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 and dinner Mon.-Fri., extended brunch Sat. and Sun. Expensive
The Corner Kitchen is one of Asheville's most popular restaurants. Even President Barack Obama dined here, in 2010. The menu changes regularly, and many dishes are locally sourced. At dinner, entrees are around $18 to $28. Try the mustard-glazed three-meat meatloaf on cheddar grits and collards ($19) or the pecan-crusted mountain trout with sweet potatoes and green bean salad ($23). The restaurant is in a renovated Victorian cottage in Biltmore Village, with wood floors, plaster walls painted in serene colors and a fireplace in one dining room. The restaurant is popular for breakfast (try the homemade corned-beef hash with poached eggs), lunch, and dinner, and the Sunday brunch is always busy. Nearby, at 1 Boston Way, the owners have a sandwich shop called Gianni Panini.
Fig Bistro 18 Brook St., Biltmore Village, 828-277-0889, www.figbistro.com; Bistro French, lunch and dinner, Mon.-Sat., lunch Sun. Expensive
Stuck in a nondescript modern building across the street from the main part of Biltmore Village is one of our favorite restaurants in Asheville. We could eat the steak frites here three times a week at Fig, if our cardiologist permitted it. The hanger steak with Bordelaise sauce and pommes frites ($24) is fantastic. Fig’s hand-cut fries are perfect.
Fig is small, only around 36 seats inside, with some extra seating in a 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 just plain delicious. Beside steak frites, consider the salmon, duck, the wonderful macaroni and cheese and the mussels appetizer (the broths vary from day to day). The espresso, with coffee from Bean Werks, is surprisingly good.
Dinner for two, with an appetizer, salad, entrees, a cocktails or a couple of glasses of house wine, plus the espresso, runs around $130 with tax and a generous tip, a fair price for a superb bistro meal.
The Dining Room at Inn at Biltmore Estate 1 Antler Hill Rd. Biltmore Estate, Asheville, 828-225-1699, www.biltmore.com; Regional American, breakfast and dinner daily; Expensive to 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. Dinner entrees are $28 to $39, and fixed price five-course dinners are $65 to $85. With drinks or wine, appetizers, entrees, perhaps a dessert or two, a couple can easily spend $150 to $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 admission ticket or be a twelve-month season pass holder. If you’re staying at the inn, you also have the option of less formal dining, including at The Bistro at Antler Hill.
We were spending a night at the Inn at Biltmore Estate (at the incredible 12-month passholder January-Februrary weekday rate of $109) and decided to spend our lodging savings at the Inn's Dining Room.
We started with drinks at the bar in the lobby. There's a small bar, an outdoor open air hall with tables and chairs (and heaters for this time of year). You can also have your drinks in the Library area of the lobby, which also serves a limited menu of food and usually has live music. This is what we did -- we sat by the big fireplace (gas, however) and enjoyed a glass of Biltmore Merlot ($8) and a cocktail ($13), plus tips.
After drinks, we went downstairs to the Dining Room (you can either walk down a flight of stairs or take the elevator). The Dining Room itself is very attractive, done with understated elegance. It has a large fireplace on the wall in the center of the room, and the room is lit by a number of chandeliers. It's all very tasteful and romantic. We were seated somewhat away from the fireplace but at a window table.
It was a table for two, but unlike so many such tables, this was large enough so that you didn't feel crowded. Service was excellent. Our waiter was obviously quite experienced and provided just the right amount of contact, not too little, not too much. The only very minor complaint we had with service was the we were given a choice of only one of three types of bread, and each was very small. We did ask for more bread later, but I would have preferred having a small basket of the three kinds of bread.
My wife had a frisee and endive salad ($13), very good, and I started with split pea soup ($12), which was nicely presented, with the cream soup poured at the table over small pieces of ham. For an entree, I had a 6 oz. beef filet, with whipped Yukon Gold potatoes, caramelized brussels sprouts and a brown sauce ($39). The filet was excellent, very tend with good flavor, but the serving of brussels sprouts and potatoes was very small. My companion had the short rib ($30).
