I recommend staying in downtown Asheville so you can easily walk to some of the city’s best restaurants. There are other good choices at the Biltmore Estate, in the River Arts District and on the west side also, but a car is required.
Table: A farm-to-table restaurant featuring locally sustainable food in a Southern tradition. I enjoyed the service, the casual atmosphere. I enjoyed a strawberry and cheese salad served on Japanese type mustard greens and a chicken cassoulet. They need, however, to watch the butter! 48 College St. They also have a fun bar upstairs, The Imperial (formerly The Imperial Life Bar) serving small plates to a hipster crowd.
The Admiral: I loved having dinner with family at this restaurant with a creative, gourmet menu. It is located in an old building from the 1950’s with a warm, cozy supper club, dive bar atmosphere. It is at 400 Haywood Rd. Don’t miss it!
Double D’s Coffee & Desserts, at 41 Biltmore, is a London double decker bus that has been converted into a coffee shop with outdoor as well as indoor seating. I really love the concept!! Also good for coffee and a snack are City Bakery Cafe, 60 Biltmore Ave., and Green Sage Coffee House and Cafe at 5 Broadway. The Soda Fountain at the Woolworth Walk, built to resemble the old Woolworth’s soda fountain, is retro and fun.
Cucina 24: At 24 Wall St., the restaurant features local and seasonal ingredients from the farms of Western North Carolina. I had a really wonderful meal and experience sitting at the bar in the kitchen watching the chefs work. The Italian menu features antipasti, pizza, pasta, mains and dolce or sweets. I enjoyed the roasted beets with smoked honey, citrus chevre in a spring onion vinaigrette plus wonderful NC red grouper and scallops with faro, snap peas, asparagus and spring onion. Everything was so fresh and well-prepared!
Early Girl Eatery: At 8 Wall Street, this is a spot focusing on farm-t0-table, Appalachian food stressing local ingredients. It is perfect for breakfast. I recommend the Early Girl Benny consisting of grit cakes and country ham topped with tomato, spinach, poached eggs, tomato gravy and avocado, served with toast or a homemade biscuit. The chef is the brother of the chef who works at the well-known Hominy Grill in Charleston SC which is one of my favorite places there.
Cúrate: At 11 Biltmore Ave., one of my favorite meals was at this downtown Bar de Tapas. Owner and chef Katie Button has received great reviews for her traditional Spanish tapas. According to the NY Times, “she opted out of a neuroscience doctoral program to learn the culinary trade with stints at El Bulli in Spain, Jean-Georges in New York and two José Andrés restaurants.” It has recently expanded, doubling in size, and now has a jamón counter, vermouth bar and espresso program. Button was named a Semifinalist for the 2020 James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast and in 2022 was selected for the award for Outstanding Hospitality.
Button also has Button & Co. Bagels around the corner, It is a classic bagel shop with a menu dedicated to sustainable and local ingredients. The bagels are New York-style with an Appalachian twist. 32 S. Lexington Ave.
Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar: Located at 1 Page Ave., downtown, this is for oenophiles, bibliophiles and definitely Globalphiles. This is a used book store serving wines by the glass and coffee drinks. It is one of the most unique bookstores I have ever been in and probably the one with the best design and décor. What a great experience. I even bought a great book on the Art of Black Mountain College.
Other restaurants downtown you might consider include Chestnut at 48 Biltmore and Posana Restaurant at 1 Biltmore Ave., featuring American cuisine, and Sante Wine Bar and Tap Room in the Grove Arcade at 1 Page Ave. #152. Owned by the same group is Salsa’s at 6 Patton Avenue for Mexican and Caribbean dishes, Bomba at 1 SW Pack Square and Modesto Wood Fire Kitchen at 1 Page Ave. #138B
For dessert you might check out French Broad Chocolate Lounge at 10 South Lexington. A friend just tried The Blackbird at 47 Biltmore Ave. and really enjoyed it. It is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
In the River Arts District there are several restaurants in the area where you can break for lunch while visiting the many studios and galleries:
12 Bones Smokehouse: This is a well-known BBQ restaurant featuring a large menu of salads, soups, plates and sides. It is now located south of the River Arts District at 5 Foundry St. #10. They have another location in South Asheville, 15 minutes south of Biltmore Village.
