dining (husband in a suit and tie!) Inside was like a dive but the menu was elevated. My husband enjoyed beef tartar and I enjoyed a cheese plate. However, my rabbit pasta was awful. Over salted and very basic tomato sauce. Even my toddler wouldn’t eat the noodles. My husbands duck was better. The only table that seemed to fit was the one at the front by the fire. Other than that we were in booths like at a Denny’s. We asked for a high chair which they never brought. It was an odd experience. Would I go back and chance some great things or a terrible dish? I’m not sure.

4 - 8 of 939 reviews

Creative short menu! Everything is delicious ! Don’t miss it if you’re around I had scallops and pork belly ! Excellent

Some of the AVL restaurants are struggling a bit and seem to be slightly off their A games these days, which is understandable given the challenges of working in the pandemic environment. But Admiral is doing great. We dined at on their screened terrace. The service and the food were both outstanding. This place should definitely be on your list. High on your list. Maybe first on your list.


Don’t Miss: The Admiral in Asheville, North Carolina - Recipes

My husband and I live and Charleston and never miss an opportunity to eat at The Admiral. If we are driving anywhere close to Asheville, we make certain we stop in! The food is always phenomenal! We never make reservations, as we truly enjoy sitting at the bar. Very casual, low key atmosphere with upscale food. Just the perfect combo! The menu is always changing (with the exceptions of a few favs) and will never disappoint. Russ at the bar is very personable and has the memory of an elephant! Go there once, and he'll remember you the next time you come in. Even if it's months down the road! This is a "must eat" in Asheville - don't miss out on this gem!

751 - 755 of 939 reviews

Yes the food was very good, but because of the huge build up on line I was expecting amazing. I think the experience is a little bit of The Emperor's New Clothes. By juxtaposing fine food and less than stellar building the owner created a certain atmosphere that is West Asheville or rather West Asheville with a lot of money. That being said, the mussels were unique, smoky, plentiful and certainly worth a try.

The frog legs were a hopping delight. Spare ribs oh so intriguing! Mahi had to be just from the coast. Always an adventure and good enjoyment with the most capable staff.

We went to this restaraunt with another couple for dinner while visiting Asheville after getting a recommendation from a local at one of the breweries. The food was delicious. Since I was prego and could not indulge in all of the local brews I asked the waitress to see what the bartender could come up with non-alcoholic and she brought back a tasty surprise. cranberry juice with house made ginger ale and a lime! Wish I could have bottled up that ginger ale! The food was great too, I had the pork chop with potatoes and collards that was out of this world and my husband had the ribeye that was recommended by the local and he said it was the best steak he's ever had. Will definitely go back. Reservations are a must since the place probably only holds 50 people or less. Don't be fooled by the cender block building and the location the restaurant itself is great!

Local cabbie told us about this hidden gem. We tried to get reservations but they are booked for weeks. Luckily there is always the bar. Which we prefer anyway. Great dark atmosphere the open kitchen is fun to watch. Had the mussels, meat n cheese plate and the homemade sausage. The food was great the meat and cheese plate could have used more than just pimento cheese. And the staff although nice could have been happier to be there. The barback was very friendly and imforative. All in all a great time.


Don’t Miss: The Admiral in Asheville, North Carolina - Recipes

Looks like a friendly dive, tastes like fine dining. We had an awesome Nicoise salad (oh, the heirloom tomatoes - I could have eaten a whole plate of them), I had the ceviche, and my husband the flatiron steak small plate. Everything was prepared and presented to perfection. The local berries cobbler topped it off. Waitstaff were friendly and helpful, and it was fun to watch meals being prepared at the open kitchen. If I lived in Asheville, I'd be there at least once a week.

602 - 606 of 939 reviews

Plus: requested a vegan meal and they prepared a nice salad and a vegetable plate that was very good. Not so good: Ordered a small order of scallops along with the mussels and a salad. The mussels were very small in size and the salad was very good. There were 3 scallops on top of some sauce. There was no way to enjoy the sauce as no bread is served at the restaurant unless you choose to purchase it. And 3 scallops?? When the bill came, we complained that there was no way to enjoy the sauce and we left it on the plate. If you serve a dish with sauce, then you should serve something with it. The server said that is how it always is served and if we come again, he would ask for bread for us. He went to the kitchen and came back with a reduced bill. He took off the scallops and said that the chef was not the one who usually serves the dish and he agreed it should be prepared/served differently. The restaurant did the right thing but I would have never served such a small dish and then ask someone to pay for bread. Just saying.

We eat at the Admiral on average once a month, so this is not a pissy review by a snobby New Yorker or a tourist afraid to get out of their car in West Asheville. The Admiral has been our long standing favorite dining venue, but over the last year we have noticed that the menu has become stagnant, and the creativity and originality that made them an Asheville favorite has diminished. The Admiral used to be an ewww and ahhh experience, but lately is has become, well, boring. While still a great experience for the one time visitor, or inexperienced diner, it has slipped to "good", and unfortunately in Asheville, you can find "good" everywhere.

The Admiral NEVER disappoints. but you need to make a reservation. this cute little "dive" in an out of the way location, is off the beaten path, but oh so worth the effort. Menu changes often, but the mussels are fantastic and the charcuterie board is the best we've ever had. PLAN to visit the Admiral!


The Best Things to Eat in Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville offers incredible variety when it comes to food and drink, but deciding where to eat (and once there, what to eat) can be overwhelming. Here’s a guide to some of the best places and dishes to eat in Foodtopia.

Related To:

Photo By: Andrew Thomas Lee

Photo By: Carrie Turner Photography

Cúrate

Curate is often credited with placing Asheville on America&rsquos dining map. Stepping into acclaimed chef Katie Button&rsquos restaurant &mdash with its vermouth bar and charcuterie station &mdash is like stepping into a family restaurant in a small Spanish town. Button and husband Felix Meana &mdash with mentoring from the likes of José Andrés and Ferran Adria &mdash serve cochinillo (roasted suckling pig), traditional paellas and a killer selection of papa el aperitivo (snacks) like latas (premium Spanish tin seafood), montaditos (small bites on toast points) and gilda (anchovy, olive and piparra pinchos).

