Best Restaurants in Downtown Asheville
Restaurants are listed alphabetically. Price categories are per person for dinner with appetizer or salad, entrée, vegetable or other side, glass of wine or a cocktail, tax and tip. If the restaurant doesn’t serve dinner, then the price category is for a full meal at breakfast or lunch without alcohol but with tax and tip.
In 2022, two Asheville restaurants won top national awards from the James Beard Foundation. Chai Pani won Outstanding Restaurant in the U.S. and Cúrate won Outstanding Hospitality in the U.S. Awards were presented in front of a crowd of 1,800 in Chicago. A total of 18 awards were presented this year. Asheville was the only city to have more than one winner.
Note: Restaurants, bars and craft beer breweries are now fully reopened. Many restaurants, bars and breweries have outdoor seating. Hours and dates open may change due to staffing issues; check locally for opening times.
Restaurants are listed alphabetically. Price categories are per person for dinner with appetizer or salad, entrée, vegetable or other side, glass of wine or a cocktail, tax and tip. If the restaurant doesn’t serve dinner, then the price category is for a full meal at breakfast or lunch without alcohol but with tax and tip. As elsewhere due to the Covid pandemic prices at Asheville restaurants have increased, sometimes dramatically.
Very Expensive $75+ per person
Expensive $40-$74 per person
Moderate $20-$39 per person
Inexpensive $10-$19 per person
Very Inexpensive Under $10 per person
Note: Especially recommended places are listed in RED.
The opinions on dining, and everything thing, in this book are our own. We do NOT accept comped meals, free lodging or other gratuities, so that even if you don’t agree with us you can be sure it’s our honest opinion, unswayed by any monetary consideration.
Among the national food delivery services operating in the Asheville area are Doordash (www.doordash.com), Grubhub (www.grubhub.com) and Ubereats (www.ubereats.com). Take Out Central (www.takeoutcentral.com) is a good local choice. Note that delivery areas may be limited to only certain zip codes or neighborhoods.
Asheville Proper Grove Arcade, 1 Page Ave., Suite 151, Downtown Asheville, 828-505-0909, www.ashevilleproper.com, daily for dinner except Tue., Steakhouse, Expensive to Very Expensive
Asheville Proper is a local take on an upscale, a la carte steakhouse. The difference is that steaks are grilled over a hardwood fire. The meat is Angus U.S. Choice, not U.S. Prime, and rather oddly all steaks are “Market Price.” Figure steaks run from the $30s to $60s. A tasting menu is offered Sunday to Thursday for $95. Duck, lamb and a seafood catch of the day also is available. Generally, the crowd here is from out of town. In 2023, the owners opened a more neighborhood-focused restaurant, Little D’s (952 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-412-3472, www.eatatlittleds.com) featuring New American cuisine with mains in the $30s.
Benne on Eagle 35 Eagle St., Downtown Asheville, 828-552-8833, www.benneoneagle.com, open daily for dinner (and breakfast for Foundry Hotel guests), New Southern, Moderate to Expensive
Benne on Eagle in The Foundry Hotel certainly has changed from the days when it debuted with a combination Low Country-Appalachian menu by local James Beard multiple-Nominee John Fleer and also from the time when it changed to a more Afrocentric menu. Now Benne has only has a handful of main dishes – duck breast, strip steak, lamb meatballs, pork chop, catfish – and they are a little hard to classify, though the restaurant is often categorized as modern soul food. When we were last there the menu had a total of only about a dozen items, including salads, appetizers and maybe half a dozen entrées. Service was efficient and fast, and the ambiance is enjoyable. However, the fried catfish entrée ($32) didn't even remotely compare to the incredible fried catfish we loved during the restaurant's early days. That was the best catfish ever, bar none.
Blackbird 47 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-2502, www.theblackbirdrestaurant.com, lunch and dinner daily (plus brunch weekends), Modern Southern, Expensive
A few years ago, this restaurant moved from Black Mountain, where it was very popular, to ground level retail space at the then-new Aloft Hotel. The dinner menu has expanded to include a variety of Modern Southern dishes, from small plates to vegan selections to a selection of seafood, beef, lamb and duck entrées. The menu changes seasonally. Entrées are in the $35 range at dinner. Blackbird has done a good job with the design of the restaurant, with its glass front on Biltmore Avenue, high ceilings, flying blackbird accents all around and the imaginatively named "Crow Bar" in the center. Service is usually good.
For this and all the other restaurants on or near Biltmore Avenue just south of Pack Square, including Cúrate, Limones, Posana, Wicked Weed, Chestnut and others, the public garage under the Aloft Hotel is an easy and inexpensive place to park.