With two glasses of Biltmore wine (Merlot and Syrah, each $8 and a nice large pour), and an after-dinner espresso (which came with complimentary cookies, as we didn't order desserts), the meal came $131, including taxes and my usual general tip. That price included a 15% discount for 12-month passholders, which our waiter kindly reminded us that we were entitled to.
Even with the drinks upstairs, the evening cost less than expected, and certainly less than you'd spend at a top steakhouse such as Ruth's Chris, albeit the portions were smaller.
The Inn's Dining Room certainly is one of the most elegant dining places in Asheville, without being stuffy. I wore a blazer and tie, but many there were in shirtsleeves or sweaters (the room was about one-half full, on a January Sunday night). The food, like the hotel, isn't trendy or particularly creative, but it is well prepared, and I would put the kitchen among the top 10 or 12 in Asheville, and the best of the Asheville hotel dining rooms.
Rezaz 28 Hendersonville Rd. Biltmore Village, 828-277-1510, www.rezaz.com; Mediterranean, open for lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. Expensive
It had been a while since we had been to Rezaz, in a former hardware store on Biltmore Avenue near Biltmore Village, and the menu has changed quite a bit. The dinner menu is now divided into four sections -- labeled one, two, three and four. One and two are appetizers or small plates and three and four are large plates or entrees.
We love the atmosphere at Rezaz, which is owned by Iranian-born Reza Setayesh. The dining room walls are a deep red, with abstract art, the layout is perfect, with tables not too close yet set up so that the restaurant has a buzz, and the lighting is just right. It’s romantic without overdoing it.
The calamari appetizer we used to always order has been replaced by a calamari and shrimp appetizer, with a sweet and sour glaze, cabbage, scallions and sesame seeds ($9) – we like it but it's not an improvement over the former one. We also had deep-fried okra appetizer. It's done in the new style, breaded and fried long-wise and served with what is billed as remoulade sauce ($6).
We wanted beef and unfortunately took the well-meaning advice of our waiter and ordered the braised beef brisket, essentially roast beef, with arrancini (sort of a fried risotto ball with mozzarella and shredded ox tail) and broccolini ($22). However, we probably would have been a happier with the grilled filet mignon or the ribeye ($25 and $26, respectively).
Expect to pay around $120 for two with starter, drinks, entrees, dessert and tip. Lunch is a better bargain.
Revisited November 2013 at lunch: Still excellent, good atmosphere, busy, chicken tangine perhaps a little smaller serving than before.
Under the same ownership is Piazza (4 Eastwood Village, East Asheville, 828-298-7224, www.piazzaeast.com; lunch and dinner Tue.-Sun., Pizza, Inexpensive) serving wood-fired pizza, spaghetti bowls, subs and wraps.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House 26 All Souls Crescent, Biltmore Village, www.ruths-chris.com/asheville; Steak House, open daily for dinner Very Expensive
We’ve dined at 50 or 60 Ruth's Chris different restaurants over the years (there are more than 130 around the world), and it’s great to now have a location in Asheville. It’s my all-time favorite of the 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 guide 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, 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 I have no relationship, is a franchise by the same folks that operate Ruth’s Chris in Savannah, Charlotte and Charleston.
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 entrance 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 ($39) is the best seller at Ruth’s Chris, my favorite has always been the New York strip ($41. I’m a traditionalist at Ruth’s Chris. I usually go with the lettuce wedge with bacon and the amazing, thick Ruth’s Chris blue cheese dressing, the creamed spinach (founder Ruth Fertel's favorite side) and the one-pound baked potato with the works. We used to love the big, thick steak fries, but this location doesn’t serve them, instead offering fried shoestring potatoes. There’s a bar menu, with happy hour prices 4:30-6:30 Monday-Friday, with items like a steak sandwich with fries or tenderloin skewer on greens for $8 and some beers just $3 – an excellent value.
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 going to spend about $200, or more. You can spend less, 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 I'd rather do the whole Ruth's Chris Steak House thing -- Jack with a splash of branch water, the homey iceberg lettuce wedge salad with the late Ruth Fertel's own extra thick, creamy blue cheese, USDA Prime NY Strip medium rare served sizzling, garlic mashed and creamed spinach (always Ruth's favorite), with a glass of cabernet -- but tonight in Biltmore Village we enjoyed the happy hour and bar menu ... and especially the jazz entertainment in the bar by up-and-coming Asheville and New York jazz singer and pianist Rockell Scott, who plays in the bar most Wednesdays.
