Best Restaurants Outside Downtown Asheville
• Biltmore Village • West Asheville • East Asheville
• River Arts District • North Asheville • South Asheville
Restaurants noted in Red are especially recommended.
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.
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: Throughout this book, lodging places, restaurants, attractions and other listings of special note are indicated by this symbol: ✷
Charming Biltmore Village has mostly a more market group of dining places. At times, parking may be tough to find in Biltmore Village.
Andaaz 28 Hendersonville Rd., Biltmore Village, 828-552-3200, www.andaazasheville.com, lunch Mon.-Fri. daily for dinner, Indian, Expensive (dinner)
In the site long occupied by Rezaz at the edge of Biltmore Village, Andaaz opened in 2021. It offers a wide selection of Tandoori, biryani, vegetarian, meat and seafood dishes a la carte at dinner, and a moderately priced buffet at lunch (about $16). At dinner, most of the entrees are in the $20s. Andaaz has more of an upscale ambiance than most of the Indian restaurants in the area and has quickly become one of the top places in its genre.
Corner Kitchen 3 Boston Way, Biltmore Village, 828- 274-2439, www.thecornerkitchen.com, brunch and dinner daily, New Southern, Expensive to Very Expensive (dinner)
The Corner Kitchen is one of Asheville's most popular restaurants. Even President Barack Obama dined here. The restaurant is in a Victorian cottage in Biltmore Village, with plaster walls painted in serene colors and a fireplace in one dining room.
The menu changes regularly, and many dishes are locally sourced. You’ll recognize most dishes, though the Corner Kitchen adds little touches to make the steaks, fish, pork and chicken dishes special. At dinner, starters, salads and small plates are mostly around $8 to $24, and entrées are around $28 to $50. The restaurant is known for its brunches (try the homemade corned-beef hash with poached eggs and toast), and the weekend brunch is always busy.
Fig Bistro 18 Brook St., Biltmore Village, 828-277-0889, www.figbistro.com, lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Thu.-Sat., Bistro French, Expensive (dinner)
In a nondescript modern condo and retail building across the street from the main part of Biltmore Village, Fig is small, only around 36 seats inside, with extra seating in an interior courtyard (if the weather cooperates). The decor is modern minimalist, with a few French posters for atmosphere and a bar at one end, but you don’t come here for the decor, or for the view. What you come here for is the food – like a French bistro, it’s low key, unpretentious and usually just plain delicious. Most of the time. Beside steak frites, consider the salmon, duck, the macaroni and cheese and the mussels appetizer (the broths vary from day to day). Very good burger, too.
The Inn on Biltmore Estate Dining Room 1 Antler Hill Rd., Biltmore Estate, Asheville, 828-225-1699, www.biltmore.com, dinner daily Regional American, Very Expensive
This is arguably Asheville’s most elegant dining room, though coats and ties for men are not required, just collared shirts and slacks, and suggested attire for women is dresses, skirts or dress pants. It serves what the chef calls regional American dishes such as duck breast, king salmon, roasted sea scallops and Angus filet. Most beef, lamb and many vegetables served at the restaurant are raised on the estate. With drinks or wine, appetizers, entrees, perhaps a dessert or two, a couple can easily spend $200 to $300 or more. But this is a beautiful room, especially with a fire going in the fireplace. To dine at the inn’s restaurant, you must be an inn guest, have a day admission ticket or be a twelve-month season pass holder.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House 26 All Souls Crescent, Biltmore Village, 828-398-6200, www.ruthschrisphg.com, open daily for dinner, Steakhouse, Very Expensive
We’ve dined at 50 or 60 different Ruth's Chris restaurants over the years (there are more than 140 around the world), and it’s great to have a location in Asheville. Ruth’s Chris is our favorite of the national premium steak house companies such as Morton’s, Del Frisco’s, Fleming’s and The Palm. You just can’t go wrong with the “aged U.S. Prime beef, the top 2% of beef sold in America, cut by hand, broiled at 1800 degrees and served sizzling so it stays hot and juicy to the last delicious bite.”
For the sake of full disclosure: The author of this book was a long-time consultant to the founder of the chain, Ruth Fertel, and to Lana Duke, the marketing guru for the steak house. Among other things this author wrote many of the ads for the restaurant group, including the above copy, and came up with the “Home of Serious Steaks” slogan that was used for many years.
The Asheville restaurant, with which we have no business relationship, is a fran-chise by the same folks that operate Ruth’s Chris restaurants in Charlotte and Savannah.
The restaurant design and exterior fit well in Biltmore Village near the Biltmore Estate entrance. However, parking is very limited so most guests will use the complimentary (except tip) valet parking. Inside, the ambiance is upscale and sophisticated, and the main entrance hallway is lined with glass-fronted wine displays. There’s a center fireplace and a little outside seating streetside beside the bar.
Although the filet is the best seller at Ruth’s Chris, our favorite has always been the New York Strip. As steakhouse traditionalists we usually go with the lettuce wedge with bacon and the amazing, thick housemade blue cheese dressing, creamed spinach (Ruth Fertel's favorite side) and the one-pound baked potato with the works.
