Asheville, North Carolina
The Southern food scene is exploding, and nowhere else is this boom more prevalent than in Asheville, where typical Southern dishes are being retooled by some of the most preeminent culinary minds. Lucky for me, it’s a stone’s throw from Charlotte (where my husband is from). We treated ourselves to a quick escape and left just a few pounds heavier and a whole lot happier. Here’s how to do Asheville right…
WHERE TO STAY
The Grove Park Inn is an Asheville icon with epic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The hotel isn’t going to win any design awards, but you’d be hard pressed to find a cozier spot; the lobby features 7 foot high wood-burning stone fireplaces complete with wooden rocking chairs for lounging. If it’s good enough for F. Scott Fitzgerald, it’s good enough.
Further outside Asheville, The Inn at Biltmore is the first name in luxury; the former Vanderbilt estate is both a tourist attraction and accommodation. If the Inn is booked, try The Village Hotel for a more affordable option.
If you want to be close to the action, check out The Windsor, a chic boutique hotel smack dab in the middle of it all. Otherwise. Also, The Aloft is a good option and walking distance to a handful of great restaurants.
WHAT TO DO
The Biltmore Estate is a must for history lovers with a rotating schedule of exhibits, but the landscaping is the star of the show (come in Spring when thousands of flowers are in bloom).
The River Arts District has a great assortment of galleries, studios and shops for an afternoon stroll: Whist is an adorable shop with a little something for everyone. Two doors down is Flora, a flower shop/café with a make your own bouquet station.
Asheville is home to an incredible amount of breweries, from big, brand names to small, grassroots operations. Wicked Weed, Burial Beer Company and Twin Leaf are all walking distance of one another. Outside of Asheville, Sierra Nevada has a huge outpost which includes daily tours. During warm weather months catch a concert in the amphitheater or crowd around the fire pit. Tasty Beverage Company is a great option for growlers and other to-go beers.
WHAT TO PACK
WHERE TO EAT
Food is one of the main attractions in Asheville, and you won’t be disappointed. From Asian to traditional Southern, there’s a little something for everyone.
Rhubarb, the brain child of former Blackberry Farm head chef John Fleer, is a fresh take on Southern classics. The flavors are tried and true, all done with a light hand, so you’ll have plenty of room for multiple small plates (think potato dumplings with carrot top pesto and lighter than air hushpuppies).
Buxton Hall is housed in a former skating rink, but it’s sad to think of a time when this delicious BBQ didn’t exist. Saddle up the bar for a plate of pulled pork and house smoked baked beans, then hit the sauce station to load up on the good stuff (my favorite was the vinegar based spicy red sauce). Save room for dessert; Vortex Donuts is just next door and you can’t miss the espresso yeast based donut!
Sovereign Remedies is the perfect spot for a nightcap, or dinner, or brunch. Truly, it’s good at everything. The veggie heavy dinner menu is a welcome break from the typical meat dominated Southern foods you’d expect. Brunch is even better when Mexican flavors mingle with French.
Curaté brings the tradition of Spain to the South. These flavors are difficult to find outside of Madrid, much less in the middle of North Carolina. The space is beautifully designed and modern yet warm. The sister restaurant Nightbell poses as a cocktail bar, but the food is equally considered in this loft style space. Do not miss the green beans, a typical Southern side turned on its head with the addition of uni and goat milk.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, French Broad Chocolates does not disappoint. The liquid truffle is their claim to fame, but treat yourself to a small box of their jewel-toned chocolates for the ride home.
Gan Shan Station has two outposts in the city, so you’ve got two chances to have a fantastic meal and nobody to blame but yourself if you miss it. Spicy, sour flavor notes shine in dishes like black bean chicken and are fresh and delicious.