The $8 Papa Hemingway happy hour daiquiris were very good, though perhaps not exactly a cold weather drink (hey, Asheville isn't Savannah!). We had the sliced filet steak sandwiches with bernaise sauce and fries (a bargain at $8) and a couple of appetizers -- fair calamari and crab stuffed mushrooms.
If you go to Ruth's Chris, even to the bar at happy hour, you're going to spend a little money, and our evening for two came to around $100 with drinks, tax, tips and valet, but that's certainly less than half of what we'd drop in the main restaurant.
Revisit New Year's Eve:
We did the New Year's Eve thing at Ruth's Chris in Biltmore. They had a $65 fixed price deal (choice of salad or gumbo, entree of either a full-size filet or a 12 oz. NY strip with 8 oz. lobster tail or lump crab, choice of a few sides, big dessert and a half glass of champagne), which two of us chose, while another in our party just had a salad and a filet.
Pretty good deal for a premium steakhouse. More and more we'r seeing Ruth's Chris restaurants move to a non a la carte pricing approach, with Prime Time (early bird) full meal deals in the bar and various complete meal options even at regular dinner times. Ruth Fertel would turn over in her grave.
Although well-prepared, the 12 oz. NY strip is a bit too thin compared to the regular strip, but the lobster tail (normally something like $26 as an add-on) was a nice touch.
We had the primo table next to the fireplace and overall a very nice experience.
Still, with a total of three drinks, a couple of glasses of low-end wine, an espresso, tax, valet tips and MYGT, the evening came to $310 for the three of us.
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 $25, less at lunch. Just don’t expect gourmet food. You can also order from a menu, but few do. A second location is in West Asheville (153 Smokey Park Hwy. West Asheville, 828-667-0410). Free lunch buffet on your birthday (you have to prove it’s really your birthday.)
CharBar 7, 2 Gerber Road, Gerber Village, Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-277-3470, www.charbar7.com; Sports Bar with burgers, steaks and salads, dinner daily, Moderate
CharBar 7 opened in South Asheville in Gerber Village in early January 2016. We tried it about a week after it opened. CharBar is a small NC chain, with a couple of locations in the Charlotte area and one in Greensboro. Its fourth location is here in Asheville, at the former Franky Bones site.
I'd describe it as a sports bar with six or eight kinds of burgers, a few steaks (the table next to ours ordered a ribeye steak sandwich, but it turned out not to be available) and a big variety of salads. There are tons of TVs all tuned to different sports channels. Despite the sports bar atmosphere, a lot of the customers were older people and a few families, not exactly the regular sports bar demographic. For a Monday night with temps in the teens, it was pretty busy. By the time we left around 7:30 I'd say it was 80% full.
We started with a couple of draft beers. I had a Green Man Porter and my companion had a Foothills Stout. Both (16 oz.) were around $5.50. I had a classic cheeseburger with fries ($10) and my companion a Texas BBQ brisket burger (around $12 or $13) with sweet potato tater tots. Both were single-patties, cooked more or less to order (medium). I'd give the burgers a B-, not up to Bull & Beggar or even Avenue M standards but not bad. My companion said her sweet potato tots were okay but not as good as at WALK in West Asheville. My fries were good, not great. Couldn't tell if they were fresh-cut or not. I'd say not.
Service was prompt and efficient. The atmosphere is pleasant enough if you like sports bars. With two entrees and a total of three artisan draft beers, the meal came to around $41 before tip. Not bad.
My guess is this place will make it as neighborhood sort of place for South Asheville. I wouldn't drive out of my way for the burger, but it was good and the prices were reasonable, and I would go back occasionally if I lived in the area.
Stone Bowl 1987 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-676-2172, www.stonebowlkorean.com; Korean, lunch and dinner daily 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 ($6) -- basically a tempura-style appetizer. It is excellent. The lunch boxes are a good value -- 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, a lot of food for $9. We take points off because the restaurant doesn't have any Korean beer, just three Japanese beers, a few local brews and some regular mass beers. 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. Lunch is around $30 before tip, dinner about $60 or $70. One of the co-owners is opening another Korean restaurant soon Downtown. Asheville needs all the Asian restaurants it can get, so we’re doing our little part to support the Stone Bowl and its new sister place.
