Best Restaurants Outside Downtown Asheville
Biltmore Village • West Asheville • River Arts District • North Asheville •South Asheville
Very Expensive $65+ per person
Expensive $35-$64 per person
Moderate $20-$34 per person
Inexpensive $10-$19 per person
Very Inexpensive Under $10 per person
Corner Kitchen 3 Boston Way, Biltmore Village, 828- 274-2439, www.thecornerkitchen.com; New Southern, breakfast, lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner daily, extended brunch Sat. and Sun. Expensive
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. Corner Kitchen did a full interior renovation in early 2015.
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 $7 to $19, and entrées are $25 to $40.
The restaurant is known for its breakfast (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; Bistro French, lunch and dinner, Mon.-Sat., brunch Sun. Expensive
In a nondescript modern 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, which is of the less appealing side of Biltmore Village. What you come here for is the food – like a real French bistro, it’s low key, unpretentious and usually just plain delicious. Most of the time. Frankly, we’ve had both excellent meals and mediocre ones here. Beside steak frites, consider the salmon, duck, the macaroni and cheese and the mussels appetizer (the broths vary from day to day).
Dinner for two, with an appetizer, salad, entrées, a cocktails or a couple of glasses of house wine, plus the espresso, runs around $100 before tax and tip.
The Dining Room at Inn on Biltmore Estate Biltmore Estate, Asheville, 828-225-1699, www.biltmore.com; Regional American, dinner daily 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, entrées, perhaps a dessert or two, a couple can easily spend $200 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 ad-mission ticket or be a twelve-month season pass holder.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House 26 All Souls Crescent, Biltmore Village, 828-398-6200,www.ruths-chris.com/asheville; Steak House, open daily for dinner Very Expensive (Moderate for Happy Hour Bar Menu)
We’ve dined at 50 or 60 Ruth's Chris different restaurants over the years (there are more than 140 around the world), and it’s great to now have a location in Asheville. It’s my 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: When we lived in New Orleans, 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 I wrote many of the ads for the restaurant group, in-cluding the above copy, and came up with the “Home of Serious Steaks” slo-gan that was used for many years.
The Asheville restaurant, with which I have no business relationship, is a franchise by the same folks that operate Ruth’s Chris in Charlotte.
The restaurant design and exterior fit well in Biltmore Village near the Biltmore Estate entrance. However, the parking is very limited so most guests will use the complimentary (except tip) valet parking, which is well handled. Inside, the ambiance is upscale and sophisticated, and the main en-trance hallway is lined with glass-fronted wine displays. There’s a center fireplace, a little outside seating beside the bar and live jazz a couple of nights a week.
Although the filet mignon 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 cheesedressing, creamed spinach (founder Ruth Fertel's favorite side, and the one-pound baked potato with the works.
At the main restaurant 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 $200, 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 don’t scrimp. When you want the best steak in town, period, you have to pay for it.
On most occasions we’d rather do the whole Ruth's Chris Steak House dinner thing, but recently we enjoyed the happy hour and bar menu. The happy hour deals are offered Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 pm.
Asiana Grand Buffet 1968 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-654-6879, www.asianagb.com; Chinese Buffet, lunch and dinner daily Inexpensive
Okay, this is buffet, but it’s a giant one, and if you’re really hungry and want a huge selection of Chinese standards, plus sushi, this is where to go. Two people can eat ‘til they bust for $30, less at lunch.
Just don’t expect gourmet food. You can also order from a menu, but few do. Free lunch buffet on your birthday.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Restaurant and Taproom 100 Sierra Nevada Way, Mills River, 828-708-6242, www.sierranevada.com; Brewpub, lunch and dinner daily Moderate
This national craft brewer opened a brewery with a 400-seat restaurant and taproom 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 food is mostly bar food – wings, duck-fat fries, a grassfed burger with jack cheese, local mushrooms, malt-fried chicken livers and the like. Expect to pay around $25 to $30 a person for a full meal and a draft beer. 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.
Stone Bowl 1987 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-676-2172, www.stonebowlkorean.com; Korean, lunch and dinner daily except Tues. 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 calamari, basically a tempura-style appetizer. The lunch boxes are a good value, offering a main dish such as marinated beef or chicken or deep fried shrimp, with a couple of side dishes, kim chi, dumplings, white or brown rice and soup, all for $10. Stone Bowl offers a good variety of authentic Korean food, including yuk gae jang, jjam bong and kan pung ji.
