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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Curate is often credited with placing Asheville on America’s dining map. Stepping into acclaimed chef Katie Button’s restaurant — with its vermouth bar and charcuterie station — is like stepping into a family restaurant in a small Spanish town. Button and husband Felix Meana — with mentoring from the likes of José Andrés and Ferran Adria — 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’s 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 — 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’s South Slope, to much acclaim. Preserving the art of whole hog 'cue, the menu leads with traditional pulled pork platters and sandwiches. But Moss’ other barbecue specialties are truly raising the barbecue bar. Whether the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, the bbq hash or Moss’ 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’s tough to make a good bagel, especially if you’re attempting to serve said bagel with an Appalachian twist. But that’s just what Katie Button has done at her Button & Co. Bagels. Inspired by Asheville’s 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’s 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’s 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’Cain 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 — 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.
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 — served family-style — 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’s 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’s 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’ cheese. For brunch lovers, don’t 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’s 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 — wood-roasted okra and romano beans or chicken liver crostini — 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 — 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.