Bouchon 62 N. Lexington, Downtown Asheville, 828-350-1140, www.ashevillebounchon.com, daily for dinner, no reservations, Bistro French, Moderate to Expensive
Bouchon (“cork”) advertises French classics and comfort food, such as escargot, steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, chicken cordon bleu, mussels and such. It has a great location on North Lexington Avenue. There’s dining in the little brick alley courtyard in the back, pleasant on a nice evening but perhaps a bit warm in the summer, as well as dining inside.
Monday usually is “all you can eat” mussels nights, unlimited mussels for a bargain $14. If you’re not doing the mussels, for appetizers consider the escargot (the standard preparation in garlic butter sauce, served really hot) or onion soup. The steak au poivre in a cognac sauce with sautéed vegetables and pommes frites, is fine. Ditto the bouillabaisse. Bouchon offers some house "private label" wines. In 2019, the Bouchon owner opened a new French restaurant, Rendezvous, in East Asheville.
Brasilia Churrasco Steakhouse 26 E. Walnut St., Downtown Asheville, 828-785-1599, www.brasiliasteakhouse.com, lunch Fri.-Sun., dinner daily, Brazilian-style Steakhouse, Expensive
Opened in 2014, this Brazilian-style steakhouse follows the model of national chains such as Fogo de Chao. For a fixed-price (in this case, $48 for dinner), you get all you care to eat from a 30-item salad bar and a hot bar with rice, beans, mashed potatoes, which is available separately as well, for $28, plus a dozen varieties of grilled meat brought to your table by “gauchos.” The renovation of the former Magnolia's bar and restaurant location did away with the outdoor seating, although the windows now are in the garage-style so they can be opened if the weather is good. The noise level, even half-full, is pretty high.
Buxton Hall Barbecue 32 Banks Ave., South Slope, Downtown Asheville, 828-232-7216, www.buxtonhall.com, lunch and dinner daily, Barbecue/Southern, Moderate
The inspiration of Beard Award-nominee chef Elliott Moss, who grew up in BBQ country in South Carolina, Buxton Hall is now a part of the expanding Chai Pani group run by Indian-born Meherwan Irani, also a Beard nominee and in 2022 a top national James Beard winner, and his wife Molly. It serves Eastern NC-style BBQ (slow-smoked whole hog with a thin vinegar-pepper sauce and served with a creamy cole slaw). Along with a few other dishes such as smoked chicken, the menu features pulled pork plates and sandwiches. This pulled pork barbecue is probably the best in Asheville. We prefer other spots for the ribs, but this pulled pork barbecue is special. Buxton Hall sources most of its meats and other ingredients from local farms. Prices are a little higher here than you might expect at a BBQ spot, with pulled pork plates $17 and a brisket and pork plate for $22. Pulled pork sandwiches are $15. (Sandwiches include one side and plates a choice of two.) Buxton Hall has a full bar, and Cawtawbra Brewing is next door.
Chai Pani 22 Battery Park Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-232-4003, www.chaipaniasheville.com, lunch and dinner daily, Indian, Inexpensive to Moderate
Chai Pani, the first restaurant opened by entrepreneur Meherwan Irani, bills itself as serving "Indian street food," snacks that you might find from street vendors in Mumbai However, you don't have to buy from a street stall here. The space is pleasant, comfortable and service is friendly, but it’s very busy, especially since Irani won the 2022 James Beard Award for Best Restaurant in the country. Nearly everything is prepared from scratch. We’re partial to the chicken pakoras, chicken nuggets fried in a curried chickpea batter ($13). Kale pakoras ($11) are also great The matchstick okra fries ($13)are delicious. Butter chicken ($18) is excellent, as is the freshly made naan. Indian beer, plus local craft brews, are available, along with cocktails and wines. No reservations accepted. The Wall Street public garage is nearby, and street parking often is available on Battery Park or around the Grove Arcade.
Irani and partners have opened an Indian spice market in Asheville, Spicewalla, and a couple of Chai Pani restaurants in the Atlanta area, plus it has Buxton Hall and has a chicken sandwich outlet.
BEST BURGERS IN ASHEVILLE
Ranked in order of our preference. Ranking takes into account value and quality of fries or other side. Cost shown is rounded and subject to change.