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.
For other Korean food, there’s Korean House (122 College St., Down-town Asheville, 828-785-1500, www.koreanhousenc.com) and Koreana (221 Airport Rd., Arden, South Asheville, 828-676-2844, www.koreanaasheville.com).
Wild Ginger Pho Noodle Bar, 1950 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-676-2311, www.wildgingernoodle.com; Vietnamese, lunch and dinner daily except Tuesday, Inexpensive to Moderate
Wild Ginger, as we used to say in Vietnam, is "Number 1!" We had a lovely dinner at Wild Ginger this weekend. The service was friendly and prompt, the food flavorful and moderately priced and the atmosphere pleasant and comfortable.
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 (only $8.95) and the beef satay with rice as entrees. We didn't feel like pho this night, but those who had it around us seemed to be really enjoying it. We'll have one of the pho noodle soups next time. I was glad to see that Wild Ginger has "33" (the export version) in bottles as one of its beers. I have fond memories of 33 and Tiger beer in Vietnam.
We're so glad that Asheville finally has a good Vietnamese spot -- not fancy, but with a friendly atmosphere, reasonable prices and a good selection of Vietnamese appetizers, pho, noodles and a few other dishes.
The owner, born in the Philippines, is super nice, with Personality Plus. It's no wonder this restaurant is popular. (We arrived early on a Friday evening and got a table immediately, but later in the evening the place was full with a few people waiting.)
Our dinner for two, with two appetizers, two entrees and two 33 beers each came to just $52 before tip. Very reasonable and well worth the money.
The Admiral 400 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-252-2541, www.theadmiralnc.com; Eclectic, dinner daily Expensive
In a one-story cinderblock building in a fairly downscale part of West Asheville, The Admiral is one of Asheville’s top restaurants cleverly dis-guised as a dive bar for bikers.
Small and dark inside, with only 12 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, duck liver mousse and rabbit rillettes are mostly $10 to $18, and large plates like rainbow trout with a side of mushrooms are around $30, with steaks ranging above $40. Several Admiral veterans have opened new restaurants around the city.
BimBeriBon 697 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-505-0328, www.bimberibon.com; Asian-Mediterranean Fusion; breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat, breakfast/brunch Sun. Moderate
BimBeriBon has an interesting menu, with Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian dishes, mixed with dishes and flavors of the Middle East and Mediterranean. The food is full of flavor and some of the dishes, including the lamb pita burger and yam fries, among out favorites, are outstanding. Everything served her is gluten-free.
Things can seem a little hectic, in that you order at the counter, then try to find a seat (not easy on a busy night) and then sometimes go to another station to order drinks. Your food and drink is brought to you. (There's also takeout as an option.)
Staff is very friendly, the crowd is West Asheville hip, and the co-owners have done a great job converting an ugly spot in a little strip center into an engaging and welcoming space. No reservations.
Biscuit Head 733 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-333-5145, www.biscuitheads.com; Southern, breakfast and lunch Tue.-Sun. Inexpensive
This breakfast spot serves cat's head biscuits (the size of your 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. There’s a selection of seven times 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 (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.
Harbor Inn Seafood 800 Brevard Rd., West Asheville, 828-665-9940, www.harborinnseafood.com; Seafood, lunch and dinner Tue.-Sun., closed Mon. Very Inexpensive to Inexpensive
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, five-location Carolinas chain has its act together, and the fried shrimp, fish, clams and other basics are done right. Prices are modest – for dinner the fried catfish platter with cole slaw, fried or baked potato and hush puppies and the jumbo shrimp platter with salad, potato and hushpuppies are each well under $15. Reservations aren’t accepted, and there’s sometimes a line at peak times. No alcohol served.
Haywood Common 507 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-2543, www.haywoodcommon.com; Southern contemporary/farm-to-table, lunch and dinner Tues.-Sat. 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.
It appears that the chef is trying to provide a local farm-to-table menu with some interesting combinations of flavors and ingredients while keeping prices moderate, with the most expensive entrée around $20.