Biscuit Head

Biscuits were always an assumption in the South, but they've recently become a talking point, particularly at places like Biscuit Head, with three Asheville locations. Lines at both attest to the popularity of their oversized biscuits, seven gravies (try a flight to sample several!) and other offerings. The country ham biscuit is a great breakfast, with ham, fried green tomato, cheesy scrambled eggs and red-eye gravy dipping sauce (think French dip). For a lunch option, the brisket biscuit overflows with local beef, pickled onion, house-smoked Looking Glass Creamery chevre, a poached egg and buffalo hollandaise sauce, with sweet caramelized bananas balancing the spice.

Capella on 9

Nine stories above the city, Capella on 9 sits atop the AC Hotel. Staying true to its Spanish roots, the restaurant serves Spanish wines, craft cocktails and traditional tapas like fried Patatas Bravas with chives, garlic aioli and smoked tomato jam, and Pinchos made with tomato, prosciutto or avocado, and served with feta and basil sourdough. The menu changes seasonally to reflect the flavors of the year, which guests can try on the rooftop year-round, for stunning views of the city, the Blue Ridge Mountains and sunsets.

All Souls Pizza

There are lots of wood-fired ovens grilling pizzas in Asheville, but All Souls Pizza hovers at the top of the list for its commitment to locally sourced ingredients, even in the dough. Using fresh-milled flour made from regionally grown grains, the uniquely flavored and textured dough is naturally fermented with native yeast. Featuring country ham from Goodnight Brothers and fresh local pullet eggs from Dry Ridge Farm, their flavorful Country Ham and Egg Pizza is a fan favorite, though it's hard to lose with any seasonal pie. Individualists can choose from their list of additional toppings (including fermented chiles and sardines).

Chai Pani

Chai Pani is Asheville&rsquos answer to Indian street food and the foods that chef-founder Meherwan Irani grew up eating in his hometown of Ahmednagar, India. The menu focuses heavily on traditional chaat &mdash defined as a snack that hits sweet, sour, tangy, spicy and crunchy. The matchstick okra fries and the vegetarian Sev Potato Dahi Puri (flour crisps stuffed with potatoes, onions, cilantro and crunchy chickpea noodles all drizzled with sweet yogurt and tamarind chutney) get top nods. The menu also features thalis, uttapams (savory crepes), curries and Indian sandwiches, wraps and salads.

Buxton Hall

Pitmaster and two-time James Beard Award nominee Elliott Moss has brought Eastern Carolina-style barbecue to Asheville&rsquos South Slope, to much acclaim. Preserving the art of whole hog 'cue, the menu leads with traditional pulled pork platters and sandwiches. But Moss&rsquo other barbecue specialties are truly raising the barbecue bar. Whether the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, the bbq hash or Moss&rsquo favorite, the fried catfish sandwich (which is quick cured, smoked on racks on top of the pig and then dredged in seasoned cornmeal before its fried in smoked lard), Buxton Hall has given new meaning to a Southern barbecue joint.

Button & Co. Bagels

It&rsquos tough to make a good bagel, especially if you&rsquore attempting to serve said bagel with an Appalachian twist. But that&rsquos just what Katie Button has done at her Button & Co. Bagels. Inspired by Asheville&rsquos Appalachian bounty, the shop uses a combination of typical Northern flour with local Asheville-made Southern wheat flour, sorghum syrup and ramps for its bagels and spread. The shop still serves a good old-fashioned pastrami-on-rye bagel, classic house-made gravlax with all the fixings on an everything bagel and a sumac-rubbed smoked black cod with pickled red onion, radish and scallion cream cheese on a salt bagel.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge

There are many tasty "maker" success stories in Foodtopia, but perhaps none bigger and tastier than Jael and Dan Rattigan's French Broad Chocolate. Explore the bean-to-bar process with a tour at their 14,000-square-foot Chocolate Factory, where raw cacao is transformed into a variety of confections. Then indulge in the chocolate fruits of their labor at the factory café or at their downtown flagship dessert restaurant, French Broad Chocolate Lounge, which is filled with artisan chocolate bars, delectable bonbons and caramels, brownies, cacao nibs and more. Their Quintessential Chocolate Cake is a perennial favorite with three layers of devil's food cake, whipped chocolate ganache, dark chocolate glaze and chocolate curls, all paired with a Rose, Cardamom and Pistachio Liquid Truffle, their signature velvety hot sipping chocolate.

Cultura

Dubbed "New Agrarian," Cultura in Asheville&rsquos up-and-coming South Slope celebrates old-world techniques and communal feasts. Choose from small plates like lobster crudo with black sesame, turnips and seaweed, or octopus with inked rice and cultured coconut, or go full-on with one of the signature family-style Bacchanal feasts like the Swiss Chalet fondue bowl, Colonel Hester&rsquos Bucket of Birds smoked and fried chicken, or the Racks on Racks baby backs served with a seasonal bounty.

Rhubarb

Sunday supper is a tradition in the South and something that is near and dear to Chef John Fleer's heart. Every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. sharp, the communal tables in Rhubarb's Family Room fill with passing plates and shared stories. The three-course family-style meal reflects the bounty of Asheville's weekend tailgate markets. One example is the Gaining Ground New Potato Frico -- smashed new potatoes topped with shaved Looking Glass Creamery Bear Wallow cheese, grilled dandelion greens, crispy pork collar, chili-braisedparsnips and, some weeks, an earthy charred carrot romesco. A local guest farmer hosts each week's tables, making Sunday supper a farm- and farmer-to-table experience.

