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Asheville, North Carolina, is a small mountain town with a tremendous amount of character. By using this guide, I hope you’ll discover the wealth of what this mountain has to offer hungry visitors.
French Broad Chocolates is a local bean-to-bar chocolate shop that has earned national recognition. Enjoy a gorgeous box of truffles that comes complete with a bow, à la Tiffany’s. Swing by the shop — located in the heart of downtown Asheville — to pick up a cup of impossibly smooth Durham, North Carolina-based Counter Culture coffee. Sweets, as you might expect, dominate this menu. Look forward to cakes, brownies, crème brûlée, cookies, ice cream, coffee and tea — but the real highlight here is the drinking chocolate. French Broad serves a thick and rich hot chocolate that you’ll think about for months after you’ve tasted it. Order the plain dark chocolate or try the salted caramel option if you’d prefer a drink with more character.
Don’t let the all brick and the dark, industrial-looking exterior of Vortex Doughnuts — located just a few blocks from French Broad — fool you. Inside, you’ll find a welcoming, light-filled interior complete with modern décor, a wooden bar, and a chalkboard menu board behind the counter. Freelancers could easily spend an entire day downing drinks and doughnuts while they hammer out their latest assignments. Customers should expect made-from-scratch and locally sourced doughnuts in addition to coffee, tea, milk and soda. I loved the vegan doughnuts. Many vegan options are too crumbly or bland, but these delivered a sweet punch that should accompany all doughnuts. I especially preferred the chocolate peppermint doughnut, which was perfect for the chilly weather.
Cozy up to the bar and sip on a craft beer or enjoy your pie alfresco at All Souls Pizzeria. The ingredients here taste straight-from-the-farm fresh — the restaurant even mills its own flour and polenta from organic grains. And the clam, chile, oregano, cream, and mozzarella pie I had was dripping with sauce and balanced the ingredients out just right. If you’re searching for a spot that feels quintessentially Asheville, All Souls does the trick.
If you like to drink your coffee in a memorable setting, you’ll find it at Double D’s Coffee and Dessert. Head inside the red double-decker bus to order coffee, espresso, and pastries, pretending you’re in London, if you want. I know this marks my third coffee shop, but with all the health benefits of java, you might as well drink as much as you can.
No trip to Asheville would be complete without a visit to The Biltmore, perhaps Asheville’s most famous attraction. The luxurious property is the largest privately owned home in the country. The Biltmore is a stunning, endless modern-day castle, each room more opulent than the next. It’s home to a few on-site restaurants, but a winery tour is included in the price of admission. I wasn’t too impressed with any of the vino, but at least it was free.
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that a city as hip as Asheville is home to more than a handful of vegan restaurants. Plant is the kind of upscale vegan dinner-only spot that you’d only find in a big city or a small town like Asheville. The lights are low and the setting is surprisingly romantic — candles included. I recommend the hearty rosemary fries with mayo, especially to those of you who think vegan cuisine can’t be tasty. The curry tofu served with bok choy was spicy, texture-rich, and just filling enough.
From vegan delights to hip coffee shops, Asheville is the type of city that’s home to just about any cuisine you’re searching for. You just have to know where to look.
North Carolina Road Trip Itinerary: What to Eat, Drink, and Do in the Tar Heel State
Planning a road trip? Here’s everything you might need to plot a cross-country journey, a family vacation, or a solo trek.
The diversity of North Carolina makes it a top destination for tourism and the extra beautiful mountain region makes the the top of the list for places to visit within the state. The best way to see what North Carolina’s mountains offer is by experiencing them through scenic drives and stops in the cities that offer quaint places to stay, incredible restaurants, and lots of activities to fill your time. Below is a guide to help inspire your next North Carolina road trip. It all starts by landing in Asheville, the state’s most progressive and welcoming community, where you can pick up your car rental and head to town.
Eating Well in Asheville
Photo Credit: Michael Whiteman
Asheville is a lovely town in North Carolina where hipsters meet farmers, artists meet artisans, street food meets street people, and where adventurous restaurants lure masses of hungry tourists. With an influx of Floridians escaping the heat and New Yorkers escaping the cold, it feels less "southern" and more small-scale cosmopolitan.