The renovation of the old West Asheville building is a mixed success. The high ceiling has the de rigueur exposed ducts, one wall is brick with the main rectangular room split between the bar area and the dining seating, simple tables and chairs with a corner with sofas and a children's play area. Somehow it doesn't quite all come together.
Service is friendly, and the restaurant seems well staffed.
Although most items are priced reasonably, the starters and drinks add up, and we ended up spending $95 for two including tax and tip, for two starters, two sandwiches, two cocktails and two draft beers.
Isis Music Hall 743 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-2737, www.isisasheville.com; New Southern, dinner daily except Mon. with late night snacks and music, brunch Sun. Moderate to Expensive
The owners of Isis Music Hall did a wonderful job renovating what was a restaurant called Pastabilities and at one point was the old Isis movie theater, which opened in 1937 and closed in 1957. The exterior front of the restaurant has a marquee that looks like the old movie theater.
On the ground level, there's a mid-size dining area in the front of the restaurant and the main music stage at the back (where the theater’s movie screen was), with a bar and hallway connecting the two areas. On the second level (you can enter via either of two stairs) there's a more intimate bar/lounge, with a piano and small stage, ideal for a lounge lizard or jazz trio. Overlooking the main music stage is a standing area for drinkers. In addition, Isis now has an outdoor patio with a lawn stage.
The food here has evolved since the restaurant’s opening, and the evolution has been positive. Nothing strays too far from the familiar. Dinner entrées (around $15 to $25) include fried chicken, mountain trout, stuffed pork loin and seared salmon gratin.
As befits the name, there’s music here almost every night. Covers typically are $10 to $15 per person.
Jargon 715 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-785-1761, www.jargonrestaurant.com; New American, daily for dinner Expensive
The first thing we'll say about Jargon is that you wouldn't think so but deep fried deviled eggs are delicious!
So go with that as a starter, and then settle down with your cocktail or beer and enjoy the ambiance. Jargon has done a great job converting an old West Asheville spot into a comfortable, tasteful, comfortable space. We love the 1950s-style shadow box art, the wall of mirrors and the oversized lava lamps over the bar.
You’ll like almost anything you try, such as sauteed calamari was pretty good, roasted octopus was excellent
Top-notch service, fairly reasonable price, and overall a very nice West Asheville experience.
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 before 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 $7 to $15 plus drinks and tip. Papas and Beer (sometimes spelled Papa's and Beer) has other locations in Asheville and Hendersonville, but the Brevard Road location is the best.
Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack 1445 Patton Ave., West Asheville, 828-575-2260, www.rockyshotchickenshack.com; Fried Chicken, daily for lunch and dinner Inexpensive
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, and we don’t really find even the hottest levels all that hot. The fried okra and corn pudding sides are very good, fries are just okay, and the fried pickle appetizer is too heavily breaded. Two pieces of chicken with a choice of two sides will set you back about $11. 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; New Southern/Breakfast, Tue.-Sat. breakfast, lunch and dinner, Sun.-Mon. breakfast and lunch Inexpensive to Moderate
Sunny Point has been known for famous for its breakfasts since 2003. Breakfast (mostly $10-$12) is served all day, but you won’t be disappointed in lunch or dinner either. The shrimp and grits here could be the best in town, and there are sandwiches and burgers, most priced in the low teens. The restaurant has a small, usually crowded inside seating, plus a covered patio, recently redone, all with a nice West Asheville vibe. Service is always friendly and engaging. The restaurant has its own small garden, and there’s a full bar.
Universal Joint 784 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-505-7262, www.ujasheville.com; Burgers and Pub Food, daily for lunch and dinner Inexpensive
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. The burgers aren’t bad, among the better efforts we’ve had in Asheville. By last account the burgers are presented about a dozen different ways. For example, the Steinbeck burger has pimiento cheese, bacon and pickled jalapenos. Bison burgers also are available. The Joint also serves some Mexican items and other pub food.
After banking hours and on weekends, handy free parking is available in the Wells Fargo 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; Pub Food, daily for lunch and dinner (brunch on Sun.) Inexpensive
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 excellent, friendly and prompt.
The food? It’s a step up from the usual bar snacks. The 6 oz. Mays Farm Big Burger isn’t the best cheeseburger in Asheville, but the fries are excellent. There are other sandwiches, wings, tacos and nachos. Most items are $10 or less.