White Duck Taco Shop: Located now in a bigger locaiton at 388 Riveside Dr., this is a casual taco spot that is great for lunch. White Duck also has a location downtown at 12 Biltmore Ave.
The Wedge Brewing Company: Known for its craft beers, it is located in the large Wedge Building at 37 Paynes Way. Also in the building the the popular Bull & Beggar at 37 Paynes Way which offers a modern take on rustic European cuisine.
I just read that Smoky Park Supper Club in the River Arts District is an excellent new spot featuring seasonal dishes from a wood-fired grill along with craft beer, cocktails and music. The restaurant was constructed of 19 shipping containers. 350 Riverside Dr #3141. Also in the area is Vivian for French-inspired food with local ingredients. 348 Depot St Ste 190.
When visiting the Biltmore Estate there are several dining options. I enjoyed the Bistro which is an upscale restaurant. The restaurant places a strong emphasis on a farm-to-table philosophy. Dishes include locally farmed mountain trout, locally sourced meats, local farmstead cheeses, and local honey. They also grow some ingredients in their own Kitchen Garden. There is also The Smokehouse for Carolina barbecue, The Creamery for ice cream and Cederic’s Tavern for global pub fare. There is also the Village Social for southern favorites and The Kitchen Café for coffee, baked good and more.
For my next trip, I want to definitely try Buxton Hall Barbecue, at 32 Banks Ave., South Slope in Asheville. It was one of Bon Appetit’s 10 Best New Restaurants 2016 and also One of the South’s Best New Restaurants by Southern Living Magazine.
Also on my list are:
Benne on Eagle at the Foundry Hotel features new Southern cuisine by chef de cuisine Ashleigh Shanti. It was one of Bon Appetit’s Top New Restaurants 2019. John Fleer is the Chef-Owner of Benne on Eagle. A native of Winston-Salem, NC, Chef Fleer was named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the James Beard Foundation and is a five-time finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Southeast. Ashleigh Shanti named a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year 2020. The restaurant focuses the contribution of African Americans to Appalachian and Southern food.
At 7 SW Pack Square, Chef John Fleer also has Rhubard for American cuisine using local ingredients. He is joined in the kitchen by pastry chef Kaley Laird who also is involved in The Rhu a bakery and coffee shop at 10 S. Lexington. Fleer was again named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Best Chef Southeast award in 2020 for Rhubard.
Meherwan Irani is the chef behind the Asheville-based Chai Pani and Buxton Hall Barbecue mentioned above, was named a Semifinalist for the 2020 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef for Rhubarb. The restaurant uses local ingredients and spices from Irani’s local spice business, Spicewalla. In June 2022 he won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant.
Also in Asheville, Cultura at 147 Coxe Ave., is a “New Agrarian restaurant located in Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood. Cultura draws inspiration from Old World technique, communal feasts, and celebrations. With locally driven small plates, feast-like dining experiences, Wicked Weed sour beer on draught, an immense selection of natural wines, and cleverly crafted cocktails.” It was named a James Beard 2020 Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. It is part of the Wicked Weed Brewing.
Sovereign Remedies is a downtown cocktail bar serving small plates. They are also open for Saturday and Sunday brunch. 29 N Market St #105. In West Asheville at 168 Heywood Rd. Hole Doughnuts is recommended for tasty treats. Also PennyCup Coffee Co. is a local small-batch coffee roaster with four local stores currently.
I am excited to go back and try some of these new restaurants and nominees.
Ashville is getting great press as a major destination for craft breweries and has been featured in numerous articles about its growing beer scene. In addition to Wicked Weed Brewing, New Belgium, and The Wedge Brewing Company mentioned above, other recommendations to visit include Burial Beer, Jack of the Wood Brewing, Highland Brewing Company, Green Man Brewery, Asheville Brewing Company with three locations, Catawba Brewing Co. with two locations in Asheville, Hi-Wire Brewing, Bhramari Brewing Co., Hillman Beer and Eurisko Beer Company. Jack of the Wood is a traditional pub and music downtown from 1966, that is the originator of Green Man Brewery. Check out the website for the Ashville Ale Trail for info on the breweries, tap rooms and bars along with tours and special events.
Burial Beer is getting great reviews for its Burial Beer’s Forestry Camp bar and restaurant. The food combines Basque cuisine with Appalachian ingredients. It has a downstairs bar and upstairs dining room. 10 Shady Oak Dr.