Tupelo Honey South 1829 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-505-7676, www.tupelohoneycafe.com; New Southern, lunch and dinner Mon.-Fri., breakfast, lunch and dinner Sat. and Sun. Inexpensive to Moderate
Three of us went on a search for Asheville’s best cheeseburger and ended up at Tupelo Honey, the South Asheville location. We did not find it here. The Tupelo Honey half-pound burger is a good effort. The restaurant grinds its own hamburger, using two cuts of beef. The presentation is attractive, open faced with toasted bun, homemade pickles and other toppings, plus a pickled okra garnish. But Tupelo Honey needs to hire a cheeseburger consultant to bring the burger itself up to high standard. The patty is way too dense, probably handled and compressed too much. The beefy juices soaked through the bun, making it soggy and hard to handle. Most to the point, Tupelo Honey doesn’t serve French fries – just what they call Home Fries, which are more what you’d eat with a scrambled egg than with a cheeseburger. They do have sweet potato fries, which are fine in their place but their place isn’t next to a cheeseburger. Both Asheville locations of Tupelo Honey serve a lot of great Southern food, but unfortunately you’ll have to look elsewhere for a great cheeseburger. Three burgers (around $12 each with a choice of cheeses), each with a side of potatoes, plus three beers and one cocktail came to around $70 before tip, perhaps a bit pricey for a casual South Asheville eatery.
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.
My companion and I 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. It's almost a half hour drive for us to go to Wild Ginger, but we'll make the trek frequently. This is fine little place, and I highly recommend it.
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 disguised as a dive bar for bikers. Small and dark, The Admiral is frequently fully booked days in advance. The menu changes daily, but expect starters like braised maple pork belly ($12) and fried sweetbreads ($8). Entrees range from around $15 to $30 and usually include several seafood items and locally sourced duck, pork and beef. Several Admiral veterans are opening 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
Five of us visited BimBeriBon on a Tuesday night. We really enjoyed both the atmosphere and the food, despite the slightly hectic atmosphere and the lack of beer.
We tried a total of 11 different dishes including Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crepe with shrimp, mint, cilantro, etc. $8), the Pickle Plate (huge selection, $7), Quinoa Kale Pakoras (Indian-style with coconut and peanuts, $7), Lamb Pita Burger ($9 plus $4 for Yam Fries), Thai Mango Salad ($8), Bibimbap (a melange of Middle Eastern, Korean and other flavors, $13) and Moroccan Tagine (with chicken and quinoa couscous, $13).
As you can tell BiBiB has an interesting menu, with Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian dishes, mixed with dishes and flavors of the Middle East and Mediterranean. Everything was full of flavor and some of it, including the Lamb Pita Burger and Yam Fries, which was a favorite, was outstanding.
The system seems a little hectic, in that you order at the counter, then try to find a seat (not easy on a busy night) and then go to another station to order drinks. Your food and drink is brought to you. (There's also takeout as an option.) No reservations.
While the restaurant has a full bar, to my great surprise it has NO BEER. The reason given is that the restaurant is gluten free (but there are gluten-free beers). There's a limited selection of wines by the glass or bottle, some creative cocktails and lots of gluten-free ciders.
Staff is very friendly, the crowd is West Asheville hip, and the co-owners have done a great job converting an ugly space -- among other things it used to be BurgerMeister -- in a little strip center into an engaging and welcoming space.
With the opening here also of Foothills Burger Bar, parking space in the little strip center lot can be tight on busy nights and even on not-so-busy nights. You may end up parking on the street or in another lot.
Prices are reasonable. We paid about $100 for the food and another $30 for drinks, not including tip, for five.
Biscuit Head 733 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-333-5145, www.biscuitheads.com, Breakfast, breakfast and lunch Tue.-Sun.