With the jukebox blaring, two pool tables going, the place full and a ballgame on the giant screen, it is LOUD, definitely not a place for a quiet tête-à-tête. With a beer or two, a couple can eat here for around $40.
Zia Taqueria 521 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-9393, www.ziataco.com; Mexican, daily for lunch and dinner Inexpensive to Moderate
Zia is in the old Delores & Jose's Mexican Restaurant location on Haywood Road in West Asheville, where we were regulars for more than 20 years -- in their old location and then in the new one -- so naturally we had mixed feelings about Zia when this Mexican restaurant opened in early 2013.
Delores & Jose's was an institution in West Asheville, especially in the 1980s and early 1990s when it was in a former drugstore building at the corner of Haywood Road and the I-240 ramp. D&J's kept the drugstore's locally famous hot dogs and served them until the bitter end, along with the Mexican dishes. In its later years D&J's had some issues, was sold and then reopened and never fully recovered, and José passed on, but on good days it had some great Mexican dishes -- plain working class food but authentic and inexpensive. In the early days it was run by Delores, José and Mena, who had come to Asheville from Mexico City, and then after Jose’s passing by Delores and Mena.
Zia's Asheville location is the restaurant's second. The first location is in Charleston, S.C. Zia’s calls its food Southwest or New Mexico style. Among the offerings are green chile stew, a selection of tortas (Mexican sandwiches) and a number of different versions of enchiladas, quesadillas, taquitas, loaded Texas nachos and tacos.
You can order at the counter, pay and get your drinks and then go to your table, to wait for the food to be prepared and delivered to your table, or you can sit at one of the tables that offer table service.
On several visits we’re glad to report that the food is quite good. Once, in a group of about a dozen, we heard zero complaints. Service was excellent and well organized.
RIVER ARTS DISTRICT
All Souls Pizza 175 Clingman Ave., River Arts District, 828-254-0169, www.allsoulspizza.com; Pizza, open daily for lunch and dinner Inexpensive to Moderate
At the site of the old Silver Dollar diner, and more recently the short-lived Asheville Public, All Souls does wood-fired pizzas ($13 to $17, with extra toppings $1 to $4), along with a few salads and sandwiches.
The Bull and Beggar 37 Paynes Way, River Arts District, 828-575-9443, www.the-bull-and-beggar.com; Eclectic, Seafood; open Mon.-Sat. for dinner; Moderate 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 the old industrial building that houses the ever-popular Wedge Brewery, a hair salon and Wedge Studios and Gallery (guarded by a giant metal dinosaur). 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 even 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 really gets creative. And eccentric. If there's a unifying theme to the menu, it's hard to figure. Southern? French? Seafood? What? Some dishes and drinks are real bargains, while others verge on the outrageous. There are small plates, snacks, raw bar platter, a big selection of cheeses, a good bit of seafood, some excellent steaks and even caviar.
The raw bar platters range from $65 to $150, a 34-ounce, bone-in, dry-aged ribeye is $90 and a 1-ounce caviar service is $75. Of course, you’ll likely share these dishes. By comparison, the small plates are bargains, with charred octopus at $16 and bay scallops at $18.
Our favorite time to go to Bull and Beggar is "Burger Monday". A double-patty cheeseburger, which we hold is the best burger in Asheville, and hand-cut fries are just $10 early in the evening, plus raw oysters and clams are half price from 5 to 6 pm, as they are every day. Even at half-price ($18 for a dozen) the oysters they aren't exactly cheap, but this is Asheville, a long way from the coast. Bull and Beggar offers a selection of oysters from Washington State, New England, North Carolina and sometimes elsewhere, and they're fresh and cold.
Bull and Beggar has wonderful cocktails. Notable are the Vieux Carré and the Sazarac.
12 Bones Smokehouse 5 Foundy St. River Arts District, 828-253-4499, www.12bones.com; Ribs & BBQ, lunch only 11-4 Mon.-Fri. Inexpensive to Moderate
Only open weekdays from 11 am to 4 pm, 12 Bones in the River Arts District draws a crowd, and the wait to place 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 new 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. A half rack of six bones is about $16 with two sides, and a full 12-bone rack is $25 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 and plates. The only thing we don’t care for here is the brisket.