Gàn Shãn Station

Set in an old gas station in North Asheville, Gan Shan Station celebrates cuisines from throughout Asia. Local chef and owner Patrick O&rsquoCain serves house-made dumplings and velvety-smooth coconut squashin a dumpling soup and Vietnamese imperial rolls, along with rice bowls, noodle bowlspad thai, drunken noodles and curries. For a true Asian flavor explosion, check out the Mapo Doufu, a traditional Szechuan dish that is characteristically salty, spicy and richly-flavored, with braised tofu, ground pork, broad bean paste, garlic, ginger, tree ear mushrooms, Szechuan peppercorn, chile and loads of scallions.

12 Bones Smokehouse

The Blue Ridge Mountains and barbecue go together like pigs in mud, so consider 12 Bones Smokehouse one prize hog, with fall-off-the-bone ribs and more. Set along the French Broad River next to Wedge Brewing's second successful hotspot, the restaurant focuses on meats that are smoked low and slow over select hardwood, then tucked into sandwiches or served as platters. Ribs are offers as three-rib tasters, half-racks (six) and a full rack of a dozen. Along with Nekkid (simply salt and pepper), there's a rotating list of flavors &mdash from traditional brown sugar to adventurous strawberry-jalapeno or blueberry-chipotle. Salads, scratch-made sides and lots of local draft beers &mdash including their own line &mdash round out the experience.

Plant

Asheville has long been known for its vegetarian and green scene, and perhaps few places are better than Plant for trying vegetables and fruits. Plant is vegan, 90 percent organic, often local and mostly gluten-free, with almost everything made from scratch (without an animal product in the house). Sample the aged cashew and farmer's involtini cheese plate, with rosemary fruit, pickled vegetables and focaccia, or tofu bibimbap and beautiful grilled beets. The beets are grilled to order, nestled in peppy horseradish mayo, sprinkled with balsamic and herbs then topped with a tumbleweed of crispy onion strings.

The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate

Set on an 8,000-acre estate that was originally the private home of the Vanderbilt family in the late 19th century, the elegant Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate offers seasonal dishes in a setting with white tablecloths, mountain views and gracious service. Chef Sean Eckman uses ingredients from Biltmore's own farm in global preparations with grand style. Filet mignon is a nod to the estate's agricultural roots and current farm practices, often prepared using beef from the estate's herd. George Vanderbilt would likely have been as proud to serve his guests from this menu as Biltmore's culinary team is today.

Bhramari Brewing Company

Asheville has long been a renowned beer scene. One of the foremost places to try the local brews is Bhramari Brewing Company, where several popular burgers can be paired with various beers brewed right on site or nearby. Their signature burger is the perfect place to start, with grain-fed beef, a stout glaze, crispy onions, oaked mayo, pickles, hop-smoked truffle cheese and two thick slices of candied bacon. Order their Molly's Lips black gose or ask the staff for another perfect pairing.

Benne on Eagle

Paying homage to the rich history of African-American culinary traditions in the neighborhood known as The Block, Chef John Fleer and rising star Chef de Cuisine Ashleigh Shanti are putting their spin on Southern Appalachia classics &mdash served family-style &mdash on the ground floor of the restored steel factory that is now The Foundry Hotel. Think deviled egg spread with Saltines potlikker-braised chicken wings fried catfish and waffles triggerfish and spoonbread and their wildly popular grilled and smothered pork chop with black pepper hominy gravy, served with sweet potatoes and collard greens.

The Admiral

The Admiral was a beacon for the now-burgeoning West Ashville culinary scene, luring other talented chefs for one of the hippest dining scenes in the region. The vibe at The Admiral is unpretentious and so is the menu, but Chef Matt Dawes delivers with every bite. His silky duck liver mousse is rustically presented with fig jam and almonds on buttermilk breadpotato gnocchi with butternut squash, sage, brown butter and pepitas is a rustic plate of art. Small plates and entrées highlight local and regional farms, maximizing the impact of each creation.

Red Stag Grill

The Asheville dining scene skews casual, with plenty of fleece-clad diners. But in bustling Biltmore Village, Red Stag Grill in the art-filled Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville brings a bit of formality without stuffiness. The rustic hunting-lodge-meets-modern-mountain-cabin atmosphere sets the scene for Executive Chef Edwin Bloodworth&rsquos European comfort food. After dinner, sip a signature martini or cocktail over live music in the lounge.

The Market Place

The Market Place has been a downtown fixture on Wall Street since 1979 and long-time chef-owner William Dissen continues to create farm-to-table experiences as well as anyone in the Carolinas. Sous vide and wood-fired grilled lamb shoulder features crispy papa cacho potatoes, blistered padron peppers, farmer's cheese, sungold tomatoes, shaved radishes and edible marigolds. When it's on the menu, the roasted asparagus side features Riverview Organic Farm spears, a soft-poached egg, ham from the beloved Benton's Hams in eastern Tennessee, pickled rhubarb, herb croutons and Dissen's take on green goddess dressing.

Posana

Chefs and restaurateurs Peter and Martha Pollay have been serving up local, seasonal and sustainable cuisine with an entirely gluten-free menu at Posana in downtown&rsquos historic Pack Square since 2009. Sourcing unprocessed, premium ingredients from more than 64 local purveyors and farmers, standout dishes include seared scallops and mac n&rsquo cheese. For brunch lovers, don&rsquot miss their sorghum pancakes with Mapleland Farms syrup, whipped butter and berry compote. For a more gluten-filled experience, check out their sister restaurants Bargello & District 42 in the nearby Hotel Arras for house made pastas and inventive cocktails.