This breakfast spot serves cat's head biscuits (the size of your cat's head) and other tasty Southern fare at breakfast and lunch. Good selection of gravies and jams. For a treat, try the gravy flight. You likely will have to wait most mornings. A second location of Biscuit Head has a second location at 379 Biltmore Ave. near Mission Hospital in the old Tomato Jam site.
China Grill 43 Westridge Marketplace, West Asheville/Candler, 828-667-8880; Chinese, Lunch and dinner daily
This is a new place at Westridge Shopping Center in West Asheville/Candler. We certainly need more Chinese and other Asian places in this area and plan to support this spot.
It's basically a take-out place. There are five or six tables in a storefront next to Rite Aid drugstore in the Westridge Shopping Center. You order at the counter, mostly for take-out.
While this is not gourmet Chinese, it's the equal of most Chinese restaurants in Asheville and better than many. In order to judge it, we ordered dishes we often order in local Chinese restaurants -- Orange Chicken, Moo Shoo Pork and Sweet and Sour Pork, along with appetizers of a spring roll and eggs roll plus fried dumplings.
The Orange Chicken ($9.75) was excellent, and a huge serving. The Moo Shoo Pork ($5.25) was very good, and my wife though it was some of the best we've had. The Sweet and Sour Pork ($5.25 for a pint) was a little odd, just pork fried with corn starch and served with a sweet sauce, no peppers or pineapples or such. We also had fried dumplings and the egg/spring rolls.
The whole thing came to around $30 plus tip.
Again, not the best Chinese we've ever had, but in Asheville beggars can't be choosers. We'll go back and sample more of the menu and suspect we can find a lot of things we like for a take-out meal. For the $30 or so, the two of us got plenty of food for two or even three meals. No complaints on the pricing.
Best of luck and sye sye to the hard-working Chinese family that is running this new restaurant.
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, eight-location Southern regional chain has its act together, and the fried shrimp, fish, clams and other basics are done right. Prices are very modest – for dinner the fried catfish platter with cole slaw, fried or baked potato and hush puppies is around $8 and the broiled jumbo shrimp platter with salad, potato and hushpuppies is around $11. Reservations aren’t accepted, and there’s often a line at peak times. No alcohol served.
Isis Restaurant & Music Hall 743 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-2737, www.isisasheville.com; New Southern, dinner daily with late night snacks and music until around midnight; Moderate
The owners of Isis Restaurant & Music Hall have done a wonderful job renovating what was a restaurant called Pastabilities and at one point was the old Isis theater, which opened in 1937 and closed in 1957. As small children my brother and I occasionally would walk from nearby St. Joan of Arc school to take in shows at this theater. I remember that we saw Forbidden Planet there one time. My favorite barbershop, Model (one of the oldest continuously operating barber shops in the state) is next door, so I've watched for two years as the restaurant was being renovated and the parking lot upgraded. I love the exterior front of the restaurant, which 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 -- with the requisite exposed ducting -- and the main music stage at the back (where the movie screen was), with a bar, with restrooms across the 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.
This is exactly the kind of place West Asheville needs. It's by far the most upscale spot in Westville, priced fairly. While the food may not yet be up to top dining standards, it's a classy joint, with many locally sourced items, and we’ll definitely be going back for the food, drink and music.
On a recent visit, we started with cocktails. Isis has around two dozen local and regional beers on tap, a decent wine list and a full bar. Our Dewar’s and soda was just $6. For an appetizer two of us shared the Hoppin' John, with yellow eye peas, red quinoa, bacon and three shrimp ($8). We didn't know exactly what to expect, but it turned out to be delicious. For entrees my companion had the seared rainbow trout with chard and that quinoa again ($15), and I had a small sirloin steak with Yukon potatoes and broccoli ($20). Next time we’ll probably try the grilled chicken breast, Frenched and served with a white bean-mushroom cassoulet ($16). Most entrees are around $14 to $21. No espresso here, but the Beanwerks French press coffee ($3) was excellent.
Dinner for two, with a total of two cocktails, one glass of wine ($7 for a merlot), one shared appetizer, two entrees and one coffee came to $72 with tax but before our usual generous tip.
Yes, the Isis is cool. It's in hip West Asheville. We revisited it on a Sunday night when the very going places Rockell Scott backed by an excellent four-piece band was playing jazz. The drinks were good, and my Jack Black and water was a reasonable $7 bucks, and the wines and beers are fairly priced.