There’s limited inside and outdoor seating, though many order for take-out. The crowd ranges from hippie potters from nearby art studios to down-town business people to construction workers. Service is friendly if some-times harried.
A second location is in South Asheville (2350 Hendersonville Rd., 828-687-1395, closed Monday), and it also is home to 12 Bones Brewing.
Smoky Park Supper Club, 350 Riverside Drive, north edge of River Arts District, New Southern, www.smokypark.com; dinner daily expect Mon. Expensive.
New in late 2015, Smoky Park Supper Club claims to be the largest container-built restaurant in the country, with a 2,400 sq. ft. raised deck next to the French Broad River. Most items are cooked in a 9,000-pound wood-burning oven/grill.
We would uprate this new restaurant because a) it has an interesting space b) it's in or at least near the RAD and c) it has potential. However, we do have a few issues with it, outlined below.
First, as everyone knows by now, this restaurant is made from 19 recycled containers. The architect did a good job making these old rusted steel boxes into an interesting space and design, with lots of windows overlooking the French Broad River (which was raging the rainy evening we visited.) Yep, it's cool. Though, surprisingly, it's build right next to the road -- all the open space is between the restaurant and the river. The view of the restaurant from Riverside Drive is just plain ugly. Also, the floors of the containers have not had much done to them, so it feels like standing in the back of a U-Haul truck.
The food is cooked in a wood-fired open oven/grill. This sounds cool, but for most dishes we don't know that you can tell the difference from dishes from a regular kitchen.
The food itself? Meh.
Vivian 348 Depot St., River Arts District, 828-225-3497, www.vivianavl.com; American/European, dinner Tues.-Sat., brunch Sun. Expensive to Very Expensive
This small and rather upscale restaurant is in the former Junction location in the RAD. It has some old-school European appetizers, such as quenelle (a Lyonnaise-style scallop dumpling) beef tartare and smoked oyster appetizers. Entrées include a T-bone steak with red wine sauce, Tournedos Rossini and poached halibut with almond beurre blanc. Main courses are priced from the $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.
Asheville Pizza and Brewing 675 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-254-1281, www.ashevillebrewing.com; Pizza, lunch and dinner daily Inexpensive
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 burger, pizza or sandwich, 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 second-run 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 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; American, dinner Wed.-Sat., brunch and dinner Sun., closed Mon.-Tues. Moderate
Avenue M is a neighborhood restaurant with a large following in North Asheville. Dinner entrées are under $20 and range from pan-seared beef medallions to salmon to a Moroccan vegetable tangine and several pasta dishes.
The grass-fed burger is one of Asheville’s better versions. Service is friendly, the atmosphere pleasant, if a little noisy, and the food is consistent and reasonably priced. The bar has a good selection of local and other craft beers, plus wine and cocktails.
Chiesa 152 Montford Ave., North Asheville, 828-552-3110; www.chiesaavl; Italian, daily for dinner Moderate to Expensive.
In a former church in the Montford section (chiesa is Italian for church and pronounced kee-ay-sa) Chiesa is somewhat upscale, with house-made pastas and a nice selection of main courses including shrimp and polenta, eggplant parmesan and scallops with sweet pea risotto.
We love the atmosphere, though it can be loud (we thought our waiter asked what we wanted to drink, when in fact he asked if we had been here before). It's a small place, but nicely done up in a sophisticated way. In good weather, you can dine al fresco.
Prices are reasonable, service is good and the owner is on hand to greet customers. Dinner for two with wine or cocktails will run around $100.
Geraldine’s Bakery (840 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-252-9300, www.geraldinesbakeryavl.com) serves some of the area’s best pastries, pies, cakes, donuts and bagels. It’s owned by a second-generation baker who ran a bakery on Long Island for 25 years. Geraldine’s opens early every day, at 7 am, and closes mid-afternoon, usually at 3 pm.
Homegrown 371 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-232-4340, www.slowfoodrightquick.com; Southern, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily Very Inexpensive to Inexpensive
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 $10 for lunch with tax and tip).
You order at the counter and your food is brought to your table. The menu, mostly soups, sandwiches and basic Southern cooking, changes fairly frequently, depending on what’s locally available.