Unless you come at happy hour Monday to Friday and eat in the bar with appetizers, a drink and a bottle of wine, U.S. Prime steaks and sides, and maybe a few extras and tip, a couple is likely to spend $250, or more. You can spend less, especially if you order from the fixed-price seasonal menus, but when we go to Ruth’s Chris we usually don’t scrimp. When you want the best steak in town, period, you have to pay for it.
In addition to the restaurants listed here, fast-growing South Asheville is also home to locations of a number of places that originally started in other parts of Asheville, including Vinnie’s, Luella’s Barbecue, Farm Burger, Tupelo Honey, Nine Mile, Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack and 12 Bones Smokehouse.
Acropolis Pizza Airport Center Office Plaza, 140 Airport Rd., Arden, 828-684-5737, www.acropolispizza.com, lunch and dinner daily for takeout, Pizza/Greek/Italian, Inexpensive to Moderate
Once one of the most popular family restaurants in South Asheville, due in part to staffing issues as of this writing in 2023 Acropolis has not yet reopened for in-restaurant dining, It now mainly does take out, and a lot of it, although you can eat in at its bar next door, 32 Degrees Icebar. Pizzas ($14-$21) are popular, but we think the way to go is the gyro platter. Acropolis does the best lamb gyro in town, with real shaved lamb from a rotisserie, warmed pita, house-made tzatzili sauce and a Greek salad ($12.49). There’s a selection of other Greek and Italian dishes including lasagna and spaghetti. Acropolis also has a location at Asheville Outlets discount mall in West Asheville.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Restaurant and Taproom 100 Sierra Nevada Way, Mills River, 828-708-6242, www.sierranevada.com, lunch and dinner daily, Brewpub, Inexpensive to Moderate
This national craft brewer opened a brewery with a 400-seat restaurant and tap-room near the Asheville Regional Airport in 2015. The access road and the main brewery buildings are beautiful. Sierra Nevada has done a wonderful job with its main East Coast facility. The decor features giant copper vats and rich woods, some harvested from the brewery’s 190-acre site.
The Tap Room has mostly bar food – pizza, wings, fries, a grassfed burger with jack cheese, local mushrooms and the like. Expect to pay around $30 a person for a full meal and a draft beer. The Back Porch, outside at the back, has hot dogs and snacks in the afternoon. There are more than 20 beers on tap, some produced at the brewery here and others from Sierra Nevada’s original Chico, Calif., brewery. A few wines also are available, but no cocktails. No reservations. If you want to take a brewery tour as well, most tours are $9 to $25 per person and should be booked online in advance.
Stone Bowl 1987 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-676-2172, www.stonebowlkorean.com, lunch and dinner daily, Korean, Inexpensive to Moderate
We enjoy the Stone Bowl, though nothing we’ve had has really left us thinking, "Can't wait to go back tomorrow." The best dish we’ve tried is the deep fried squid, basically a tempura-style appetizer.
The lunch boxes are a good value, offering a main dish such as marinated and grilled beef or chicken or fish, with a couple of side dishes, kim chi, dumplings, white or brown rice and soup, all for around $12. Stone Bowl offers a good variety of authentic Korean food, including yuk gae jang, jjam bong and kan pung ji. Most stir fry and stone bowl main dishes are $15 to $19. Though the Stone Bowl is in a little strip center on Hendersonville Road, the atmosphere and decor are pleasant, low-key and tasteful. There is limited outside seating on a side patio.
Wild Ginger Pho Noodle Bar 1950 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-676-2311, www.wildgingernoodle.com, lunch and dinner daily except Tuesday, Vietnamese, Inexpensive to Moderate
Wild Ginger, as we used to say in Vietnam, is "Number 1." We have had many pleasant dinners at Wild Ginger. The service is friendly and prompt, the food flavorful and moderately priced and the atmosphere casual and comfortable. On one visit, we shared the Vietnamese eggs rolls, crisp and tasty, and the Sui Mail dumplings as appetizers. We then shared the combination (pork belly and Vietnamese ham) Banh Mi sandwich with sweet potato fries and the beef satay with rice as entrees.
Sadly, Wild Ginger no longer offers Vietnamese beer such as "33" as one of its beers. The owner, born in the Philippines, is super nice.
It's no wonder this restaurant is popular. Our dinners for two, with two appetizers, two entrees and a beer or two usually are around $50 before tip. Very reasonable and worth the money.
East Asheville mostly has chain restaurants along the busy part of Tunnel Road, but a couple of popular family spots are located farther out.
Copper Crown 1101Tunnel Rd,., Ste. 100, East Asheville, 828-505-7531, www.coppercrownavl.com, dinner daily, American, Moderate to Expensive
Away from the traffic of the main part of Tunnel Road, Copper Crown offers a more upmarket version of an old-school blue plate special spot, with a variety of familiar dishes, moderate prices and a comfortable atmosphere.