But does this coolness justify $200 for drinks, music, tips and a meal that is only a step above mediocre? Does it justify computer-printed menus that are stained and dirty, with the specials menu from yesterday?
My ribeye steak with a wine sauce and fingerling potatoes was $26. It was okay, but just okay, certainly not up to steak house quality. The appetizers (mussels, kale salad and scallops), ditto -- one of our party had these appetizers in lieu of an entree. The vegan dish was just so-so. In fact, the best thing we had was a cup of peanut and chicken soup, which was served lukewarm.
The band announced they played for tips, so we put $20 in the jar, and then Isis added $15 for the three of us for the entertainment.
I've liked the Isis since the week it opened. I think the owners did a fabulous job on the renovation. The drinks are fairly priced. The music, not just Rockell Scott and the band tonight but also the group that was playing upstairs to a packed room and all the bands that play here, are a huge plus for the area. All in all, the Isis is great for West Asheville.
King Daddy's Chicken and Waffles, 444 Haywood Rd. , West Asheville, 828-785-1690, www.ashevillekingdaddy.com, Southern/Soul Food, lunch and dinner daily. Inexpensive to Moderate
Owned by the same folks who operate Early Girl in Downtown Asheville, King Daddy's is the latest new eatery to open on Haywood Road in West Asheville. It's about a block east of I-240, next door to Second Gear outdoor shop. There's street parking, plus at least at night you can probably park in the adjoining lot at Book Works. (On a personal note, it's just a couple of doors away from the Universal building that housed a Willys Americar dealership, owned by my father in the late 1940s.) We visited shortly after King Daddy's opened, and in fact there was no sign for the restaurant yet. The website still is in process, though there's a Facebook page.
At around 7 pm on a Saturday night, the restaurant was only about half full, but we're told it's busier at lunch. We suspect business at night will pick up, as more people hear about it.
Basically the restaurant is just a rectangular storefront, with a small bar area and the kitchen in a separate area at the back. The decor is pretty minimalist, a bit like a diner or even a fast food place. Blue colors dominate, on the walls and in seats and booths on the right side as you enter. Tables and chairs are inexpensive, like 1950s style breakfast furniture.
Now, to the food and drink. King Daddy's is billed as soul food, but to call it that is a bit of a stretch. For appetizers, the three of us shared seasoned pork cracklins, served in a waffle cone ($4), and chicken livers with andouille sausage and mushrooms, also served in a waffle cone ($8). We enjoyed these, though I wouldn't come back just for these dishes.
However, the main course -- fried chicken -- was first-rate. I had the regular white meat fried chicken (a breast and a wing) for $7. Our friend had the same, except with dark meat. My spouse had the Korean fried chicken ($7). Two of us had mashed potatoes ($3) on the side, and we shared a couple of waffles -- I think one was with cracklins ($4) and the other a Belgian waffle ($3.50).
I don't quite get the chicken and waffles thing, but the fried chicken was darn good, and I'd definitely come back next time I need a chicken fix. Just don't tell my cardiologist.
Before dinner, two of us had cocktails. Most of the mixed drinks are $7 or $8, with the most expensive being $10. Beers range from PBR at $2.50 to a modest selection of craft beers, mostly around $3.50 to $5. There are also a few wines by the glass.
My only complaint with the drinks was that I tried the sorghum old fashioned. It was loaded with sorghum syrup and was way too sweet. After that sweet stuff, a crisp PBR tasted mighty good.
Our server, Zoe, was really helpful and friendly.
Dinner for three, including two cocktails, two glasses of wine and one beer, plus two appetizers and three main dishes with sides, came to $85 before my usual generous tip. This was a little more than I expected at a casual spot like this, but it was a lot of food.
When I go back, I'll probably stick just to the fried chicken with a side and a beer.
While I'd like to see some changes, especially in the drink list, overall it was a good casual dining experience, and King Daddy's definitely knows how to fry chicken. I'm happy to see another well-run dining option in West Asheville and recommend you give King Daddy's a try.