For breakfast, try the sweet potato hash and a free-range egg, or a fried chicken biscuit For lunch or dinner, meatloaf with gravy, roasted parsnips and collard greens or buttermilk fried chicken with two large sides. The restaurant’s power is partly solar, and Homegrown provides compostable take-out boxes and recycles wherever possible. Beer and wine only, no cocktails.
Jettie Rae's Oyster House 143 Charlotte St., North Asheville, 828-505-4499, www.jettieraes.com; Seafood, dinner Wed.-Sun Expensive
Opened in July 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Jettie's Rae's was an immediate hit. The co-owner, Eric Scheffer, who also owns Vinnie's on Merrimon Avenue, is an experienced restaurateur. Jettie Rae's is in the former location of Gan Shan Station, which had totally redone a one-time Gulf service station. Guests, who start lining up when the restaurant opens at 4:30 pm, dine at picnic-style tables under tents and in a patio, and currently there is no take out, but eventually the restaurant will offer it. Among the offerings here, inspired by seafood favorites from Maine to the Gulf Coast, are Oysters Rockefeller and Oysters Bienville (each $16) in the New Orleans style, Shrimp and Grits ($22) in the Charleston style, peel and eat shrimp ($16 for a half pound), oysters and clams on the shell, Lump Crab Louie salad ($18), a New England-style lobster roll ($18 with fries or chips) and, for those who aren't seafood lovers, a double cheeseburger with fries ($14). Social distancing is required, and all customers must wear face masks, except when seated and eating. The atmosphere is casual and friendly. No reservations.
MOD, 873 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-774-5406, www.modpizza.com; Pizza, daily for lunch and dinner, Inexpensive to Moderate
MOD is a chain, and it does feel a little chainy but generally in a good way. You decide on the size of your pizza (personal, Mod or double) and then, at a counter mindful of Subway, you choose your choice of toppings from among about 30 selections. You then select your drink (craft and other beers, soft drinks, smoothies, etc.) and pay. Your pizza is then quicly cooked and brought to your table. MOD offers good value -- the Mod pizza is under $9 with tax -- fast service (except possibly at prime times) and a pleasant atmosphere. Another pizza place with the same concept, Blaze, is in South Asheville on Hendersonville Road.
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 small neigh-borhood restaurant, with amiable staff, affordable prices and a comfortable setting in the heart of the Montford Historic District (and now 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. For a main course, you can have jerk trout with cauliflower, carrots and rasta peppers, sautéed in a white wine and coconut ginger curry sauce and tossed with linguine or served over basmati rice. Or try a signature dish, grilled jerk chicken with peppers, tomatoes and squash, served over pasta or rice. There are also daily specials. Dinner starters are around $5 to $7, entrées are mostly $10 to $14. 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 every-body 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 uttapam with oyster mushrooms, channa masala, avocado, cucumber and onion, seitun chile con queso and a raw ver-sion of lasagna. For dessert, freshmade ice cream (with coconut milk) is fantastic. Fabulous, especially with a shot of espresso.
There's seasonal outside seating in a patio, though it's not exactly a side-walk-in-Paris setting. The staff is amiable. Plant offers sophisticated cock-tails along with organic, vegan wines and local craft beers. Dinner for two with drinks or wine is likely to be $80 to $100.
Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian 641 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-253-1077, www.vinniesitalian.com; Italian, open daily for dinner Mod-erate to Expensive
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 very 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 recent 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 $7 to $16, pastas and classic Italian dishes are around 15 to $25. Pizzas are popular here and are around $15 to $20, plus $5 for extra toppings.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
(In alphabetical order)
The Admiral, West Asheville
Benne on Eagle, Downtown
Corner Kitchen, Biltmore Village
The Inn on Biltmore Estate Dining Room, South Asheville
Jargon, West Asheville
Plant, North Asheville
Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Biltmore Village
PLACES TO EAT WELL AT VERY AFFORDABLE PRICES
(In alphabetical order)
Chai Pani, Downtown
Food Truck Lots, Downtown and elsewhere
Homegrown, North Asheville
Papas and Beer, West Asheville
Roman’s Deli, Downtown
Sunny Point, West Asheville
White Duck Taco Shop, Downtown
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.