1. Baby Bull (River Arts District) $14 with fries
2. H&F Public House (Downtown) $17 with fries
3. Rankin Vault (Downtown) $15-$24 with fries
4. Storm & Rhum (Downtown) $13-$18 with fries
5. Copper Crown (East Asheville), $13 to $17 with fries
6. Foothills Meats (Biltmore Village food truck at Hi-Wire Brewery and Black Mountain) $14 with tallow fries
7. Centreville Luncheonette (North Asheville) $10-$11 with fries
8. Farm Burger (Downtown and South Asheville) $11 to $14 with fries
9. Ruth’s Chris Steak House (South Asheville) available in bar only – $12 with fries at happy hour weekdays, higher other times
10. Fig (South Asheville) smashburger with appetizer pommes frites, $24
Five Guys (South and North Asheville) $14-$19 with fries
Avenue M (North Asheville) $15 for double cheeseburger with fries
Sunny Point (West Asheville) $11-$14 with fries
Wicked Weed (Downtown) $10-$14 with fries, bison burger $15 with fries
Juicy Lucy (South) $14-$16 with fries
Universal Joint (West Asheville) $12-$15 with fries
Chop Shop Food Truck (River Arts District) $16-$18 with fries
Roman’s Deli (Downtown) $11-$16, no fries
Sand Hill Kitchen (Enka-Candler) $11 with chips
Chestnut 48 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-575-2667, www.chestnutasheville.com, dinner daily., brunch Fri.-Sun., New Southern, Expensive
Opened in 2012 by the owners of the Corner Kitchen in Biltmore, Chestnut has become one of our "go-to" restaurants Downtown. It is in a 1920s building on Biltmore Avenue – at one time this building was a plumbing supply store, which shows how much Downtown has changed – across from the Aloft Hotel.
The space, designed by Samsel Architects, is pleasant, with a high ceiling made to look like pressed tin, with the usual exposed ducting and refinished wood floors. There are tables with bar stool chairs by the windows, a bar on the right with a lot of wood and some beautiful pottery, rows of booths down the main room, and a fairly large open room at the back, with a brick wall on one side.
The menu changes from time to time, but the popular dishes remain. For dinner, besides regular starters and salads, there’s a selection of medium plates that double as appetizers or a full meal for those with lighter appetites, priced at $12-$25. Large plates range are mostly from $20 to around $40. We like the calamari salad ($16), perfectly fried squid on kale, as a starter appetizer.
For an entrée, you’ll have choices such as a Kobe burger ($28), shrimp ‘n grits ($29) Sunburst trout or the catch of the day, pan-seared. The 4 oz. grilled New York strip with mashed potatoes and green beans, a medium plate, is a deal at $24, and surprisingly filling. Wash it down with one of about 14 local craft beers on tap. Plus, there’s an eclectic wine list with most wines from $30 to $80 a bottle and $6 to $25 a glass. Chestnut has a nice selection of craft cocktails as well.
Cultura 147 Coxe Ave., South Slope, 828-417-6970, www.culturaavl.com, dinner Thu.-Sun.Eclectic, Expensive to Very Expensive
Opened in mid-2019 by Wicked Weed brewery with a “new agrarian” cuisine, it quickly became a James Beard semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant, but it closed for much of the pandemic. After reopening it pivoted to a new cuisine featuring culturally curated ingredients, the meaning of which is somewhat unclear. Cultura’s menus, which change each day, are nothing if not eclectic. Currently, and this could change, Thursday’s menu is Asian, with Koji and Garum dishes including mushrooms, Apple Brandy beef and house-made tofu. Friday and Saturday have tasting menus, at $125 per person, also with an eclectic selection of Asian-inspired dishes. Sunday switches to the “Cease and Desist” menu. One menu pays tribute to the chefs’ favorite chain restaurants, and others present a different concept. There are also occasional community dinners, featuring guest chefs. Cultura is located in Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium building. Funkatorium specializes in sour beers. And, yes, the decor is as interesting as the food.
BEST ASHEVILLE ‘SPLURGE’ RESTAURANTS
These are restaurants that are interesting for their food or their ambiance and can be quite expensive if you go for some menu items, such as oysters on the half shell or Prime steak. They are listed in no particular order.
Bull and Beggar (River Arts District)
Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore (South Asheville)
B&F Public House (Downtown)
Jettie Ray’s Oyster House (North Asheville)
Ruth’s Chris Steak House (South Asheville)
Cúrate Bar de Tapas 13 Biltmore Ave., 828-239-2946, www.katiebuttonrestaurants.com, dinner Tues.-Sun., lunch Fri.-Sun., Spanish Tapas, Expensive
Eat here just once and you’ll find out what the buzz on Cúrate is all about. You’ll have to go back and try more, more, more of the authentic Spanish tapas. In 2022, founder and owner Katie Button won the national James Beard Award for Hospitality. Unless you are unlucky enough to hit a bad night or an out-of-sorts waiter, which did happen to us once, what a delightful experience it is to have dinner here. There are about three dozen small plates on the menu, not including desserts. About 80% of the menu stays the same every day, though seasonal and special dishes are added. Most everything is worth trying, but look especially at the snacks such as warmed house-cured olives or Marcona almonds, gazpacho, Iberian ham tapas ($20 to $26), eggplant with honey, the Galician-style octopus and the Sacher torte postre, among others. A tapas menu curated by owner Katie Button is $60, plus $30 for a wine pairing. There's an interesting list of Spanish wines and sherries, most but not all moderately priced, and a nice selection of craft cocktails.