We really want to like King Daddy’s Chicken & Waffle ion Haywood Road in the heart of West Asheville, and we do in a way, but we don’t think it’s quite hitting the mark for dinner.
We went there for dinner with a friend not too long after it opened and have been back once with a group at lunch. We recently revisited it for dinner on a Sunday evening in late January. When we arrived a little before seven the restaurant was about half full. Out friendly waiter said breakfast and early lunch times are busiest, with waits for breakfast on weekends.
We started with the fried chicken liver appetizer ($7), which is good, and a big serving, but a little odd. The fried livers are mashed up a bit and served on lettuce with a shitake mushrooms and onion topping, With the appetizer I had a vodka martini ($8) that was cold, not quite dry enough, and the bar didn’t have cocktail onions, just olives. My companion’s specialty drink, a “Louie” ($10, I think the priciest drink on the menu) with rye, Benedictine, absinthe and Peychaud bitters, served up, was really good.
I had the fried chicken (white meat, $7) with mashed potatoes and lamb gravy as a side (extra $3). Most items are a la carte, again a bit odd for this kind of diner-style eatery. My companion had the Korean chicken with another $3 side of fried green tomatoes and a $1.50 biscuit. Both chicken dishes were good, although my fried chicken was on the greasy side. My mashed potatoes and gravy were barely warm. The green tomatoes were like hockey pucks. The biscuit was terrible. I can make better biscuits than this with my eyes closed! With the meal, we each had a draft local craft beer, $4.50 each for a pint.
Total for two persons with tax and tip was around $72. Not outrageous, and we did have a total of two cocktails and two beers, but maybe on the high side for this kind of neighborhood place. Service was excellent.
We’ll go back again, but probably for breakfast or lunch, not dinner. Sure, it’s difficult for an owner to run two restaurants (Early Girl and King Daddy’s), but we think King Daddy’s needs to up its dinner game a bit.
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 Top Shelf margarita with a shot of Grand Marnier on the side (terrific and only $6.95) and the Mexican beer on draft. Chips and a salsa bar with some interesting salsas come free with your meal, which will only set you back around $7 to $13 plus drinks and tip. Papas and Beer (sometimes spelled Papa's and Beer) has two other locations in Asheville, one on Tunnel Road -- not nearly as good as the Brevard Road location -- and one in South Asheville on Hendersonville Road, as well as a location in Hendersonville.
Pizza Mind 285 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-9181; Pizza; daily for lunch and dinner Moderate to Expensive
Opened by the owners of WALK in 2017, Pizza Mind is a contemporary pizza place, with good pies, though perhaps a little expensive. Lot parking is limited, though you can find a place on the street.
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 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. If we eat again at Rocky's, we’ll just have the plain fried chicken. The fried okra and corn pudding are very good, fries are just okay, about what you'd expect from crinkle-cut frozen fries, and the fried pickle appetizer is way too heavily breaded. Rocky's has announced plans for a second location in South Asheville.
Sunny Point 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 is famous for its breakfasts (most $7-$9), which are served all day, but you won’t be disappointed in lunch or dinner either. The restaurant has a small, usually crowded inside seating, plus a covered patio, all with a nice West Asheville vibe. Service is always friendly and engaging.
On a recent dinner visit we had a daily special, a risotto and chanterelle mushroom dish, which was one of the best vegetarians dishes we’ve had recently. The meatloaf with mashed potatoes and sautéed greens ($14) had a bit too much sage and pork and not enough ground beef for our taste, but it was still good, and the potatoes and greens were excellent. The shrimp and grits ($11) here are usually top-notch. Dinner entrees are $9-$17. Sandwiches at lunch or dinner are mostly $7-$10. Beers are $2.50-$5, plus there are wines and cocktails.
Tacos Jalisco 1328 Patton Ave., West Asheville, 828-225-3889, Mexican, open daily for lunch and dinner Very Inexpensive to Inexpensive
Tacos Jalisco is a little taqueria in West Asheville, off Patton Avenue near the West Asheville post office. We like the atmosphere -- no frills but pleasant, clean, well lit, and the owners are friendly and welcoming. Big serving of chips with a freshly made salsa comes out right away -- included with the meal.
