Calling all beer and nature lovers! If you appreciate 19th century mansions all decked out for the holidays, fresh mountain air and craft suds, you might want to book a trip to Asheville, stat.
Perched in the Western nook of North Carolina in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a land bustling with beards and brews (Asheville has more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the States)! Beer connoisseurs flock to Asheville so they can geek out over dozens of breweries, and around 100 local craft beers. Nature lovers rejoice over the countless hiking trails boasting sweeping mountainous views.
Asheville is a progressive, eclectic and environmentally-concious city, with an approachable small town vibe. It’s extremely dog and cyclist friendly, much like Portland, Oregon. With the endless options of things to do, it’s easy to forget that it’s a small city. There’s no shortage of entertainment, from floating down the French Broad River and zip lining through tree canopies, to perusing art galleries and antique stores and exploring the countless new restaurants and breweries that continue to sprout up daily.
Downtown Asheville’s pulse is always beating with street performers and festivals, and on Friday nights, locals and tourists alike gather around Pritchard Park for a lively drum circle. And of course, Asheville also boasts a phenomenal food scene, featuring some of the best chefs in the nation.
Ready to channel your inner hippie? Read on to find out exactly where to go to sip and nosh your way through this kooky, cool city!
Sommer Collier | A Spicy Perspective
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!
Hayley Putnam | Tiptoes in the Kitchen
Hayley Putnam is North Carolina gal, born and raised. Although she grew up in the Triangle (in the quaint, Pleasantville-esque town of Cary), and now lives in Greensboro, she’s come to know Asheville well. Her mom and stepdad now reside there, and since they’re only a few short hours away, she’s lucky enough to visit almost monthly.
She’s enchanted by the sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the progressive, artsy culture and the endless list of fun things to get into. Asheville’s vibrant food scene inspires and energizes her every time she’s there, and she loves the tight-knit community that supports small businesses and the local farm-to-table movement. When she visits, she enjoys getting to frequent some of her favorite spots, as well as trying new bars and restaurants.
There’s always something new and exciting to check out in Asheville!
Photo: Sunny Point Cafe
Sunny Point Cafe is our favorite kind of brunch torture. Even though Asheville has loads of restaurants offering solid brunch menus, nothing compares to Sunny Point. Nothing. If we’re braving the weekend brunch rush, we’re going all out, and going to Sunny Point. There are hordes of patrons congregating outside the entrance every weekend for a reason. They know what’s up. They know about the fluffy, raw sugar studded angel biscuits and the blissful food coma-inducing chipotle cheese grits. A perk to waiting is that you can enjoy complimentary fresh coffee while you wait. Also, there’s a garden adjacent to the restaurant, so Sunny Point incorporate as much home-grown produce in their dishes as possible. It doesn’t get more Asheville than that.
Tip: The earlier you can go, the better. Get the huevos rancheros and bribe your dining companion to share some bacon, chipotle grits, and/or angel biscuits with you. Don’t forget the homemade blueberry jam!
If you’re in Asheville and you want to tuck into a plate of brisket, ribs or bbq with some proper Southern sides, then 12 Bones Smokehouse is a must. There are two locations now, but I prefer the original, located in the River Arts District. While just about anything you order at 12 Bones will be a decision well made, some of my favorites include their pineapple habanero ribs, jalapeño cheese grits and collards (some of the best I’ve ever had).
Tip: Come hungry, and be sure to take home a souvenir of their famous blueberry chipotle bbq sauce!
All Souls Pizza is one of my favorite spots in town. Fleetwood Mac tunes? Check. Amazing pizza? Check. Understated elegance? Check. All Souls is a wonderful example of the way Asheville embraces local. From beautiful pizzas and a kale salad so on point, to swoon worthy bread from Farm & Sparrow Bakery, everything is solid.
Tip: Order at least one of their ever rotating specials — you’ll be glad you did.
Nine Mile is one of those places you wish you had in your town. I would have lunch there at least once a week, if only I lived in Asheville. They serve up colorful Caribbean inspired dishes (most of which are vegetarian-friendly) in a fun, laid-back atmosphere. They have great salads with awesome house-made vinaigrettes (my fave is their sesame garlic tahini), and I love the Negril Nights, and the Ark of the Covenant.