The main part of the original restaurant is long and narrow, with high ceilings and exposed ducting. Some like sitting at the bar, to watch the chefs cook and be at the heart of the action. Cúrate has doubled its space by expanding into the former Tutti Frutti Yogurt location next door. Even so, reservations, required, may be difficult to get especially for weekend dinners. Around the corner at 32 South Lexington is La Bodega, Button’s Spanish café and takeout food and wine shop.
Farm Burger 10 Patton Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-348-8540, www.farmerburger.net, open daily for lunch and dinner, Burgers, Inexpensive
Atlanta’s popular Farm Burger opened an outpost in Downtown Asheville in spring 2013. Another location off Hendersonville Road in South Asheville is also here. It specializes in grassfed burgers (around $7.50 for the basic build-your-own burger with lettuce, tomato, red onions, mayo, jalapeños and such, plus $1 to $3 for extras like cheese, bacon, fried egg or pork belly.) Handcut fries are an extra $3 with the burger. Vegan and chicken burgers are also available, along with a few other dishes. Farm Burger sources most of its beef from local farms in the Southeast. A few wines, local drafts and other beers are offered. Order at the counter and take out, or eat in of the tables inside the restaurant – the restaurant has a rustic farm decor with many photos of cattle – or on the open-air patio out front.
Food Trucks 51 Coxe Ave., Downtown Asheville, 80 Broadway St., Haywood St., and at other places including the Wedge Brewery, New Belgium Brewery and other breweries, lunch Mon.-Sat. and sometimes other times, Various Cuisines, Very Inexpensive to Inexpensive, a few Moderate
There are at least 75 food trucks in the Asheville area. The food truck lot, next to Wells Fargo Bank on Coxe Avenue, has been successful, with sometimes six or eight trucks trying to squeeze into limited space. Food trucks also often set up at different locations around town, including at the original Wedge Brewery, New Belgium Brewery, on Depot Street in the Riverside Arts District and elsewhere. Among the food trucks are ones selling Korean, Lebanese, Mexican, Venezuelan, Vietnamese, pizza, vegetarian, specialty coffee, burgers and other items. Trucks vary day to day and some move around from one location to another. They have to meet the same cleanliness and quality standards as regular restaurants.
Huli Sue's BBQ & Grill Grove Arcade, #150, 1 Page Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-505-0397, www.hulisuesbbq.com, daily for lunch and dinner, Hawaiian, BBQ, Moderate to Expensive
New in late 2021, Huli Sue's is a curious mix of Hawaiian, barbecue and other dishes. Service is friendly, and it has outdoor as well as indoor seating.
Jerusalem Garden 78 Patton Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-0255, www.jerusalemgardencafe.com, lunch and dinner daily except Mon., Mediterranean, Moderate
Long-established restaurant across from Pritchard Park serves dependable Lebanese/Mediterranean dishes including falafel, eggplant moussaka, hummus, grilled kabobs and lamb chops. At lunch, entrées and wraps are around $11 to 14; at dinner, entrée plates are $20 to $28. Live music and belly dancing Friday and Saturday nights.
Isa's French Bistro Haywood Park Hotel, 1 Battery Park Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-575-9636, www.isasbistro.com, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, French, American, Expensive
Located on the main level of what was once a leading department store, Ivey’s, and is now the Haywood Park Hotel, Isa’s French Bistro has a menu that focuses somewhat on European bistro dishes, such as steak frites ($28 to $49 depending on the cut of beef), escargot, mussels and steak tartar. The design of the main restaurant features an open layout with tables around the windows and walls, facing a bar, with tasteful touches of food-related photos and architectural pieces. There also is sidewalk dining and several private meeting rooms. The renovated Haywood Park Hotel is charming, with a player piano in the lobby greeting guests, and the elevators still charmingly bark out "Fourth Floor, Women's Wear" or whatever. We have used the hotel's complimentary valet for dinner at Isa’s, which is a handy.
Laughing Seed Café 40 Wall St., Downtown Asheville, 828-252-3445, www.laughingseed.com, lunch and dinner, Wed.-Mon. closed Mon.-Tue., Vegetarian and Vegan, Moderate
Laughing Seed is one of longest established and best vegetarian restaurants in town. You'll get more than brown rice and beans here, with tasty salads, sandwiches and curries. Many dishes are vegan or gluten-free. Fruits and vegetables are sourced from local organic farms. Breads are baked daily on premises. It offers a good veg burger, too. In good weather, there's outdoor dining on Wall Street. Small plates and salads are around $8 to $18, sandwiches $16 or $17,and entrées $18-$20. Laughing Seed has a full bar with many interesting cocktails, wines and local beers.