On business a few weeks back, I took in both its thriving arts scene and its far-reaching gastronomic offerings. I say far-reaching because (for example) you can queue for a biscuit as big as your fist at Biscuit Head, filled with regionally appropriate salty country ham buffered by a fried green tomato, some cheese, a runny egg and one of seven gravies. But this is no sloucher place -- on the menu are: sriracha slaw, smoked chevre grits, kale salad, seitan sausage, brie, and smoked tomato hollandaise. There's a stupendous marmalade bar with at least a dozen varieties of freshly-made jams to pile onto your still-warm biscuit.
At the other end of the gastro-spectrum is Curate, an always-crowded tapas restaurant run by (now famous) chef Katie Button who rose to stardom after working under José Andrés and Ferran Adrià. You'll find a deep list of authentically Spanish dishes and a curated assemblage of Spanish sherries and wines. Don't miss warm octopus with Spanish paprika and silken Yukon gold puree spicy chorizo wrapped in a crisp potato chip Moorish-spiced lamb skewer patatas bravas (a must-have) and Spanish tortilla (a classic potato-and-onion omelet). Curate has an open kitchen with a bar-counter where you can watch a dynamo of cooks turning out small plates and excellent cocktails.
White Duck Taco's food is equally worldly. Non-traditional fillings include Bangkok shrimp, jerk chicken, Korean bulgogi, duck with mole and banh mi tofu. They're cheap so order lots for lunch, then walk off your meal by exploring numerous nearby galleries and workshops in the River Arts District. There's also a branch downtown.
Not easy to find, but so worthwhile is The Bull and Beggar, which abuts the yellow-ish, hipster-ish, biker-ish Wedge Brewery, with an outdoor cinema and food trucks serving creative snacks to the assembled thirsty. The menu at rustic Bull and Beggar looks "frenchified" with terrines, rillettes and shellfish platters, but it is a rock-solid restaurant run by an extraordinarily talented chef. You'll want one of everything, but we reveled in chef Matt Dawes' fatted, truffled duck liver parfait charred octopus with a memorable romesco sauce seared broccolini with chili and anchovy beets with fromage blanc and cumin and roast baby chicken with wild mushrooms, red currants, game chips, upland cress and liver toast. Quirky, wonderful wine list.
Formerly chef at much-lauded Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, where he re-invented Southern cookery, John Fleer now runs Rhubarb in Asheville. Rhubarb specializes in boldly flavored dishes that range across the globe. Roasted oysters with country ham and greens, Mongolian lamb ribs with collard green kimchee, rhubarb glazed duck confit with sweet potatoes Anna and shaved asparagus, and IPA-marinated cauliflower steak with flageolet cassoulet and arugula pesto (Whew! The ingredients just keep coming). Well organized wine list that's easy on the wallet.
The Bull and Beggar, Rhubarb and many others in town get their vegetables and greens from Evan Chender's Culinary Gardener, which I wrote about two weeks ago.
Barbecue addicts can't do better than 12 Bones, on the edge of the arts district. A big smoker out back slowly transforms all manner of protein into redolent and succulent barbecue sandwiches or platters. A go-to sandwich is Hogzilla, a layering of sugar bacon, bratwurst, pulled pork and pepper jack cheese. Although I can't quite wrap my mind around the concept, blueberry-chipotle is their most ordered sauce.
Here's how to start a perfect evening: Head over to Battery Park Book Exchange in the Grove Arcade. This quirky used-book store contains a lovely champagne bar with a large by-the-glass selection and comfy places to sit, sip and snack.
Here's how to end a perfect evening: Climb the stairs to Nightbell, a restaurant-lounge run by Katie Button. Signature cocktails are perfect and desserts are first-rate.
And here's how trendy Asheville is: The menu at Table includes barbecued fish collars, asparagus chawanmushi, and striped bass with nasturtium butter. All Souls Pizza mills it own flour and offers hand-cut rye noodles with fermented turnips and charred spring onions, and smoked sardines with salsa verde. Curate's menu tells you which dishes are vegan or gluten- lactose- and tree-nut free. At the hot Mexican restaurant Limones, your "Mayan margarita" glass is crusted with chapulin salt, "chapulin" made of dried, ground crickets. Down at a nearby farmers market, Cricket Girl sells cricket-based protein bars and is aiming for veggie packed smoothies thickened with her insect protein-flour combination. Toto. we're not in Brooklyn anymore.
Rozanne Gold is a four-time James Beard award-winning chef and author of Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs, Healthy 1-2-3, and Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease.
PIN THIS ASHEVILLE TRAVEL GUIDE TO SAVE IT FOR LATER!
Awesome Asheville Restaurants
Note: Our food guides are always expanding, so if we left something off, it’s because our stomachs are only so big! Let us know if there is a place we missed and we will try it out for our next meal in Asheville.