Hemingway’s Cuba

Bringing a taste of Havana to Asheville, Hemingway&rsquos Cuba, on the fourth floor Terrace at Cambria Hotel, is an ode to authentic Cuban cuisine with the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Founded by Cuban native Tony Fraga, the menu features classic Cuban specialties for breakfast and dinner like a tostones board, Cubano and Media Noche sandwiches, traditional empanadas, paellas, arroz con pollo and ropa vieja, a slow-braised shredded beef stew with roasted red peppers and olives served with white rice and black beans.

Early Girl Eatery

A fixture of the downtown Asheville dining scene since 2001, Early Girl Eatery is a perennial favorite for scratch-made Southern comfort food. With three locations in Asheville, Early Girl crafts an abundance of seasonal fare showcasing local and organic ingredients. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu includes a variety of gluten-free and vegan options in addition to traditional Southern favorites. Chef specialties include the local sausage and sweet potato scramble, gluten-free Southern fried chicken, and vegan grit cake topped with seasonal vegetables and tomato gravy.

En La Calle

Chef Hugo Ramirez has shared his love of Mexican food with Ashevillians for years at Limones, and now he prepares Mexican street food next door at En La Calle. Meaning "in the street," the intimate space features platicos inspired by the street foods Ramirez grew up eating in his hometown of Mexico City. Latin-inspired cocktails, wines from Latin countries and can cervezas can be paired with options like chicken tinga enchiladas with mole poblano the octopus a la Mexicana tostada and the one item that has been on the menu since opening: grilled street corn with cotija cheese, lime and chile negro, chicatana-cardamom chile and crema.

Cucina 24

Well-priced (currently just $48), creative and one of the most-popular tasting menus in town, the "What We're Cooking" option at Cucina 24 is served family-style, starting with what chef Brian Canipelli calls "odd plants & white anchovy dip." It then moves through antipasti &mdash wood-roasted okra and romano beans or chicken liver crostini &mdash two pastas, then a choice of a meat, seafood or vegetarian main and concluding with dessert. There's a separate "Classics" a la carte menu, but it's hard to resist this unique degustation, which is best enjoyed overlooking the wood-fired oven at Cucina 24's kitchen bar.

Foothills Butcher Bar

The folks at Foothills Meats have been serving the Asheville community locally raised and custom-cut meats for years. Now they use the same top-quality meat at their Butcher Bar restaurants &mdash located in West Asheville and Black Mountain, adjacent to their flagship butcher shop. The cozy neighborhood spots offer full bar service and a retail butcher case, as well as classic burgers, hot dogs, rotating meatballs and their insane beef-tallow fries. Butcher&rsquos Cut and Blue Plate specials change daily, and can include steaks, chicken confit or a tender braised boneless beef shank&mdashcut to resemble oxtails&mdashwith rotating, seasonal sides.


Don’t Miss: The Admiral in Asheville, North Carolina - Recipes

Looks like a friendly dive, tastes like fine dining. We had an awesome Nicoise salad (oh, the heirloom tomatoes - I could have eaten a whole plate of them), I had the ceviche, and my husband the flatiron steak small plate. Everything was prepared and presented to perfection. The local berries cobbler topped it off. Waitstaff were friendly and helpful, and it was fun to watch meals being prepared at the open kitchen. If I lived in Asheville, I'd be there at least once a week.

602 - 606 of 939 reviews

Plus: requested a vegan meal and they prepared a nice salad and a vegetable plate that was very good. Not so good: Ordered a small order of scallops along with the mussels and a salad. The mussels were very small in size and the salad was very good. There were 3 scallops on top of some sauce. There was no way to enjoy the sauce as no bread is served at the restaurant unless you choose to purchase it. And 3 scallops?? When the bill came, we complained that there was no way to enjoy the sauce and we left it on the plate. If you serve a dish with sauce, then you should serve something with it. The server said that is how it always is served and if we come again, he would ask for bread for us. He went to the kitchen and came back with a reduced bill. He took off the scallops and said that the chef was not the one who usually serves the dish and he agreed it should be prepared/served differently. The restaurant did the right thing but I would have never served such a small dish and then ask someone to pay for bread. Just saying.

We eat at the Admiral on average once a month, so this is not a pissy review by a snobby New Yorker or a tourist afraid to get out of their car in West Asheville. The Admiral has been our long standing favorite dining venue, but over the last year we have noticed that the menu has become stagnant, and the creativity and originality that made them an Asheville favorite has diminished. The Admiral used to be an ewww and ahhh experience, but lately is has become, well, boring. While still a great experience for the one time visitor, or inexperienced diner, it has slipped to "good", and unfortunately in Asheville, you can find "good" everywhere.

The Admiral NEVER disappoints. but you need to make a reservation. this cute little "dive" in an out of the way location, is off the beaten path, but oh so worth the effort. Menu changes often, but the mussels are fantastic and the charcuterie board is the best we've ever had. PLAN to visit the Admiral!


Ashe Like That

1/29/16 By Kerry Saretsky for Fathom

When my family told me they were buying a house in Asheville, the first thing out of my gaping mouth was "Why?!" They had lived in Paris, New York and Casablanca. Clearly North Carolina was a step in the wrong direction. But I admit, I was wrong.

I quickly fell in love with this town. It's wild and laid back and fresh and historic. There's a sense of entrepreneurship, artisanship, authenticity&mdashand, yes, the beards and plaid shirts that tend to accompany them. There's whiff and freshness of hipsters, but none of the pretense. More than anything, Asheville is inimitably delicious, with a restaurant scene that rivals that of my hometown, New York City. Recently, and often, I find myself walking down Second Avenue, mumbling that someone should open a fill-in-the-blank restaurant, "like that place in Asheville." These are the places I would import up north if I could. And a word to the wise: When in Asheville, order everything with a pint of local beer.