Limones 13 Eagle St., Downtown Asheville, 828-252-2327, www.limonesrestaurant.com, dinner Mon.-Sat., brunch and dinner Sun. Mexican-California, Expensive to Very Expensive
This small, narrow restaurant just half block off Biltmore Avenue is charmingly decorated, with the atmosphere of a San Francisco bistro and a chef-owner, Hugo Ramirez, from Mexico City. Dining here is always a pleasure, and we’d put in the same top category as spots like Cúrate or Chestnut. The dining room has pressed tin ceiling and exposed ducts, with comals, large metal pans used to make tortillas, masks and paintings on the walls. The service level is just right, not too little, not too much. It can be a bit noisy.
Start with one of the appetizers, such as the ceviche sampler ($18), three-cheese chile relleno with black bean sauce and crema ($11) or lobster nachos ($17). There’s a nice selection of cocktails and wines. Don’t miss the blood orange margarita with fresh ingredients and good quality tequila. Entrées change regularly, but you can’t go wrong with the Angus beef, served with green salsa, fingerling potatoes and pico gallo ($44), lamb chops or pork tenderloin. Surprisingly Limones doesn’t offer espresso, but the Mexican organic coffee with tequila and Kahlua pairs well with tres leches cake.
No, it's not inexpensive. A meal for two, with drinks, appetizers, entrées, and dessert might run $150 before tip. But it’s worth it.
Little Chango (134 Coxe Ave., Downtown Asheville, www.littlechango.com, lTue.-Sat. lunch and dinner, Sun. lunch, Central American/South American, Inexpensive
This is a small spot that specializes in Latin-style arepas, cornmeal pancakes filled with meat, cheese and other ingredients. For lunch, Little Chango has lunchboxes with rice and beans, escabeche salad, pickled cabbage and onions and your choice of beef, chorizo or tofu, about $13.
BEST PIZZA IN ASHEVILLE AREA
PIE.ZAA Pizza (South Slope, Downtown Asheville)
Fahrenheit Pizza & Brewhouse (South Asheville)
Pizza Mind (West Asheville)
828 Family Pizza (North Asheville)
West First Wood Fired (Hendersonville)
Fresh Wood Fired Pizza & Pasta (Black Mountain)
Mayfel’s 22 College St., Downtown Asheville, 828-252-8840, www.mayfelsavl.com, open for brunch, lunch and dinner Fri.-Mon, New Orleans Creole, Cajun, Moderate
Mayfel's, was sold to new owners in 2022, but for the time being at least it still specializes in New Orleans dishes such as gumbo, poboys and beignets, although it's not limited to that. Brunch dishes include Eggs Benedict and a Bloody Mary bar. Mayfel's has refreshed its décor and there is lots of outdoor seating.
Mëhfil 5 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-412-5151, www.mehfilasheville.com, open daily for lunch and dinner, Northern Indian, Moderate to Expensive
New in spring 2022, Mëhfil (a Hindi word derived from Arabic, for “a place to get together”) usually for music or poetry, specializes in Tandoori-style, several types of biranyi (a spiced mix of meat, or fish and vegetables or rice) and grilled dishes. With its attractive South Asian décor and high-traffic location near Pack Square, it has quickly gained traction with Downtown diners and has garnered positive social media comments. For the lunch crowd there is an inexpensive buffet, currently $14.
Mela 70 N. Lexington Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-225-8880, www.melaasheville.com, open for lunch and dinner daily, Indian, Moderate
Whether you’re a fairly conservative diner, tending to order tried-and-true Indian dishes like Tandoori chicken or butter chicken, or whether you’re more venturesome, you’ll be well served at the long-established Mela, now under new ownership, which is striving to revitalize this popular classic and improve service. The Tandoori dishes, especially chicken and lamb, are still very good, prepared in an authentic tandoori oven, and for those who like them there are spicy curries and vindaloo dishes. A moderately priced lunch buffet is very popular. The restaurant space is a delight, with high ceiling and brick walls, though it can be a little noisy and some seats are close together. Service is friendly and spot on. Drinks tend to be hit or miss, depending on the bartender, but the Indian beers are always a good choice.
The Market Place 20 Wall St., Downtown Asheville, 828-252-4162, www.marketplace-restaurant.com, open for dinner daily, brunch Sat.-Sun, New American, Expensive
Under founder Mark Rosenstein, The Market Place, which opened on Market Street in 1979, was a pioneer in creative, farm-to-table cuisine in Asheville. It moved to Wall Street a couple of years later. Under new chef -owner William Dissen, it has continued to live up to its reputation. At dinner, small plates are around $8 to $22 and large plates such as mountain trout, pork shoulder or quail are most $28 to $32.