Also, more than a few of these restaurants are a part of the Chow Chow Culinary Festival, which we’ve also featured in our guides to fall in North Carolina and September events.
All Souls Pizza
Using self-milled flour and polenta in all of their pizzas, All Souls Pizza is where you go for a boujee yet delicious slice of ‘za. Locally focused, the menu of gourmet pizza highlights Asheville growers and makers. But the vibe at All Souls is very chill. Sit inside or on the beautifully green patio and enjoy the best pizza in Asheville!
Asheville Sandwich Company
Asheville is filled with so many incredible outdoor activities. But, if you’re like us, you get a hankering on the trails for something beyond jerky and trail mix. Enter Asheville Sandwich Company! This Asheville restaurant features Trail Box Lunches which are perfectly packed to survive even the toughest hike.
Gourmet sandwiches that are bursting with flavor, there really is no wrong order at Asheville Sandwich Company! Oh, and did we mention that they have instagramable drool-worthy milkshakes too!?
Website | 417 Biltmore Ave, 4F, 733 Haywood Rd, & 1994 Hendersonville Rd
Biscuit Head is an Asheville favorite that’s stayed busy from day one and grown beyond its roots in West Asheville. Today, you can find three locations in town one in Greenville, South Carolina, too.
Before you stop by any of their shops, just be prepared to wait in line, especially if you’re around during breakfast time. You won’t hear grumbling in the line but really eager anticipation for what’s coming—a cathead biscuit-powered southern food adventure.
Order your biscuit with meat to stuff inside or don’t. Just remember that you’ve got a variety of delicious jams and butter waiting at the bar for you after ordering.
Benne on Eagle
From the Asheville restauranteur that gave us, Rhubarb, Chef John Fleer’s Benne on Eagle is focused on revitalization. Located in a neighborhood known as The Block on Eagle Street, the businesses surrounding Benne on Eagle used to be the areas more vibrant area in the 1960s and 1970s.
The neighborhood started to decline in the 1980s and now, thanks to many businesses like Benne on Eagle, the area is starting to breathe life again. Head by Chef De Cuisine Ashleigh Shanti, Benne on Eagle is steeped in soul and heritage of the area.
Breakfast meals consist of seared Sunburst Trout and Cateto Grits or an appetizer of Potlikker Braised Wings served with Chow-Chow. Must-eat entrees include Benne on Eagle’s Oxtail and Cream Peas served over West African Spiced Carolina Gold Rice and Onion-Braised Rabbit with an apple fritter and roasted carrots.
Is there anything better than a cold beer and delicious food? Bhramari Brewing is the only Asheville brewery that we’re featuring on this list, and after a visit you’ll see why!
Serving above-average pub food, you can pair one of their delicious brews straight from the tap alongside globally infused dishes. And don’t sleep on the Chicago Deep Dish Pizza!
Buxton Hall Barbecue
At Buxton Hall Barbecue, pitmaster Elliot Moss and Chai Pani’s Meherwan Irani are serving wood-fired deliciousness out of a former roller rink. This tasty Asheville restaurant offers a little bit of everything, from wood-smoked whole hog barbecue to delicious fried catfish and many more options.
At the sauce bar, barbecue aficionados can choose from Eastern Vinegar, Lexington Red, Spicy Vinegar, and even Alabama White Sauce. While we 100 percent agree you should be there for the barbecue, don’t skip on the appetizers.
This is a place where everything on the menu is done to perfection, but their “Mussels Cooked Under the Pig” are everything you need in your mouth and more!
You can call them unorthodox or whatever, but we still decided to include Buxton Hall in our guide to North Carolina barbecue.
Looking for authentic street food? Chai Pani is a must when in AVL! From four-time James Beard-nominated chef Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani is whimsical yet affordable.
You won’t find your standard butter chicken and tikka masala at Chai Pani. Instead, feast your eyes and bellies on delightful little snacks. Featuring a variety of chaat, sandwiches, uttapam, and thali, Chai Pani shows eaters a different side of Indian cuisine not usually found.
What’s just as impressive as their incredible food are the ecological and sustainable food practices. At Chai Pani you’ll not only find fresh local ingredients, but spices roasted and ground in-house as well as compostable and eco-friendly to-go containers.
“Cure yourself” with Spanish style tapas from renowned scientist turned chef, Katie Button’s Cúrate (pronounced COO-rah-tay). Cúrate is an explosion in your mouth featuring the best jamón Ibérico, vermuterías, and shareable tapas.