For Farm-to-Table and Nose-to-Tail
Table
48 College St. +828-254-8980
It's all about the ingredients. The menu is peppered with words like "local" and "heirloom" and "such-and-such farm." The attentive, honest style of cooking pulls combinations from a well-shuffled deck of Southern ingredients. But I was sold on this place was my mother asked the waiter what was so great about the $18 burger and he replied, "It"s all from one cow." Which made us wonder, how many cows are in the burgers we get from other places? The burger lives up to its price tag. Tempura fiddlehead ferns are a must when they're in season, and radishes with bonito butter are worth a try.

For a Diamond-in-the-Rough Dinner
The Bull and Beggar
37 Paynes Way +1-828-575-9443
I love this restaurant. It's one of the best examples of French-infused local American cuisine I've ever seen&mdashand I'm a French-American food writer who thinks about this a lot. It's hidden in the River Arts District, where the reclaimed warehouses along the train tracks are now homes to artists' workshops and trendy restaurants. Drive someone here in the dead of night, and they might think you're kidnapping them. Walk into this lofty yet cozy, semi-industrial, intensely welcoming space with little bouquets and Duralex glasses on the tables, and they'll thank you for the ride. Imagine mixing special occasion with late night pigging out. It's that kind of place. I loved the cassoulet and strongly suggest French onion soup with oxtail.The orange-flower scented madeleines are baked to order and come out hot, perfumed, and rolled in sparkling sugar. I've been eating madeleines for thirty-one years, and these are the best I've ever had.

For Dinner and Dancing
The Admiral
400 Haywood Rd. +828-252-2541
The building is simple cinderblock, but the laid-back place takes its victuals seriously. The menu changes daily, but the idea is consistent: super fresh, inventive, local food with international influence served as sharable mini plates or mains. Where else can you get swordfish with stone-ground grits and lemongrass BBQ? Everything I've had has been flawless and dangerous. The desserts are to die for. On Friday and Saturday nights, the place turns into a dance party.

For Obama-Approved Carolina Barbecue
12 Bones
5 Riverside Dr. +828-253-4499
3578 Sweeten Creek Rd., Arden
My favorite barbecue place. Not just because I dream about the smoke ring on their exceptionally lean brisket. Not just because I love sitting on their open patio between the train tracks and the river. Not just because President Obama has been here. But because of what they do to their vegetables. Hear me out: If the meat isn't good at a barbecue place, what are you doing there? But if a barbecue place smokes potatoes for potato salad and portobello mushrooms for vegetarian sandwiches, you know it's serious. I recommend pulled pork sandwich, wedge salad, and smoked turkey. I love brisket with smoked potato salad and greens. I also take their smoked mushrooms to go for salads and sandwiches at home.

For Something Salty
The Gourmet Chip Company
43 Broadway +828-254-33
There's something to be said about doing one thing and doing it well. And I'm saying it for this place. You come here for potato chips. They fry the kettle-style chips fresh all day long and pile them into a cone topped with one of a dozen combinations of fresh ingredients. I'm partial to Napa (lavender honey, blue cheese crumbles, sea salt) and Parisian (white truffles, herbed goat cheese, sea salt), but next time I'm trying Belgian&mdashlocally grown sweet potato chips with Belgian dark and milk chocolates and sea salt. Five dollars have never been better spent.

For Something Sweet
French Broad Chocolate Lounge
10 S. Pack Sq. +828-252-4181
Everything is chocolate. Phenomenal, inventive chocolate truffles (Earl Grey, Indian kulfi, lavender, and honey). Chocolate cakes (they make one with olive oil). Chocolate-dipped cookies. Drinkable ganache. Even chocolate crème brûlêe. Everything is made in-house. The coconut macaroon brownie and pot de crème are sensual. I can't wait to try the beer float. For those who don't love chocolate, there's still plenty to dream about. Despite the grown-up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feel, my favorite thing here is homemade soda&mdashthe lavender alone is worth the trip downtown.

For Low-Fuss, High-Impact
White Duck Taco Shop
1 Roberts St. +828-258-1660
12 Biltmore Ave. +828-232-9191
There are two locations, which makes wanting lunch here everyday only slightly less weird. The idea is simple: Stand in line at the counter thinking about how you are going to be reasonable order as many of the inexpensive, inventive tacos as you can cram into your stomach sit down, eat them, and plan which ones to get next time. Start with a fish and a mushroom, potato, and romesco taco. Against better judgement, pig out on black bean and cheese, mole duck, barbecue carnitas, and banh mi tofu tacos. Return on an empty stomach for the steak and cheese taco that everyone was talking about last time.

For Great Food, Great Company
Curaté
11 Biltmore Ave. +828-239-2946
I recoil from describing this place simply as a tapas bar, which makes me think they serve small, oily, overwhelming single-note dishes. It's a bright, bustling space on the main drag in town with a big bar and intimately spaced tables. The food is unexpected, exciting, punchy and very sharable. It's a place for conviviality and camaraderie a spot to take great friends. Bring a troupe to tackle pulpo a la gallega, perfect octopus with smoky Spanish paprika and potato purée berenjenas la taberna, fried eggplant with mountain honey and rosemary migas, cauliflower and brussels sprouts with a celeriac mousse and tarta de pistacho with lemon-thyme ice cream for dessert. Don't miss cerdo ibérico a las finas hierbas, tender pork flank steak with thyme and rosemary. It will blow your mind.


Barbecue

North Carolina and Texas form the geographic brackets within which the regional styles of American barbecue emerged. Texans naturally favor beef (though recently they’ve been applying their smoky arts to other proteins with winning results), but North Carolinians are forever devoted to the pig. A pulled pork sandwich served anywhere in the country descends from its Tar Heel forefathers. The state divides into two fiercely competitive barbecue regions: the western piedmont plateau, where smoked pork shoulder rules, and the eastern coastal plains, where whole hogs have slowly smoldered over wood since the country’s founding. Barbecue seekers could easily devote an entire road trip to the subject matter we hit highlights in both regions.