Pack’s Tavern 20 S Spruce St., Downtown Asheville, 828-225-6944, www.packstavern.com, open daily for lunch and dinner, American/Pub Food, Moderate to Expensive
Location, location, location. That’s a big part of what Pack’s Tavern has going for it, as it is next to Pack Square Park, the Asheville City Building and the Buncombe County Courthouse, plus it’s an easy walk from the heart of Downtown, an ideal spot for lawyers and government and office workers to have lunch or a meeting.
The restaurant and bar are in an historic 1907 building that once housed a lumber company and auto parts store. The original burnished wood floors have been retained. Beneath the building is a basement and passageways used in the early part of the 20th century as a storage and distribution system for bootleg liquor. Usually parked at the entrance to Pack’s Tavern is a 1930s vintage yellow pickup truck with a beer keg in the back. In good weather, there’s outdoor dining overlooking Pack Square Park and the remarkable Art Deco Asheville City Building. After office hours, easy free parking is available behind the restaurant in a city government lot.
Selection here is another plus, with pub food such as wings, pizza, fish and chips ($20) and sandwiches, plus a variety of burgers (beef, bison, chicken) and a number of more expensive entrées including salmon, crab cakes and baby back ribs ($25). For those with big burger appetites, there’s the half-pound Mt. Mitchell burger with bacon, cheddar and pepper jack cheese, fried green tomato, fried egg and jalapeño peppers ($18). More than two dozen craft beers are on draft, plus a small selection of wines and a full bar.
PIE.ZAA 46 Millard Ave., South Slope, Downtown Asheville, 828-440-0400, www.piezaapizzaasheville.com, lunch Tue.-Sun., dinner daily, Pizza, Moderate
Trendy spot with large slices of New York-style pizza for around seven bucks. A giant whole pie is, believe it or not, about $50. Stays open late every night.
Posana Cafe 1 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-505-3969, www.posanacafe.com, dinner Tue.-Sun., brunch Sat. and Sun., New American, Moderate to Expensive
Posana has a prime location on Pack Square, serving what Chef Peter Pollay calls Contemporary American cuisine, with mostly locally sourced ingredients. The at-mosphere is light and airy. Your meal might start with hemp salad, with hemp seeds and hemp oil on local greens. Your entrée could be pecan-crusted local farm-raised trout or heritage pork shoulder with grilled carrots, ending with pistachio cake. Many dishes are gluten-free. Appetizers and salads are mostly $12 to $16 and entrées $22 to $35. Full bar with a good selection of craft cocktails and bourbons.
Red Ginger 82 Patton Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-505-8688, www.redgingerasheville.com, daily for lunch and dinner, Chinese dim sum and tapas, Moderate to Expensive
Asheville is loaded with "New Southern" farm-to-table spots, and an increasing number of Indian spots, but it long has been weak on Chinese. Red Ginger is the exception that proves the rule. It certainly isn't a traditional Chinese restaurant, nor does it limit itself to one of the several outstanding Chinese cuisines, but it's great that at last Asheville has a noteworthy Chinese place.
Red Ginger's is a somewhat unusual concept, extending the traditional dim sum breakfast/brunch to an all-day menu with tapas-style small plates, and prices ranging from around $5 to $28. (On the menu, dishes with a "D" are dim sum and those with a "T" are tapas. Generally, the "T" items are somewhat more expensive.) Red Ginger has dispensed with the traditional rolling cart dim sum and replaced it with regular table service and an open kitchen concept.
Among the dinner hits for us have been Shanghai pork dumplings, green mush-room dumplings, steamed BBQ pork buns and the fried pot stickers. Most dishes serve at least two. The L-shaped space is larger than it looks, with a full bar and seating in a back area, and a long, narrow main area with seating along the deep red wall and bar seating at the open kitchen. In good weather, there's a little sidewalk patio seating. Red Ginger shares an entrance foyer with Asheville Art Gallery.
Rhubarb 7 SW Pack Square, Downtown Asheville, 828-785-1503, www.rhubarbasheville.com, lunch and dinner Wed.-Mon., New American, Expensive
Hip, different (and not to everyone’s taste), contemporary, freestyle, farm-to-table, and very well located on Pack Square, Rhubarb has been getting regional and national press. The chef-owner, John Fleer, is a regular on the James Beard nominee lists. He was involved in the opening of Benne on Eagle but is no longer associated with that restaurant. The interior features nicely repurposed wood and tile.
Roman’s Deli 75 Haywood St., Downtown Asheville, 828-505-1552, www.romanstakeout.com, lunch Mon-Fri., Deli, Inexpensive
Downtown lunch restaurant offers deli items including sandwiches, paninis, potato salad, veggie burgers, soups and more. Most ingredients are local. The beef burgers use Hickory Nut Gap meat and are terrific. Sandwich prices are higher than at many delis (a Reuben is $17 and a tuna salad is $14.)