Copper Crown is unlikely to win “Best Restaurant in Town” honors, but it’s dependably very good. It has a more or less fixed menu of small and large plates, with the small plates generally under $16 and the large ones in the $20s. The Low-Fi burger, a double smashburger with cheese and fries, is a Top 10 burger.
East Village Grille 1177 Tunnel Rd., East Asheville, 828-299-3743, www.eastvillagegrille.com, daily , American, Inexpensive to Moderate
This Greek-owned, unpretentious spot is well run and very popular with folks living in East Asheville. It has good burgers, great Tiger Wings and a variety of other Southern and American dishes including meatloaf, spaghetti, chicken livers and ribs.
La Rhumba Restaurant Latino 105 River Hills Rd., Ste. C, East Asheville, 828-505-2128, www.larhumbaavl.com, daily for lunch and dinner, Mexican, Moderate
Different from the usual Northern Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants here, La Rhumba features dishes from the Yucatán and Oaxaca and other parts of Southern Mexico, all with a fresh flair. Consider the street tacos ($17), whole red grilled snapper ($22) or pollo jarocho, roasted chicken marinated in orange and lime juice and garlic ($17). Margaritas start at $7, and a 16 oz. Negra Modelo draft is only $5. La Rhumba is in a slightly out of the way shopping center at the foot of Tunnel Road, in a former Bone-fish Grill location.
West Asheville, with its large population of younger families and hipsters, is a cen-ter of casual contemporary dining in the area.
The Admiral 400 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-252-2541, www.theadmiralasheville.com,, dinner daily except Tue.,, Eclectic, Expensive
In a one-story cinderblock building in a working class part of West Asheville, The Admiral is one of Asheville’s top restaurants cleverly disguised as a dive bar for bikers. Small and dark inside, with only a few tables plus bar seating, The Admiral is frequently fully booked days in advance, though walk-ins are welcomed and may be seated at the small outside patio. The menu changes often. Starters and small plates such as mussels and pork belly are mostly around $15, and large plates like scallops, pork chops and crab are $30 to $40, with steaks higher. Wines are mostly in the $45 to $100 a bottle range. Several Admiral veterans have opened new restaurants around the city.
Biscuit Head 733 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-333-5145, www.biscuitheads.com
Southern, breakfast and lunch daily, Breakfast, Inexpensive
This breakfast spot serves cat's head biscuits (the size of a cat's head) and other tasty Southern fare at breakfast and lunch. Everything is priced individually, and you’ll probably pay around $10-$14 for a full breakfast with coffee, or $7 to $12 for a break-fast sandwich.
There’s a selection of seven kinds of gravies from more traditional pork sausage gravy to espresso red eye to sweet potato coconut. A second location of Biscuit Head is near Mission Hospital (417 Biltmore Ave., South Asheville), and a third location farther south on Hendersonville Road (1994 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville) opened in 2019. All three locations are popular, and at times you may face a wait in line to order. Biscuit Head also has an outpost in Greenville, S.C.
Bonfire Barbecue 1056 Patton Ave., West Asheville, 828-255-0020, www.bonfireavl.com. BBQ, Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, Inexpensive to Moderate
Decent barbecue and a good choice if you’re in West Asheville. Try the sampler plate (under $25), with brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken wings and four sides, which serves at least two. The best sides are okra fries and brussels sprouts.
Griff’s Kitchen & Bar 1390 Sandhill Rd., Enka-Candler, www.griffskitchenandbar.com, dinner Wed.-Sun., New American, Moderate to Expensive
Folks in the upscale Biltmore Lake development nearby love this place. We’ve en-joyed it, too, although the noise level and uninspired décor detract a bit. The chicken bites (sort of McNuggets, but better, $10) and the house burger ($14) make a good comfort food dinner. Griff’s also offers mains such as a pan-seared tenderloin steak, shrimp and grits, plus good cocktails (mostly $12 to $15). Service is friendly. We wish it well.
Harbor Inn Seafood 800 Brevard Rd., West Asheville, 828-665-9940, www.harborinnseafood.com, Seafood, lunch Fri.-Sun, dinner Tue.-Sun., Seafood, Inexpen-sive to Moderate
The focus at Harbor Inn is on fried seafood, although most items can be ordered broiled. Don’t expect gourmet, but this outpost of a small Carolinas chain has its act together, and the fried shrimp, fish, clams and other basics are done right. Prices have increased significantly but are still relatively modest – for dinner the fried catfish platter with cole slaw, fried or baked potato and hush puppies, the jumbo shrimp and most other platters are $15 to $20. As befitting a fish house, the décor is fairly basic. No reservations and no alcohol served.
Haywood Common 507 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-2543, www.haywoodcommon.com, lunch and dinner Tues.-Sat., Southern Contemporary/Farm-to-Table, Moderate
Early on a Saturday evening we were able to snag a parking spot in the smallish lot on the side that is shared by Haywood Common and The Whale, a beer and wine bar that specializes in obscure upper end beers. Haywood Common and The Whale also share an outdoor patio (it was too cool to sit out there this time) and an entrance at the parking lot side. While the two places aren’t jointly owned, you can place a food order with Haywood Common and eat it in The Whale. The chef is provides a local farm-to-table menu with some interesting combinations of flavors and ingredients while keeping prices moderate, with the most expensive main around $22. Service is friendly.