  • Three barbecue plates at Lexington Barbecue
  • The pits at Lexington Barbecue
  • Chopped pork with slaw and hushpuppies at Stamey's
  • Skylight Inn
  • Making whole hog at Skylight
  • A whole hog stack (slaw, cornbread, pork) at Skylight Inn
  • Bum's
  • Collards and whole hog at Bum's
  • Wilber's Barbecue
  • Slaw, potato salad, and whole hog at Wilber's
  • Rack of ribs at Wilber's

WESTERN STYLE

Among the dozen or so barbecue restaurants around Lexington, a town long considered the nexus of western-style pork shoulder ’cue, head to the one with the most obvious name: Lexington Barbecue. Cheerful waitresses deliver plates of barbecue served sliced, chopped to a frilly texture, or (the most satisfying to me) coarsely chopped. The tang of ketchup, a signature flavoring in western Carolina, thrums through the vinegar sauce that lightly dresses the meat as well as the pink-tinged slaw served alongside. Minced pork and slaw meld into a juicy union between a hamburger bun in a simple, iconic sandwich.

Wayne Monk founded Lexington Barbecue in 1962. He learned the craft from Walter Stamey, whose legacy lives on at the two locations of Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro, 37 miles northeast of Lexington. We swung by the outpost near the city’s Coliseum sports complex. A gruff server didn’t take long to drop off respectable cue hacked into appealingly uneven bites—some pieces minced, some in larger chunks. It came with the traditional red slaw and hot, oblong hush puppies, a traditional Southern companion to fried seafood but introduced by Stamey as a North Carolina barbecue side. They’re now staples in both the western and eastern lexicons. Legacy aside: If you have time to drop into only a single barbecue joint in the area, Lexington is the one.

EASTERN STYLE

Staffers stack individual orders at Skylight Inn like precarious sculpture: A checkered plastic tub full of milky, finely shredded slaw teeters atop a block of dense cornpone, which in turn lurches over a tub of long-smoked meat. This is the apotheosis of whole-hog barbecue. After the pigs roast overnight over pits filled with hickory and oak woods, a cook divides the skin and fat from the meat cleaves meat from every part of the beast seasons it with a combination of vinegar, Texas Pete hot sauce, salt, and pepper and folds some diced skin and fat back into the flossy, textured pile of pork. I respect the western Carolina pork shoulder barbecue, but I revere the eastern whole-hog approach. Few outside this area even attempt it, much less excel at it.

I revere the eastern whole-hog approach. Few outside this area even attempt it, much less excel at it.

Pete Jones, who founded Skylight Inn in 1947 (his grandson Sam Jones now runs the business), proclaimed his place the "capital of barbecue" and mounted a likeness of the United States Capitol dome on the restaurant’s roof to emphasize the point. The place thrives in the small town of Ayden, 88 miles east of Raleigh, though the Jones family has competition across town at Bum’s. A barbecue restaurant that serves country favorites from a steam table, Bum’s also specializes in vegetables, particularly silky-chewy collard greens. It chops its pork into ropy threads, and the other two in our group actually preferred it to Skylight. (I’m staying loyal to the Jones’.)

Wilber’s, in Goldsboro west of Ayden, opened in 1962 and still looks the part with knobby wood paneling and oilcloth-covered tables. Its kitchen turns out commendable barbecue but we most especially relished an off-the-menu order of leftover ribs. They came in a domed rack, picked over from the kitchen mingling the hog’s meats, but they still sported smoky hunks of pork. We missed Grady’s Barbecue in Dudley ten minutes away from Wilber’s it closed for the day (at 3 p.m.) before we could reach it. From past experience I know its vinegary pork riddled with chile flakes warrants a detour.

WHERE EASTERN AND WESTERN MEET

Allen & Sons in Chapel Hill

Given its central proximity in Chapel Hill, Allen & Son Barbeque is among the most trafficked independent barbecue joints in North Carolina. Our server was moving so fast on a hectic Saturday that she barely spoke to us, though she did hustle our food out. Beyond its cabin-in-the-woods charm, the restaurant showcases a singular, rebellious barbecue synthesis. Keith Allen smokes pork shoulders in the western fashion, but he blends in plenty of crackly browned exterior to give the meat a textural complexity similar to whole hog. And he embellishes the pork with the chile-tinged vinegar sauce and cloudy, ketchup-less slaw favored in the east. Perhaps locals once looked at this union of styles as heretical. Nowadays residents and visitors alike view it as ambrosial.


The Admiral

My family and I went to the Admiral for dinner over the holiday weekend. Yes, it was crowded, yes, we had to wait a little while for our table (we suggest that you make a reservation, and if your table isn't ready, then chill out, and

The Admiral, a dive worth taking.

My family and I went to the Admiral for dinner over the holiday weekend. Yes, it was crowded, yes, we had to wait a little while for our table (we suggest that you make a reservation, and if your table isn't ready, then chill out, and

I went in for dinner on Sunday evening with two friends. It is unassuming from the outside but the food was absolutely delicious. We had mussels in a sweet garlic carmalized onion sauce, a zesty italian wedding soup, catfish, halibut with capers over tagliatelle pasta with a fresh tomato sauce and the food was WELL worth the price. We had deconstructed Krispy Kreme bread pudding with a coffee/cinnamon sauce and a sweet potato creme brulee. They change their menu often apparently but i would absolutely recommend going because I haven't eaten that well in a very long time.

I went in for dinner on Sunday evening with two friends. It is unassuming from the outside but the food was absolutely delicious. We had mussels in a sweet garlic carmalized onion sauce, a zesty italian wedding soup, catfish, halibut with capers over tagliatelle pasta with a fresh tomato sauce and the food was WELL worth the price. We had deconstructed Krispy Kreme bread pudding with a coffee/cinnamon sauce and a sweet potato creme brulee. They change their menu often apparently but i would absolutely recommend going because I haven't eaten that well in a very long time.