Salsa’s 6 Patton Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-252-980, www.salsasnc.com, lunch and dinner daily except Tue., Caribbean/Mexican,Moderate
Salsa’s, in an expanded space at the head of Patton Avenue at Pack Square, offers Hector Diaz’s takes on traditional enchiladas, empanadas, tacos and fajitas and other Mexican and Caribbean foods, adding lots of vegetables and fruits and combining flavors in creative ways. Even the drinks are different – try the spicy margarita. While prices (most dishes at lunch are priced in the mid-teens, in the low $20s at dinner) are a little higher than you might expect, portions are large and many take home part of their meal for later.
Another Diaz spot nearby, on the corner of Pack Square, is Café Bomba (1 SW Pack Square, Downtown, 828-254-0209, brunch/lunch Thu.-Mon., Brunch, Moderate). Besides an interesting selection of coffees, the 30-seat Bomba has sandwiches and a brunch menu, with nearly all dishes under $20. Diaz also owns Modesto, an Italian spot in the Grove Arcade.
Shanghai Dumpling House 37 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-251-1622, lunch and dinner daily, Chinese, Moderate
Opened in 2019 in the space occupied by the highly popular Doc Chey’s Noodle House for 15 years, Shanghai Dumpling had big shoes to fill. There are several kinds of dumplings on the menu (the soup dumplings are the best), along with some standard Chinese entrées such as General Tso’s Chicken and Mongolian Beef.
Suwana’s Thai Orchid 11 Broadway St., Downtown Asheville, 828-281-8151, www.suwanathaiorchid.com, lunch and dinner daily, Thai, Moderate
Thai Orchid, in the heart of Downtown, is among the better Thai restaurants in Asheville. dinner dishes are around $15 to $20, with some of the dinner specials higher. The owner, Suwana Cry, is from Bangkok. She recently also has opened restaurants offering a combination of Thai and Japanese food, Suwana’s Asian Cuisine, on Tunnel Road in East Asheville and in Waynesville.
Best Bets for Breakfast
Sunny Point, West Asheville – best spot in town for breakfast, and it’s served all day
Taco Billy, West Asheville – hot spot for tortilla-involved breakfasts and lunches
Tastee Diner, West Asheville – oldie and goodie now under new ownership, still good breakfasts and sausage biscuits
Biscuit Head, West Asheville and two locations South – making a name for its biscuits with toppings and gravies
Homegrown, North Asheville – natural, local and Southern
Corner Kitchen, Biltmore Village – more upscale way to go for breakfast/brunch
Tupelo Honey, Downtown – the original location of this growing chain
Table 18 N. Lexington St., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-8980, www.tableasheville.com, dinner daily, New American, Expensive to Very Expensive
Table is an intimate restaurant, serving New American cuisine, with a strict farm-to-table philosophy. The Table menu changes frequently and on any given evening there’s enough choice to please most everyone in your party – for example, from a New York strip to rigatoni to NC flounder. The Bar serves craft cocktails, small batch spirits and a small plate menu that includes oysters on the half shell and burgers and fries.
With appetizers, drinks or wine, entrées and desserts, plus tax and tip, you’re easily going to spend close to $100 per person. When in Asheville the cast of “Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me” NPR show had dinner here, when it was at its former location on College Street, trying the rabbit meatloaf.
Tupelo Honey 12 College St., Downtown Asheville, 828-255-4863, www.tupelohoneycafe.com, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, New Southern Inexpensive to Moderate
We’ve never quite figured out why Tupelo Honey is so darn popular and so highly rated in social media. It certainly serves tasty Southern food, but New Southern food is now everywhere in Asheville and the region. It must be the consistency, the varied menu, the central location across from Prichard Park and the reasonable prices. Most of all, we guess, it’s just hard to get a bad meal here, although not everything will knock your socks off. A second, suburban location is in South Asheville (1829 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-505-7676) and the growing little chain also has locations in about two dozen other cities.
Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse 121 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-470-7480, www.ukiahrestaurant.com, dinner daily, Japanese-American, Expensive
East meets West here on Biltmore Avenue, although in some ways this restaurant is more West than East, in ownership and management if not in menu. In addition to miso soup, salmon shashimi, veggie ramen and pork bao, you can get BBQ baby back ribs and a grilled ribeye, albeit with a Japanese touch. The menu is interesting and creative, and service is good. Ukiah opened in 2021. It has been pretty busy ever since.