The six-time James Beard nominee, Chef Katie Button works with nearby growers to produce ingredients that are typically found in Spain. Must-order Croquetas de Pollo, but we’d like to hear what you like.
And just so you know, Cúrate was listed as one of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants by Wine Enthusiast in 2018.
Grab Katie Button’s cookbook with a peek inside her award-winning restaurant! It was included in our list of essential cookbooks.
Early Girl Eatery
Website | 8 Wall St, 444 Haywood Rd #101, & 1020 Merrimon Ave #106
Early Girl Eatery has also grown beyond its original Wall St location and after eating there, we can see why. Step inside this amazing Asheville restaurant via the screen door and get ready to find some familiar faces if you know good Southern food.
All-day breakfast favorites include their Porky Breakfast Bowl and Vegan Tofu Scramble. But honestly, I’m just dreaming of those shrimp and grits and when I’m going to see it arrive on a plate in front of me again.
Website | 10 Patton Square & 1831 Hendersonville Rd
Steps away from Pack Square, Farm Burger is one of downtown Asheville’s most popular restaurants. Not downtown? Check out their South Asheville location! Using only organic and locally purveyed ingredients, the burgers are cooked in beef tallow to maintain their juicy flavor.
If you’re looking for an affordable meal in Asheville then the Farm Burger lunch special is your ticket for $9!
French Broad Chocolate
Website | Lounge: 10 S Pack Square Factory: 821 Riverside Dr
French Broad Chocolate is now what I consider the gold standard of chocolate. Whether it’s a slice of their decadent chocolate cake, truffle, or drinking chocolate, the level of commitment to highlighting the cocoa bean comes first.
From bean to bar, and back into the community, French Broad Chocolate is deeply committed to sustainability and minimizing their environmental footprint while still producing the best chocolate and desserts in the world.
Fresh made to order yeasty doughnuts like you’ve never had them before! Hole only serves up four flavors of donuts, but we guarantee that there is always a line for them. These pillows of heaven on crispy on the outside but warm and buttery on the inside.
Make sure to grab a cup of coffee, roasted by their neighbors PennyCup Coffee and snap a photo with their baby blue bus!
Jerusalem Garden Cafe
We happened upon Jerusalem Garden Cafe when searching for a place to eat Downtown and came away thankful for the discovery. This Asheville restaurant’s colorful and well-decorated interior encourages relaxation and focusing your imagination on faraway places.
And beyond the decor, Jerusalem Garden’s menu and dishes will take your tastebuds far away from the mountains of North Carolina. Their hummus and Babaganoush excellently pair with lunch favorites Eggplant Moussaka and dinner delights like Lamb Shwarma.
But for me, I could eat that hummus all day long.
Rhubarb straddles the line of fancy and familiar. Every Southern meal needs some collards, but at Rhubarb, Chef John Fleer kicks it up a notch by braising them in peanuts alongside pork bottarga, kimchi, and topped with a peanut chili crumble.
The James Beard-nominated chef serves Appalachian classics such as Roasted Trout and Hoppin’ John and of course the namesake vegetable, Rhubarb, makes a frequent appearance on the menu.
Rhubarb is not a place where you want to pass on dessert! Pastry Chef Kaley Laird is an accomplished and award-winning pastry chef whose flavor-forward approach will have you begging for more!
Street tacos and margaritas- what’s more Asheville than that!? Recipes collected from the owner’s life in Mexico, Hunter and Beth Berry have made TacoBilly a place where you can taste adventure. Using local produce and sustainable meat sources, the tacos from this Asheville restaurant are sure to please!
Carefully crafted doughnuts with local ingredients at play, Vortex Doughnuts is a funky donut shop that is tucked away with photogenic murals all around.
Offering vegan donuts as well as the delicious cake vs. yeast debate that I often make. Get one of each because it’s not uncommon for Vortex Doughnuts to sell out!
White Duck Taco
Website | 388 Riverside Dr & 12 Biltmore Ave
White Duck Taco got its start in the River Arts District and has proven itself among the best of Asheville’s food scene. They’ve expanded as well to include two more Asheville spots and across state lines in Tennessee and South Carolina.
We’ve bounced around the menu a bit at White Duck Taco, but know their Pork Belly Taco and Fish Taco are worth it for first-timers. And if you’re partial to the exotic and creative, order a Korean Beef Bulgogi or Bangkok Shrimp.
