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.
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South in Your Mouth: 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.
Dining (and Drinking) With a View: Capella on 9
For Spanish flavor with a view, Capella on 9 awaits on the rooftop of the AC Hotel. Originally a hip Spanish chain that's now part of the Marriott family, Capella on 9 stays true to its roots by serving Spanish wines, creative cocktails and traditional tapas — like seared crab cakes with piquillo remoulade, roasted garlic aioli and charred asparagus, and Patatas Bravas, served with garlic-rosemary aioli and smoky tomato sauce — all with killer views of the city, the Blue Ridge Mountains and stunning sunsets.
Pizza: 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).
Chocolate Fix: 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 Chocolates and French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Explore the bean-to-bar process with a tour at their new 14,000 square foot Chocolate Factory, where raw cacao is transformed into a variety of confections. Enjoy the chocolate fruits of their labor at the factory café or at their downtown French Broad Chocolate Lounge 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.
Barbecue: 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 — from traditional brown sugar to adventurous strawberry-jalapeno or blueberry-chipotle. Salads, scratch-made sides and lots of local draft beers — including their own line — round out the experience.
From the Earth: 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.
Eat Like a Millionaire: 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 produce 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.
Burger & Beer: 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.
Anytime Dining: 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, from morning through night. Focusing on farm-to-table fare long before it was a trend, Early Girl partners with local purveyors for produce, meats, grains and cheeses, creating scrambles and breakfast bowls (they serve breakfast all day), a grilled pimento cheese sandwich and the guest and staff favorite, the Fried Green Tomato Napoleon -- fried green tomatoes layered with basil, herbed goat, salsa and balsamic dressing all served over stone-ground grits from Boonville Flour and Feed Mill.
Asian Meets Asheville: Gàn Shãn Station
Set in an old gas station in North Asheville, Gan Shan Station celebrates the cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, China, Japan and Singapore. Local chef and owner Patrick O’Cain serves house-made dumplings and velvety-smooth coconut squash soup, along with rice bowls, noodle bowls 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.
Sunday Supper: 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. A family favorite 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.
Unpretentious Deliciousness: 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 Justin Burdett delivers with every bite. His silky duck liver mousse is rustically presented with fig jam and almonds on buttermilk bread. Small plates and entrées highlight local and regional farms, maximizing the impact of each creation.
Fine Dining: 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 Scott Ostrander’s European comfort food. After dinner, sip a signature martini or cocktail over live music in the lounge.
Local Roots: 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.
Carnivore: 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 — 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’s Cut and Blue Plate specials change daily, and can include steaks, chicken confit or a tender braised boneless beef shank—cut to resemble oxtails—with rotating, seasonal sides.
Mexican Street Food: 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 Tetelas Oaxaquenas with queso fresco and black beans, sope preparado with chorizo, octopus al pastor tostada and the one item that has been on the menu since opening: grilled street corn with cotija cheese, lime and chile negro crema.
Tasting Menu: 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 — like scarlet turnips with radish and marigold and stracciatella with wood- roasted apple — 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.