Jargon 715 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-785-1761, www.jargonrestaurant.com, daily for dinner, New American, Expensive to Very Expensive
Jargon has done a great job converting an old West Asheville spot into a comforta-ble, tasteful, comfortable space. We love the 1950s-style shadow box art, the wall of mirrors and the oversized lava lamps over the bar. The menu changes frequently, but you’ll probably enjoy almost anything you try. Starters and small plates are mostly $8 to $20, with large plates around $25 to $55. With cocktails – the signature Icebreaker is our fave – or wine, appetizer and entrée and dessert, plus tip, a couple can easily drop $150 or more here, more than you might expect, but you may find it worth the money.
Leo’s House of Thirst 1055 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-505-8017, lunch, Fri.-Sat,, dinner Mon.-Sat., Eclectic, Moderate
By the name, you’d think this was a bar, and it is a wine bar, but it also serves food. Opened by Drew Wallace, who established The Admiral and Bull and Beggar, Leo’s has a price fixe lunch on weekends for $25 and snacks such as cheese and spreads , salads and small plates on other days. It has a small but smart selection of wines and beers. Tune in later for updates.
Neng’s Jr. 701 Haywood Rd. Ste. 102, entrance in alley, West Asheville, 828-552-3880, www.nengjrs.com, dinner Wed.-Sat, Filipino, Expensive
New in mid-2022, this little restaurant in West Asheville, down an alley and up a steep flight of stairs, is considered one of the hippest places to open in recent years. Chef-owner Silver Liocovozzi, who is trans, serves interesting and creative Filipinx dishes such as adobo oysters and pork lumpias.
Staff at Neng’s Jr. is primarily queer and BIPOC. The restaurant has only 17 seats, but it has plans to open a private meeting room. Small but well curated wine list and creative cocktails. Reservations can be tough to get.
Old World Levain OWL Bakery 295 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-318-5105, www.owlbakery.com, Wed.-Sun. 8-noon, Bakery, Inexpensive to Moderate
OWL bakes delicious albeit somewhat pricey croissants, hot cross buns and other pastries as well as many types of bread. It serves craft coffees and teas. OWL also has a location in North Asheville (197 Charlotte St., North Asheville, Tue.-Sun. 8-2)
Oyster House Brewing Company 625 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-9370, daily for lunch Sat.-Sun., dinner daily except Sun., Brewery/Seafood, Moderate
This neighborhood spot has oysters on the half shells (good value at happy hour), some New Orleans dishes such as shrimp and oyster poboys ($16) and interesting beers, brewed in-house. Try one of the stouts brewed with oyster shells.
Papas and Beer 1000 Brevard Rd., West Asheville 828-665-9070, Mexican, daily for lunch and dinner, Inexpensive
These guys know how to run a Mexican restaurant. The food isn’t going to win any gourmet magazine awards, but service is friendly, food is tasty and you get your order pronto. The restaurant, despite having expanded into space next door in the little strip center, is often full, and you’ll likely have a short wait unless you come a little be-fore or after peak times. We’ve eaten here frequently and keep going back because most of the flavors work, especially on dishes like the carne asada platter, the combination dishes such as cheese enchilada and tamale platter (all served on heated plates), the steak or chicken fajitas (served on a sizzling cast iron plate), the Cadillac margarita with a shot of Grand Marnier on the side and the Mexican beer on draft. Chips and a salsa bar with some interesting salsas, some very hot, come free with your meal, which will only set you back around $10 to $15 plus drinks and tip. Papas and Beer (sometimes spelled Papa's and Beer) has other locations in Asheville and Hendersonville, but we think the Brevard Road location is the best.
Pizza Mind 285 Haywood Rd., Ste. 10, West Asheville, 828-575-9181, www.pizzamindavl.com, daily for lunch and dinner, Pizza, Moderate
This is one of the city’s best pizza joints, with some creative takes on the ubiqu-tous pies, like Carolina BBQ, Jambalaya and Buffalo Chicken. Pizzas are mostly $16 to $30. There’s seating inside and on a patio, 18 draft beer taps, cocktails and a good wine list. Recently renovated. What else do you need?
Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack 1445 Patton Ave., West Asheville, 828-575-2260, www.rockyshotchickenshack.com, daily for lunch and dinner, Fried Chicken, Inexpensive to Moderate
Rocky’s gets local hype for its Nashville-style spicy fried chicken. The actual fried chicken we rate as very good, but not everyone cares for the hot dry rub used on the chicken. The heat level varies from plain to XX Hot. For us the rubs are too thick and dark and overwhelm the flavor of the chicken, but people obviously like it, flocking here in droves. The fried okra and corn pudding sides are very good. We think the fried pickle appetizer is too heavily breaded. A fried chicken breast with a choice of two sides will set you back about $15. Rocky's has a second location on Sweeten Creek Road, Arden, in South Asheville.