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

My husband and I got a babysitter and chose this place for our night out. We walked in, and we were ignored for a good ten minutes. I finally asked if they would take our name, and the hostess looked confused. We waited over an hour for over priced food that was not that good. They were also out of half the menu! We won't go back.

My husband and I got a babysitter and chose this place for our night out. We walked in, and we were ignored for a good ten minutes. I finally asked if they would take our name, and the hostess looked confused. We waited over an hour for over priced food that was not that good. They were also out of half the menu! We won't go back.

0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

FANTASTIC! I had the "best ever" Frogs Legs. I have searched every cookbook I own and every internet site and cannot find a comparable recipe. Would the chef ever share this recipe. Everything was fabulous and - at the risk of not being able to get a table (!!) - we've told ALL our friends to go!Thanks so much (and PLEASE tell me how to do Frogs Legs like that. ) JD

FANTASTIC! I had the "best ever" Frogs Legs. I have searched every cookbook I own and every internet site and cannot find a comparable recipe. Would the chef ever share this recipe. Everything was fabulous and - at the risk of not being able to get a table (!!) - we've told ALL our friends to go!Thanks so much (and PLEASE tell me how to do Frogs Legs like that. ) JD

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

I'm not a food reviewer-type, but I've had such good food at the Admiral recently that I am compelled to share. I'm a wedding cake baker, I work on the weekends, I wake up early, forget to eat, and finish late. So when I'm done dropping off the last wedding cake of the weekend, I'm hungry. I'm getting older, so I'm more picky than I used to be. So pulling over and getting a burrito just don't cut it anymore (which is what I did yesterday, at Trout Lily, in Fairview, the bean wrap I got was NASTY and the rice was CRUNCHY. I was pissed.) So today, when I finished with work and was ravenous and exhausted, I went to the Admiral, as has been my habit lately. And I've yet to be disappointed. Yum. Yum, Yum, Yum. I had the catfish sandwich. It was awesome, on lovely ciabatta w/ some randomly spiced aoli and tender/crunchy roasted potatoes. Then the chef, Eliot, (Elliott?) gave me some catfish chowder that was leftover from the night before. Hot, peppery, tasty, well-prepared catfish all around. In an unpretentious, yet styley atmosphere. Thanks guys. that was awesome.

I'm not a food reviewer-type, but I've had such good food at the Admiral recently that I am compelled to share. I'm a wedding cake baker, I work on the weekends, I wake up early, forget to eat, and finish late. So when I'm done dropping off the last wedding cake of the weekend, I'm hungry. I'm getting older, so I'm more picky than I used to be. So pulling over and getting a burrito just don't cut it anymore (which is what I did yesterday, at Trout Lily, in Fairview, the bean wrap I got was NASTY and the rice was CRUNCHY. I was pissed.) So today, when I finished with work and was ravenous and exhausted, I went to the Admiral, as has been my habit lately. And I've yet to be disappointed. Yum. Yum, Yum, Yum. I had the catfish sandwich. It was awesome, on lovely ciabatta w/ some randomly spiced aoli and tender/crunchy roasted potatoes. Then the chef, Eliot, (Elliott?) gave me some catfish chowder that was leftover from the night before. Hot, peppery, tasty, well-prepared catfish all around. In an unpretentious, yet styley atmosphere. Thanks guys. that was awesome.

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

The Admiral is actually more Continental than American, but that wasn't on the list of categories. The atmosphere and the food don't seem quite to fit with one another, as it feels more like a bar than a restaurant, while the food feels more like heaven. It is pretty small and usually crowded, but if all that is fine with you (I like cozy), then you will be treated to incredible food. The menu changes regularly, but I had a portabello mushroom dish that was out of this world. My partner had a hunter's stew with rabbit, venison, and assorted other animals that he could not stop raving about. This is the best restaurant food in Asheville.

An Incredible Dining Experience

The Admiral is actually more Continental than American, but that wasn't on the list of categories. The atmosphere and the food don't seem quite to fit with one another, as it feels more like a bar than a restaurant, while the food feels more like heaven. It is pretty small and usually crowded, but if all that is fine with you (I like cozy), then you will be treated to incredible food. The menu changes regularly, but I had a portabello mushroom dish that was out of this world. My partner had a hunter's stew with rabbit, venison, and assorted other animals that he could not stop raving about. This is the best restaurant food in Asheville.


A Sweet and Smoky Food Tour of Asheville, North Carolina

The food scene is jumping in Asheville. Photo courtesy of Curaté.

When her family moved to Asheville, North Carolina, Kerry Saretsky (writer, foodie, New Yorker, Fathom contributor) fell in love with the town's burgeoning food scene. With barbecue joints that smoke their vegetables and their brisket, with chocolate shops that perfume the air. No one was more surprised and delighted than she was.

ASHEVILLE, North Carolina – When my family told me they were buying a house in Asheville, the first thing out of my gaping mouth was "Why?!" They had lived in Paris, New York, and Casablanca. Clearly North Carolina was a step in the wrong direction. But I admit, I was wrong.

I quickly fell in love with this town. It's wild and laid back and fresh and historic. There's a sense of entrepreneurship, artisanship, authenticity &mdash and, yes, the beards and plaid shirts that tend to accompany them. There's whiff and freshness of hipsters, but none of the pretense. More than anything, Asheville is inimitably delicious, with a restaurant scene that rivals that of my hometown, New York City. Recently, and often, I find myself walking down Second Avenue, mumbling that someone should open a fill-in-the-blank restaurant, "like that place in Asheville." These are the places I would import up north if I could. And a word to the wise: When in Asheville, order everything with a pint of local beer.