No matter what you choose, just take your number and prepare for the most deliciously crafted tacos to come out and greet you.
We’re operating at limited group size, requiring all guests and guides to wear face masks, and social distancing whenever possible on tours. Our staff and restaurant partners are taking every measure to ensure your safety. Please contact us with any questions.
Book a tour now, or ask us about booking a Private Tour for you and your group! Hurry, our tickets sell out quickly!
The Classic Food Tour
The Asheville culinary tour that started it all! This is our original guided food tour featuring an eclectic combination of farm-to-table, seasonal, and local favorites.
The High Roller Food Tour
Cheers to a fun, decadent afternoon! Indulge your tastebuds at Asheville’s best kitchens and bars, from old favorites to the newest hot spot. Taste, sip, and get in the spirit!
The Cold One Food + Brewery Tour
Welcome to Beer City, USA. Explore Asheville’s booming beer scene with great food and cold beer. Food and craft beer enthusiasts will love this tour of two of life’s greatest pleasures!
5-Star Rated since 2011
Amazing Food Tour This tour was awesome!! So much good food, great drink pairings at most stops and our tour guide, Aimee, was THE best! Had a lot. read more This tour was awesome!! So much good food, great drink pairings at most stops and our tour guide, Aimee, was THE best! Had a lot of fun, met some cool other couples and found some awesome restaurants to eat at and hot spots to shop! Highly recommend and will go again! read less
Good variety of food and history Aimee was professional and fun. The food was delicious. More walking than anticipated. We need water at every stop and a choice of alcohol. I. read more Aimee was professional and fun. The food was delicious. More walking than anticipated. We need water at every stop and a choice of alcohol. I would have liked an alternative to beer and perhaps beer drinkers felt the same way? To be a high roller tour, it didn't feel fussy. read less
Enjoyed the variety of food & beverage options! This was my third Eating Asheville tour and our guide, Aimee, kept the 5-Star Review streak going! The food & beverage selections were varied and. read more This was my third Eating Asheville tour and our guide, Aimee, kept the 5-Star Review streak going! The food & beverage selections were varied and delicious. Aimee was knowledgeable, engaging, & accommodating to any and all questions & potential concerns. We had a blast and will certainly recommend this tour, and guide Aimee, to others. read less
Eating Ashville Walking Food Tours This was my 3rd tour with Eating Asheville Walking Food Tours. It was as much fun this time as it was the first. . read more This was my 3rd tour with Eating Asheville Walking Food Tours. It was as much fun this time as it was the first. You get to enjoy the walk around the downtown and enjoy excellent food and beverage, including some city history along the way. Note, downtown Asheville is hilly, so if you have trouble walking, it may be hard to keep pace with the tour group from restaurant to restaurant, though the tour guides are good about pausing to keep the group together.
This time Aimee was our tour guide and her upbeat attitude made for a fun afternoon. I highly recommend this food and beverage tour and will likely do it again in the future.
Sarah Evans, Edisto, SC read less
Aimee! Aimee was our tour guide today and she was great! She gave us fantastic recommendations and was very knowledgeable about the history of the city. read more Aimee was our tour guide today and she was great! She gave us fantastic recommendations and was very knowledgeable about the history of the city. Highly recommend! read less
Aimee!! The must have tour guru! Aimee was amazing, our group of friends had the perfect afternoon. We were able to hang out chat & learn about the town! You’re awesome. read more Aimee was amazing, our group of friends had the perfect afternoon. We were able to hang out chat & learn about the town! You’re awesome Aimee change nothing! read less
Sommer Collier | A Spicy Perspective
Follow Sommer on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest
Sommer Collier’s mantra is “will work-out for food,” which makes her a blogger we’re proud to follow. Her blog, A Spicy Perspective, features an eclectic trove of recipes, travel tips, DIY projects and more.
We love the mix of recipes she has to offer. You can find things like supreme pizza baked ziti, as well as seared scallops on watermelon salad with sparkling mint vinaigrette. Her recipes are sinful and healthy, and fancy and casual. You can also find some pretty sweet travel guides on her blog (we’re still all googly-eyed over her recent Paris guide).
Sommer and her family been in Asheville for 11 years, and they love the lush green natural surroundings and the amazing food culture! Craving more foodie intel on Asheville? Sommer has her own, in-depth restaurant guide.
Photo: Hole Doughnuts
Hole Doughnuts honestly has the best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten, anywhere in the world. They’re ultra light and airy, and made to order. There are only four flavors available each week, but they are noteworthy. I’m especially fond of the cinnamon sesame seed doughnut.
Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville is a local favorite with a comforting menu and great outdoor seating. It’s very popular so there is usually a line out the door. We love the Huevos Rancheros and the Cornmeal Hot Cakes.
Tip: If you don’t want to wait, show up mid-week around 10 am .
Photo: Corner Kitchen
Corner Kitchen is another local hot spot located in Biltmore Village, right outside of the Biltmore Estate. We always sit out on the sun porch and order the Cream Cheese Scrambler and the Homemade Corned Beef Hash.
Photo: Chai Pani
If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, Chai Pani is the place. It’s an Indian Street Food restaurant in downtown Asheville, and their menu is loaded with fresh fragrant casual dishes with exotic ingredients.
Tip: Make sure to order the Kale Pakoras, the Green Mango Chaat and the Parsi Chicken Burgers.
Buxton Hall Barbecue is a new addition to the local line up. They’ve got real Carolina whole-hog barbecue with fabulous southern sides. Make sure to save room for dessert!
Photo: Nine Mile
Nine Mile serves up Caribbean comfort food with special gluten free and grain free options. I like to order my dishes with raw zucchini noodles and am particularly fond of the Negril Nights and The Meshach.
Photo: MG Road Bar & Lounge
MG Road Bar & Lounge is our favorite place for pre dinner or after dinner cocktails. They have a cozy environment and fantastic craft cocktails. We love the ever-changing menu for snacks and/or dinner!
5 Walnut Wine Bar is a cute little wine bar with great service. 5 Walnut has live music most nights, and a wonderful wine list.
Tip: If you’re hungry, order the trout dip!
Photo: Wedge Brewing Company
Wedge Brewing Company is Asheville’s favorite place to grab a beer. It’s located in the River Arts district and is a great place to hang with friends before or after dinner.
Tip: Try the Iron Rail IPA.
Limones has been our go-to date night spots for years. They serve up elegant latin cuisine and amazing cocktails.
Tip: Make a reservation, and be sure to order the lobster nachos and the caliente margarita!
Cúrate offers rustic Spanish tapas with a touch of modern flair and fabulous service. Chef Katie Button has been wowing Asheville ever since she opened Curate’s doors.
Tip: This is another place to make a reservation, and be sure to order Tabla de Jamon and the Fried Eggplant.
Cucina 24 is a great place to sit at the bar and watch the magic happen in the open kitchen. The menu changes often, but the pizzas and pastas are always amazing.
Photo: Well-Bred Bakery and Cafe
Well-Bred Bakery and Cafe serves the best chocolate cake I’ve had in years, plus luxurious swedish cream and espresso roulade. We love to pop in for a light lunch and finish with a big piece of cake or a mountain eclair.
High Five Coffee has great freakin’ coffee. And some fun people watching as well!
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.
Photo By: Andrew Thomas Lee
Photo By: Carrie Turner Photography
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Asheville Restaurants: Best Places to Eat
Asheville is known for its chef-driven, award-winning restaurants whose passion for local food creates authentic farm-to-table dining experiences. These experiences extend throughout the region, including Biltmore and surrounding small towns. Here are some of our favorite eateries- open at reduced capacity, so we recommend making reservations, especially on the weekends. Find great outdoor dining options - including dog-friendly patios. Also see our lists for breweries & pubs, cocktails, breakfast, and coffee shops.
UPDATE: Call ahead to check with each restaurant's hours and offerings. Many restaurants have transitioned to reservations only, so be sure to plan ahead. For an updated list of restaurants open for Take-Out/Deliver and Dine-In, see AIR's website (Asheville's Independent Restaurant Association).
Laundrobars Make Shirts Clean, Drinks Neat, Food Delicious
For anyone without a washer and dryer at home, laundry day can be unbearably painful—a surreal universe defined by fluorescent lights, never-ending spin cycles, and a perpetual lack of quarters. Enter the laundrobar , a laundry/bar/restaurant hybrid that rescues laundry-goers from fabric-softener-induced hell.
These genius establishments let customers pass the time in cozy booths sipping cappuccinos or craft beers and eating killer food—a definite upgrade from those hard plastic chairs and empty vending machines in a typical laundromat. Free Wi-Fi is de rigueur , and some laundrobars double as live music or event venues. Popular across Western Europe and a few enlightened cities in the States, they transform Sunday afternoon laundry from a chore into a food and booze-fueled pleasure.