Sunny Point Cafe 626 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-252-0055, www.sunnypointcafe.com, Tue.-Sat. breakfast, lunch and dinner, Sun.-Mon. breakfast and lunch, New Southern/Breakfast, Sun.-Mon. breakfast and lunch, Inexpensive to Moderate
Sunny Point has been known for famous for its breakfasts since 2003. Breakfast (mostly in the $mid-teens) is served all day, but you won’t be disappointed in lunch or dinner either. The shrimp and grits here are the best in town, and there are sandwich-es and burgers, most priced in the low teens. The restaurant has inside seating, plus a covered heated patio and outdoor seating, all with a nice West Asheville vibe. Service is friendly and engaging. The restaurant has its own small garden, and there’s a full bar.
Tastee Diner 575 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-2073, www.tasteedineravl.com, breakfast, lunch and dinner (8 am to 6 pm) daily, Diner, Inexpensive to Moderate
Tastee Diner has been a West Asheville institution for about 75 years. It was famous for its country ham biscuits for breakfast. In January 2023, well-known local chef Steven Goff, formerly the chef at Jargon and owner of now-closed AUX Bar Downtown, became the new owner. Already he has repainted the building, hung art on the walls, changed some of the menu and raised some prices. Customers appear divided about the “old” Tastee Diner and the upgraded version. Some like the old greasy spoon, others the new vibe. Two eggs, a sausage patty, hash browns, a big biscuit with gravy now will cost you $17, not including tax, tip or coffee. Breakfast is available all day.
Thai Pearl 747 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-412-5905, www.thaipearlasheville.com, dinner daily, Thai, Moderate
This newish place in West Asheville, opened in 2020, has a pleasant atmosphere and some good Thai standbys, such as larb salad, an old-school pad Thai and drunken noodles and several stir fry dishes. It stocks a couple of Thai beers.
The Madness Asheville 275 Smoky Park Hwy., Ste. 251, www.themadnessavl.com, lunch and dinner daily, Burgers & Sushi, Moderate
Madness connects burgers and sushi, doing both fairly well, though prices are not low. The bento boxes ($17 to $21) have it all in one place – selection of sushi rolls, a slider, plus edamame, fries and a little salad. Madness also has a location in North Asheville (1020 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, lunch and dinner daily).
Universal Joint 784 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-505-7262, www.ujasheville.com, daily for lunch and dinner, Burgers/Pub Food, Inexpensive to Moderate
Universal Joint, in what used to be a Pure gas station at the corner of Haywood Road and Sand Hill Road in West Asheville, is popular for its burgers. By last count the burgers are presented about 10 different ways. For example, the Steinbeck burger has pimiento cheese, bacon and pickled jalapenos. Bison burgers also are available for an upcharge. The Joint also serves some Mexican items and other pub food. After banking hours and on weekends, handy parking is available in the Wells Fargo Bank lot across the street; at other times, you may have to scout for a nearby street space.
WALK 401 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-505-7929, www.walkavl.com, daily for lunch and dinner (brunch on Sun.), Pub Food, Inexpensive to Moderate
We love the way the owners of the West Asheville Lounge and Kitchen or WALK have done the renovation of the old Rocket Club location across from The Admiral, with brick walls, high ceilings and garage-type doors on two sides that open to let in the mountain air. The service is friendly and prompt.
The food? It’s a step up from the usual bar snacks and in today’s market reasonably priced, and there’s a wide selection of pub food, from tacos to sandwiches to wings and more. The 6 oz. burger ($11.50) may not be the best cheeseburger in Asheville, but it and the fries ($3) are very good. Most items are $14 or less. With the jukebox blaring, pool tables going, the place full and a ballgame on the big screen, it can be loud, not a place for a quiet tête-à-tête. With a beer or two, a couple can eat here for under $50.
RIVER ARTS DISTRICT
It has taken a while, but the River Arts District has been growing its roster of dining places, in all price ranges.
The Bull and Beggar 37 Paynes Way, River Arts District, 828-575-9443, www.the-bull-and-beggar.com, open Mon.-Sat. for dinner, Eclectic, Seafood, Expensive to Very Expensive
The instant you see the Bull and Beggar you know you're going to a hip, eccentric, creative restaurant. First, there's barely a sign for the restaurant. It's in the River Arts District at the end of an unpaved drive in an old industrial building that houses the ever-popular orig-inal Wedge Brewery, a hair salon and a wine bar. To get to the restaurant you have to wind your way around the Wedge Brewery and its food trucks. Inside, the high-ceiling space retains a lot of its industrial/warehouse feel, with mostly unadorned brick walls, concrete floors and the obligatory HVAC ducting on the ceiling. To the right is a large bar, and a mirror on the far wall gives the illusion that the space is larger than it is. There is seating at the bar, at tables on the first level and also on a loft level. But the menu is where it gets creative. And eccentric. Steak? French? Seafood? What? Some dishes and drinks are a bargain (half-price oysters on Mondays) while oth-ers are high. There are small plates, snacks, a selection of cheeses, a good bit of seafood and excellent steaks. Steak Frites is $48. A 34-oz. aged ribeye for two with salad and marrow is $115.