For Farm-to-Table and Nose-to-Tail

Table
48 College St. +828-254-8980
It's all about the ingredients. The menu is peppered with words like "local" and "heirloom" and "such-and-such farm." The attentive, honest style of cooking pulls combinations from a well-shuffled deck of Southern ingredients. But I was sold on this place was my mother asked the waiter what was so great about the $18 burger and he replied, "It"s all from one cow." Which made us wonder, how many cows are in the burgers we get from other places? The burger lives up to its price tag. Tempura fiddlehead ferns are a must when they're in season, and radishes with bonito butter are worth a try.

Top-notch aromatic madeleines from Bull and Beggar. Photo by Kerry Seretsky. Don't judge a book by its cover. Photo courtesy of Bull and Beggar.

For a Diamond-in-the-Rough Dinner

The Bull and Beggar
37 Paynes Way +1-828-575-9443
I love this restaurant. It's one of the best examples of French-infused local American cuisine I've ever seen &mdash and I'm a French-American food writer who thinks about this a lot. It's hidden in the River Arts District, where the reclaimed warehouses along the train tracks are now homes to artists' workshops and trendy restaurants. Drive someone here in the dead of night, and they might think you're kidnapping them. Walk into this lofty yet cozy, semi-industrial, intensely welcoming space with little bouquets and Duralex glasses on the tables, and they'll thank you for the ride. Imagine mixing special occasion with late night pigging out. It's that kind of place. I loved the cassoulet and strongly suggest French onion soup with oxtail.The orange-flower scented madeleines are baked to order and come out hot, perfumed, and rolled in sparkling sugar. I've been eating madeleines for thirty-one years, and these are the best I've ever had.

The simple cinderblock exterior of The Admiral. Photo courtesy of The Admiral.

For Dinner and Dancing

The Admiral
400 Haywood Rd. +828-252-2541
The building is simple cinderblock, but the laid-back place takes its victuals seriously. The menu changes daily, but the idea is consistent: super fresh, inventive, local food with international influence served as sharable mini plates or mains. Where else can you get swordfish with stone-ground grits and lemongrass BBQ? Everything I've had has been flawless and dangerous. The desserts are to die for. On Friday and Saturday nights, the place turns into a dance party.

Smoked portobello mushrooms from 12 Bones. Photo by Kerry Saretsky.

For Obama-Approved Carolina Barbecue

12 Bones
5 Riverside Dr. +828-253-4499
3578 Sweeten Creek Rd., Arden
My favorite barbecue place. Not just because I dream about the smoke ring on their exceptionally lean brisket. Not just because I love sitting on their open patio between the train tracks and the river. Not just because President Obama has been here. But because of what they do to their vegetables. Hear me out: If the meat isn't good at a barbecue place, what are you doing there? But if a barbecue place smokes potatoes for potato salad and portobello mushrooms for vegetarian sandwiches, you know it's serious. I recommend pulled pork sandwich, wedge salad, and smoked turkey. I love brisket with smoked potato salad and greens. I also take their smoked mushrooms to go for salads and sandwiches at home.

For Something Salty

The Gourmet Chip Company
43 Broadway +828-254-33
There's something to be said about doing one thing and doing it well. And I'm saying it for this place. You come here for potato chips. They fry the kettle-style chips fresh all day long and pile them into a cone topped with one of a dozen combinations of fresh ingredients. I’m partial to Napa (lavender honey, blue cheese crumbles, sea salt) and Parisian (white truffles, herbed goat cheese, sea salt), but next time I'm trying Belgian &mdash locally grown sweet potato chips with Belgian dark and milk chocolates and sea salt. Five dollars have never been better spent.

Refreshing homemade lavender soda from French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Photo by Kerry Saretsky.

For Something Sweet

French Broad Chocolate Lounge
10 S. Pack Sq. +828-252-4181
Everything is chocolate. Phenomenal, inventive chocolate truffles (Earl Grey, Indian kulfi, lavender, and honey). Chocolate cakes (they make one with olive oil). Chocolate-dipped cookies. Drinkable ganache. Even chocolate crème brûlêe. Everything is made in-house. The coconut macaroon brownie and pot de crème are sensual. I can’t wait to try the beer float. For those who don't love chocolate, there's still plenty to dream about. Despite the grown-up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feel, my favorite thing here is homemade soda &mdash the lavender alone is worth the trip downtown.

Up close with a banh mi tofu taco from White Duck Taco Shop. Photo by Kerry Saretsky.

For Low-Fuss, High-Impact

White Duck Taco Shop
1 Roberts St. +828-258-1660
12 Biltmore Ave. +828-232-9191
There are two locations, which makes wanting lunch here everyday only slightly less weird. The idea is simple: Stand in line at the counter thinking about how you are going to be reasonable order as many of the inexpensive, inventive tacos as you can cram into your stomach sit down, eat them, and plan which ones to get next time. Start with a fish and a mushroom, potato, and romesco taco. Against better judgement, pig out on black bean and cheese, mole duck, barbecue carnitas, and banh mi tofu tacos. Return on an empty stomach for the steak and cheese taco that everyone was talking about last time.

Smoky octopus from Curaté. Photo courtesy of Curaté.

For Great Food, Great Company

Curaté
11 Biltmore Ave. +828-239-2946
I recoil from describing this place simply as a tapas bar, which makes me think they serve small, oily, overwhelming single-note dishes. It's a bright, bustling space on the main drag in town with a big bar and intimately spaced tables. The food is unexpected, exciting, punchy and very sharable. It's a place for conviviality and camaraderie a spot to take great friends. Bring a troupe to tackle pulpo a la gallega, perfect octopus with smoky Spanish paprika and potato purée berenjenas la taberna, fried eggplant with mountain honey and rosemary migas, cauliflower and brussels sprouts with a celeriac mousse and tarta de pistacho with lemon-thyme ice cream for dessert. Don't miss cerdo ibérico a las finas hierbas, tender pork flank steak with thyme and rosemary. It will blow your mind.