White Labs Brewing Co. 172 S. Charlotte St., Downtown Asheville, 828-974-3868, www.whitelabs.com, lunch and dinner Tues.-Sun., Pizza, Brewery, Moderate
This is kind of a quirky place. It has about two dozen beers on draft, but many are White Labs beers, identified not by name but by the kind of yeast strain. White Labs, headquartered in San Diego, is primarily a national provider of brewers yeasts to home and craft brewers. In Asheville it also has a taproom and pizza restaurant. On our visits, the crowd seems mostly young, with the typical Asheville vibe. The noise level is high, as there are no soft surfaces to catch the sound. The waitstaff are friendly and helpful. Pizzas are pretty good.
Wicked Weed Brewing 91 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-575-9599, www.wickedweedbrewing.com, lunch and dinner daily, tasting room downstairs, Brewpub, Moderate
Wicked Weed is on a high-test section of Biltmore Avenue in a former auto repair shop next door to the Orange Peel nightclub. Our first reaction was, “Wow, they've done a great job with the space!” High ceilings, lot of raw brick walls, glassed-in open kitchen on the main floor, along with a bottle shop, There’s a beer bar and the original brewery downstairs. The exterior looks great, too. The main floor restaurant serves mostly pub food with a twist, deals like a fried chicken sandwich with peach habanero sauce, and several burgers including a bison burger, but for dinner the Weed has more real restaurant stuff, such as shrimp and grits, a grilled strip steak and phyllo-wrapped salmon.
In 2017, Wicked Weed was bought by international beverage giant AB InBev, its first craft beer acquisition. This caused some pushback in Asheville. However, the purchase has meant better regional and even national distribution for its beers. The brew-ery also operates the upscale and eclectic Cultura in the Funkatorium and Wicked Weed West, a taproom in Enka where it also has a 50-barrel production brewery.
Zambra 85 W. Walnut St., Downtown Asheville, 828-232-1060, www.zambratapas.com, dinner daily, Spanish and Western Mediterranean Tapas, Expensive
The tapas here are interesting, with some creative taste combinations, with the basis in Spanish tapas but with other influences from around the Mediterranean. However, the number of tapas choices has been reduced.
The selection changes seasonally. Prices are reasonable (most tapas are $6 to $15 each), and servings are surprisingly large for a tapas restaurant. The atmosphere is dark and cave-like but not uninviting. It’s tough to decide what are the best tapas – possibly the braised pork spring rolls, or grilled shrimp or the patatas bravas (crispy potatoes with a tomato sauce).
Easy parking is available at the nearby Rankin public garage. Don’t park in the private lot behind the restaurant, because you may be towed.
Sweet Tooth: Chocolates in Asheville
Downtown Asheville has several chocolate shops and bistros. (A chocolate bistro, now that’s a great concept!) Most aren’t touristy candy shoppes such as you find in Gatlinburg but serious chocolatiers that make sophisticated chocolates and other confections from imported cacao and other high-quality ingredients.
Asheville Chocolate (25 Broadway St., Downtown Asheville, 828-505-6609, www.avlchocolate.com) has Belgian chocolate truffles, gelato, hot chocolate and other desserts.
Chocolate Fetish (36 Haywood St., Downtown Asheville, 828-258-2353, www.chocolatefetish.com), the original European-style chocolate store in Asheville, is famous for its truffles (an 8-piece box is $20), with more than 30 dozen different varieties. In season there are chocolate-dipped local fruits like blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. Also you can buy novelties such as a chocolate high-heeled shoe ($33). Though perhaps not as popular as the French Broad Chocolate Lounge (below), Chocolate Fetish arguably has as good or even better chocolates. It has won many national and local awards for its chocolate creations.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge (10 South Pack Square, Downtown Asheville, 828-252–4181, www.frenchbroadchocolates.com) is hands down the most popular chocolate drop in Asheville, where lines just to get in the door can be long. You can sit, sip a glass of pinot noir or a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the handmade bonbons (12 for $39) and liquid sipping truffles. It’s open daily from late morning to late night. Or skip the line and buy chocolates to go at its Chocolate Boutique next door. French Broad Chocolate Factory (821 Riverside Drive, 828-348-5169), where the company makes its popular sweets, is open for tours, and you can also buy chocolates at the factory (no discount). Tour costs are $12 per person, and tastings $20 to $35. Best to book ahead online.
Kilwins Chocolate Fudge and Ice Cream (26 Battery Park Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-782-3912, www.kilwins.com) is a franchisedd candy store that sells fudge, chocolates, ice cream and other sweets. There also are Kilwins shops in Black Mountain and Hendersonville.
Lindt Chocolate Shop (Asheville Outlets, Ste. 628, 800 Brevard Rd., West Asheville, 828-670-9889, www.lindtusa.com) is a factory outlet store for the Swiss chocolate maker at Asheville Outlets.
All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.
We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.