Baby Bull 1 Roberts St., River Arts District, www.babybullavl.com,Wed.-Mon. lunch and dinner, Burgers, Inexpensive to Moderate
Baby Bull is a spinoff of Bull and Beggar, which long had “Burger Monday,” with a two-patty smashburger and fries for a bargain price. Now it’s Burger Monday every day that Little Bull is open. It’s the exact same burger and fries that Bull and Beggar made famous, arguably the best cheeseburger in Asheville. The only difference is that you order at the counter and sit on picnic tables in Baby Bull’s front yard (there’s also a 30-seat indoor seating area). The double cheeseburger is $10.95. Fries are an extra $3.95. Baby Bull usually also has a fish sandwich, a lobster roll ($23), a roast pork sandwich and a vegetarian option. The casual spot also has bottled beers and a small selection of wines.
Fresh Wood Fired Pizza West 342 Depot St., River Arts District, 828-552-3917, www.freshwoodfiredpizza.com, lunch and dinner daily except Tue., Pizza, Moderate
Hey, let’s come up with a name that includes everything everybody wants in a piz-za. Wood-fired. Fresh. Pizza. And where it is: West. That’s Fresh Wood Fired Pizza West. Actually, despite the name nobody can remember, it has pretty good Neapolitan-style pies. Not too expensive. In a homey spot in the RAD, with indoor and porch seating. Also in Black Mountain.
12 Bones Smokehouse 5 Foundy St. River Arts District, 828-253-4499, www.12bones.com, lunch only 11:30-4-:30 Mon.-Fri., Ribs & BBQ, Inexpensive to Mod-erate
Only open five hours a day Monday to Friday, 12 Bones in the River Arts District draws a crowd, and the wait to place and get your order can be long. Even President Barack Obama had to wait during his three visits here ... well, at least for a little while. The crowd ranges from hippie potters from nearby art studios to downtown business people to construction workers. Service is friendly if sometimes harried. The Foundy Street location is off Lyman Street next to the second location of the Wedge Brewery.
As with any authentic barbecue house, 12 Bones has little atmosphere. What it does have is delicious baby back ribs, flavored with a variety of fresh-made sauces such as blueberry chipotle or brown sugar. You can take out or eat on picnic tables at the restaurant.
A half rack of six bones is about $22 with two sides, and a full 12-bone rack is $35 with two sides. We think these are the best ribs in Asheville. Sides include collard greens, corn pudding, mac and cheese, green beans and mashed sweet potatoes. Also served are pork, chicken, turkey and beef brisket BBQ sandwiches (a pulled pork sandwich with one side is $12) and plates.
A second location is in South Asheville (2350 Hendersonville Rd., 828-687-1395, lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat.), and it also is home to 12 Bones Brewing.
Vivian 348 Depot St., Ste. 190, River Arts District, 828-225-3497, www.vivianavl.com, dinner Wed..-Sat., brunch Sun., American/European, Expensive
This small and rather upscale restaurant is in the former Junction location in the RAD. It has some old-school appetizers, such as quenelle (a Lyonnaise-style scallop dumpling), beef tartar and smoked oysters. Entrées change but may include a 14 oz. ribeye steak with a strongly flavored house specialty red wine sauce ($48), and pan-seared scallops. Mains are priced from the high $20s to $40s, and appetizers are mostly in the mid-teens. Vivian has a nicely selected, if somewhat expensive, wine list and reasonably priced craft cocktails. Walk-ins are welcome at the bar, and there’s free parking in a lot across Depot Street. Executive chef/owner Josiah McGaughey has been nominated for James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast.
White Duck Taco 388 Riverside Dr., River Arts District, 828-254-1398, www.whiteducktacoshop.com, lunch and dinner daily, Tacos, Very Inexpensive to Inexpen-sive
The RAD’s favorite taco place moved to a waterfront location on the east bank of the French Broad River, with more space and more parking. Good idea, because White Duck’s flagship location is often jammed at peak hours with folks looking for interesting tacos at modest prices. White Duck also has locations in Downtown Asheville, Skyland in South Asheville, along with branches in Nashville and Johnson City, Tenn., and Greenville, S.C.
North Asheville, with its expensive housing, traditionally has had mostly family restaurants, especially ones appealing to older demographics. However, that is changing, and newer, more contemporary restaurants are opening here.