Tip: I prefer the ambiance of the original location in the beautiful Historic Montford neighborhood, and the fact that they have an open kitchen (you’re hit with the most delicious aromas as soon as you enter). However, there is a second, newer location in West Asheville, which is larger and features a full bar. The portions are big, so splitting plates is always a good idea!
For a drink with a view, you can’t beat Skybar. We love coming up here for pre-dinner drinks and a sweeping view of the Blue Ridge Mountains at sunset. It’s not your average rooftop bar though. Once inside Asheville’s Flatiron building, you enter one of two teeny tiny art deco elevators (the oldest, still running elevators in the city). You’re accompanied by a suave elevator operator adorned with era appropriate attire, as you creep your way up to one of three balconies located on a former fire escape! A waiter will take your order, you’ll sip on a killer cocktail, take in the view and ask yourself how you got so lucky.
Ben’s Tune Up is a fun place to grab some beers or tiki cocktails with friends. Located on right on the fringe of downtown, in Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood, its menu and decor are a nod to the 1960s tiki craze/trend. It’s especially fun in the summer because then you can really enjoy their amazing beer garden. They even make their own beer and sake! If you’re hungry, stick around, because Ben’s has some tasty grub. Get the pupu platter.
Tip: Ben’s is located right next to one of the best breweries in town, Hi-Wire Brewing. Head over there before or after, play some shuffleboard and sample some quality beer!
Sovereign Remedies is a stunning bar, with floor to ceiling windows in the heart of downtown. Their craft cocktail menu is well-executed, offering seasonal libations with house-made tonics, tinctures and phosphates. They also have snacks and appetizers made with ingredients from a variety of local farms. We recently had some delicious pimento cheese gougeres, and some beautiful house-made salt and vinegar chips with Sriracha dip, yum!
Tip: They’re open every day, and they also serve brunch on Sundays and Mondays (nope, not a typo, Mondays)!
If I could sing the praises of chef Jacob Sessoms from the tops of all the Blue Ridge Mountains, I would. His restaurant Table is always my first choice for a special evening out in Asheville. It’s an intimate and charming spot downtown, and his cooking is local, seasonal and completely inspiring. From the mismatched china, down to each elegant and innovative dish, Jacob’s passion for what he does is evident in every aspect of Table. The restaurant is open every day, and the menu shifts daily, depending on what local produce and meats are available. For this reason, I can’t tell you what to order at Table, only that you should go there!
Photo: Buxton Hall Barbecue
Buxton Hall Barbecue just might be my new favorite Asheville joint. The newly opened and sprawling restaurant is housed in a former skating rink! If that weren’t cool enough, it has a wall of windows so diners can admire the sun setting over the French Broad River. While the main attraction is their barbecue (and it definitely lives up to the hype), their Southern sides and their crispy smoked catfish are real showstoppers. Brussels sprouts cooked under a roasting pig are out of this world. Candied yams and parsnips with homemade brûléed marshmallows and streusel were magical. Buxton is killing it on all fronts. Bonus? It’s right next door to Catawba Brewing Company, and also near Twin Leaf Brewery, so it’s fun to spend an afternoon checking them out before you pop over to Buxton for dinner!
Tip: Get whatever drink they have on slushy, the hushpuppies and the brussels sprouts, and save room for pie!
About 95% of the time, we make a post-dinner beeline for the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. From a huge variety of gorgeous artisanal chocolates that they make themselves, to hot chocolates you thought only existed in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, this place is a chocolate lover’s mecca. But they haven’t just mastered chocolate. Their carrot cake is one of the best I’ve ever had, and they also make a magical lavender creme brûlé.
Tip: Go with as many people as possible, get one of everything, and share! There’s probably going to be a line, but don’t even think about leaving. I’d stand in that line for hours, it’s that good.
The Hop Ice Cream Cafe, in funky West Asheville, is another place we love frequenting to get our sugar fix. They have the most inventive ice cream flavors, like chocolate churro, lavender goat cheese and bee pollen, and cantaloupe curry sorbet. They also have several vegan options.
Tip: If you’re not feeling as adventurous, or if you’re simply craving coffee, get the Jitterbug milkshake!
Kirby lives in Brooklyn, by way of Chicago. When she’s not drawing, she can be found doing other’s makeup, watching movies, cooking meals with five ingredients or less, and dancing! Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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