Asheville Pizza and Brewing 675 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-254-1281, www.ashevillebrewing.com, lunch and dinner daily, Pizza & Pub Foods, Inexpensive to Moderate
A combination restaurant, brewpub and movie house, Asheville Pizza and Brewing is a popular family spot in a former movie theater on Merrimon Avenue. Order a pizza ($15-$25) or taco plate ($13), along with a fresh-brewed beer, and you can enjoy your meal in the restaurant area or grab a sofa or comfy chair in the theater and dine while you watch a movie. Movie tickets are $3 and often sell out. The company also operates a pizza restaurant in South Asheville at 1850 Hendersonville Road (carry out and delivery only) and its main brewery and brewpub on Coxe Avenue Downtown (see Beer City section). This is arguably the most kid-friendly of Asheville brewpubs.
Avenue M 791 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-350-8181, www.avenuemavl.com; dinner daily except Mon., New American, Moderate
Under new ownership, Avenue M is a neighborhood restaurant with a sizable fol-lowing in North Asheville. Appetizers are mostly $10 to $16, and entrées are $15 to $40, ranging from several pastas to salmon salad to Chicken Cordon Bleu. The double cheeseburger with fries ($15) is one of Asheville’s better versions. Service is friendly, the atmosphere pleasant, if a little noisy, and the food is consistent, although some dishes are priced higher than you might expect. The bar has a good selection of local and other craft beers, plus wine and cocktails.
ELDR 111 Grovewood Village, North Asheville, 828-407-1400, www.eldravl.com, lunch Wed.-Fri , dinner Wed.-Sun., brunch Sat.-Sun., New American, Expensive to Very Expensive
New in 2022, ELDR serves sophisticated New American cuisine in a rather minimalist Danish Modern setting, although the small cottage on the grounds of the Grovewood Village at the Omni Grove Park Inn is charming. Entrées such as duck breast and quail are $26 to $48, with appetizers around $6 to $20. Interesting cock-tails. We’ve heard a few people comment that the music and noise level at dinner can be fairly high.
Geraldine’s Bakery 840 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-252-9300, www.geraldinesbakeryavl.com, Wed.-Sun. 7 am-1 pm., Bakery, Very Inexpensive to Moderate
Geraldine’s serves good pastries, pies, cakes, donuts and bagels, baked fresh. It opens early every day, at 7 am, and closes early afternoon, usually at 1 pm.
Homegrown 371 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-232-4340, www.slowfoodrightquick.com, breakfast, lunch and dinner Thu.-Mon., Southern, Inex-pensive
Homegrown is serious about locally grown, farm-to-table food. It sources virtually all its ingredients from around 10 area farms. While the atmosphere isn’t exactly white tablecloth, service is friendly and you can eat here for a song (well, for around $12 for lunch with tax and tip). You order at the counter and your food is brought to your table. The menu, most-ly soups, sandwiches and basic Southern cooking, changes fairly frequently, depending on what’s locally available. For breakfast, a full order of eggs, bacons or sausage, grits and biscuit is about $14, For lunch or dinner, meatloaf with gravy and one side is $11 and buttermilk fried chicken with a side is $12. The restaurant’s power is partly solar, and Homegrown provides compostable takeout boxes and recycles wherever possible. Nothing served is landfill waste. Beer and wine only, no cocktails.
ASHEVILLE’S DEPENDABLY EXCELLENT RESTAURANTS
(In alphabetical order)
The Admiral, West Asheville
Bull and Beggar, River Arts District
Chai Pani, Downtown
Copper Crown, East Asheville
Corner Kitchen, Biltmore Village
Fig, Biltmore Village
H&F Public House, Downtown
The Inn on Biltmore Estate Dining Room, South Asheville
Jargon, West Asheville
Jettie Rae’s Oyster House, North Asheville
Plant, North Asheville
Red Ginger, Downtown
Rye Knot, North Asheville
Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Biltmore Village
Vinnie’s, North Asheville and South Asheville
Jettie Rae’s Oyster House 143 Charlotte St., North Asheville, 828-505-4499, www.jettieraes.com, dinner Tue.-Sun., Seafood, Expensive
This may be our new favorite restaurant in Asheville. Jettie Rae’s serves seafood from up and down the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. The fried clam strips, offered as an appetizer ($11) are hands down the best we’ve ever had south of Boston. The oysters on the half shell, from North Carolina coast, Massachusetts and elsewhere, are wonderful if very expensive, served with a mignonette sauce. The Oysters Rockefeller ($20) are good if not Galatoire’s good. We love the shrimp poboy, dressed, with fries ($16) on a real poboy roll from Leidenheimer Bakery in New Orleans, and Jettie Rae’s has recently brought back its much missed oyster poboy with fries or freshmade chips ($21). Blackened redfish ($33) and fish and chips ($24). In fact, almost nothing at Jettie’s Rae’s ever disappoints, including the house cocktails ($13) and Narragansett beer, 16 oz. for $5.
You have three seating options: Inside, in a covered patio or in an outdoor patio with picnic tables. Service is always friendly and prompt.
Nine Mile 233 Montford Ave., North Asheville, 828-505-3121, www.ninemileasheville.com, Jamaican/Caribbean, daily for lunch and dinner, Inexpensive to Moderate
This is another of those restaurants whose popularity and high rankings on social media sites isn’t easy to explain. It’s a perfectly good neighborhood restaurant, with amiable staff, affordable prices (though increased significantly during the pandemic) and a comfortable setting in the heart of the Montford Historic District (and now also with locations on Haywood Road in West Asheville and in Biltmore Park in South Asheville), but why do so many consider it one of Asheville’s best restaurants? It’s a mystery.
At dinner, you might start with hummus and natty bread ($12 total for both). For a main course, you can have jerk trout with cauliflower, carrots and rasta peppers, sau-téed in a white wine and coconut ginger curry sauce and tossed with linguine or served over basmati rice ($25). Or try a signature dish, grilled jerk chicken or tofu with pep-pers, tomatoes and squash, served over pasta or rice ($18). There are also daily specials. Dinner starters are around $3 to $10, entrées are mostly $18 to $26. Beer and wine only. No reservations.
Plant 165 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-258-7500, www.plantisfood.com; Vegan/Vegetarian, daily except Mon. for dinner, Moderate to Expensive
This is not your Aunt Jane’s veggie place. Plant, which opened in 2011 a little away from churning downtown crowds, has become what most everybody says is Asheville's best vegan and vegetarian restaurant. Owners say the menu is “90% organic, often local, mostly gluten-free and vegan.” There is no dress code except that fur from animals is not permitted in the restaurant. Plant serves creative dishes like pecan-crusted tempeh with whipped cauliflower and potato and fennel salad ($22, raw dish lasagna ($20) and crispy mushroom mole with a blue corn tamale ($26). For dessert, fresh made ice cream (with coconut milk) is fantastic ($5 for two scoops). Fabulous, especially with French press coffee. There's seasonal outside seating in a patio, though it's not exactly a sidewalk-in-Paris setting. The staff is amiable. Plant offers sophisticated cocktails along with organ-ic, vegan wines and local craft beers. Dinner for two with drinks or wine is likely to be $80 to $100.
Rye Knot 868 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-575-2226, www.ryeknotco.com, daily for lunch and dinner, Pub Food, Steaks, Moderate to Expensive
Rye Knot, opened in 2020 in the space once occupied by the late, lamented Ike’s International, has the advantage of having loads of free, convenient parking at the front door. It also is Asheville’s first combined distillery, brewery and restaurant, with good beer and drinkable whisky and vodka. Lastly, it serves good pub food and good steaks in a friendly atmosphere, either in the nicely renovated restaurant or on tables outdoors.
Specialties include a genarous serving of fish and chips ($19), a 6 oz. smashburger with tallow fries ($14) and kabobs ($15 with a side). Aged ribeyes and tenderloins for dine-in are mostly in the $50s with two sides. Uncooked aged steaks also are available for takeout.
PLACES TO EAT WELL FOR NOT A LOT OF MONEY
(In alphabetical order – also see Best Taquerias below)
Chai Pani, Downtown
Centreville Luncheonette, North Asheville
Food Trucks, Downtown, River Arts District and elsewhere
Homegrown, North Asheville
Papas and Beer, West Asheville
Sunny Point Café, West Asheville
Taco Billy, West Asheville
White Duck Taco Shop, Downtown, River Arts District and South Asheville
Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian 641 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-253-1077, www.vinniesitalian.com, Italian, open daily for dinner, Moderate
Vinnie's claims to feature "old school" neighborhood Italian food reminiscent of Brooklyn, the Bronx and the North End of Boston. True, portions are large, staff is extremely friendly and overall the place has a nice North Asheville feel. It ranks highly on social media like TripAdvisor, but some think the food sometimes lacks nuance and delicacy. On a revisit, our appetizer calamari was well prepared, but the blushing pink marinara dipping sauce was heavy. The veal parmigiana was a sizable hunk of veal, a little overcooked, on a huge bed of spaghetti with that pink marinara sauce. Antipasti are mostly $6 to $18, pastas and classic Italian dishes are around $15 to $28. Vinnie’s has opened a second location in South Asheville (1981 Hendersonville Rd., South Ashe-ville, 828-630-8100, daily for dinner except Tue.)
ASHEVILLE’S BEST TAQUERIAS
The Asheville area has more than 75 Mexican-style eateries. Here are some of the best taquerias, in alphabetical order:
Mamacita’s Taco Temple, North Asheville
La Rancherita Mexicana Taqueria Food Truck, Mills River, South Asheville
Los Tacotas Food Truck, East Asheville
Pupuseria Patty's, West Asheville
Taco Billy, West Asheville
Taqueria Muñoz, West Asheville and North Asheville
White Duck Taco, River Arts District, Downtown and South Asheville
ASHEVILLE'S BEST PIZZA
(In alphabetical order)
Acropolis, South Asheville
Asheville Pizza & Brewing, North Asheville
Fahrenheit Pizza & Brew House, South Asheville
Fresh Wood Fired Pizza, River Arts District
Galactic Pizza, West Asheville
Mellow Mushroom, Downtown
Piazza Wood-Fired Oven, East Asheville
Pizza Mind, West Asheville
Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, North Asheville
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.