The food? It probably depends on what you order. The tacos, one fish and one steak ($2.25 each) were tasty and well priced, but the cheese enchilada plate ($8) wasn't hot enough (either in actual heat or spiciness). You may need to come back several times and explore the menu until you find something you like. Tacos Jalisco does have some unusual and authentic items such as taco de lingua (tongue taco) and tripe, and many customers favor the pastor (pork) tacos, though the tortillas are not hand-made.
The draft Dos Equis is cheap at $2.50 for a 16-oz in a nicely frosted mug. Service is friendly and very prompt. The horchata (a popular Mexican rice drink) is authentic. Value is the deal here. With a total of three drafts and two entrees plus sides, the total came to about $21 before tip -- very reasonably priced.
Tastee Diner 575 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-252-9644; Southern Diner, breakfast and lunch Mon.-Fri. Inexpensive
Dirt cheap, authentic traditional diner-style Southern food, friendly waitresses, NASCAR-themed decor, lot of regulars. What else can you ask for? The daily special of a meat such as beef stew or country-style steak, three vegetables and cornbread or biscuits is under $6. Great country ham biscuits ($2.50). No alcohol. Almost always full. There’s extra parking around back, in addition to spaces in front and along Haywood Road. This is an oldie but goodie in West Asheville. New ownership has not changed the place too much.
Universal Joint 784 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-505-7262, https://sites.google.com/site/universaljointasheville; 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. The Steinbeck burger has pimento cheese, bacon and jalapenos, with okay fries ($9). The standard burger is 8 ounces of nicely charbroiled Angus beef with American cheese on an egg bun, which in our case was mistakenly served with tater tots rather than the ordered fries ($8). The Joint also serves some basic Mexican items and other pub food.
Up close the restaurant isn’t quite as appealing as the charming renovation of the white Pure building with blue roof would suggest, and the waitstaff (mostly heavily tattooed young women) come across as unhappy, or perhaps bored nonchalance is the affect they were attempting. With two draft microbeers, tax and tip, our meal for two came to a little over $30. We’d go back for a cheeseburger and hope the manager spiffs up a little and that the waitstaff takes some happy pills. 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 -- brick walls, high ceilings, garage-type doors on two sides that open to let in the mountain air. We found the service excellent -- friendly and prompt. And we enjoy the West Asheville vibe.
The food? Sorry, it’s only so-so, though a step up from the usual bar snacks. The fried chicken livers special ($8) that we had as an appetizer was heavy on the cornmeal. The 6 oz. Hickory Nut Gap burger ($9 with a side of fries) wasn't the best cheeseburger in Asheville that we’ve been searching for in vain, but the fries were excellent. The shrimp po-boy ($9.50 with a side of sautéed kale) also was just okay. Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, with tacos just $1.50.
With the juke box blaring, two pool tables going, the place full and the Alabama-Texas A&M game on the giant screen, it was LOUD. Definitely not a place for a quiet tête-à-tête.
With one appetizer, two entrees (each with a side), a glass of wine and one draft microbrew and tax, the tab came to around $38 not including our usual generous tip.
Zia Taqueria 521 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-9393, www.ziataco.com; Mexican, daily for lunch and dinner, open late Thu.-Sat. 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 the old location and then in the new one -- so naturally we had mixed feelings about Zia when this new Mexican restaurant opened in early 2013.
For those who don't know, 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 last year, along with the Mexican dishes. Later D&J's had some issues, was sold and then reopened and never fully recovered, and Jose 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, Jose 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 in Charleston, S.C. Zia has given the D&J location a cosmetic makeover -- new paint (dark blue and a deep ochre), new floor, new tables and a few booths. Overall, a good changes.
We’re pulling for Zia to make it, because potentially it could be a positive addition to the West Asheville dining scene. But when we’ve been there a few wrinkles remain to be worked out. You 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. But the order taker is also mixing drinks, with made-from-scratch margaritas and such. When we arrived there was quite a line at the order counter, and it wasn't moving. We waited in line a good 20 minutes to place our order.
To the food: We ordered guacamole that, oddly, is “market price.” The cheese enchilada platter $9.99) with two sides, and the carne asada plate ($12.99), again with a choice of two sides, such as pinto beans, black beans or Spanish rice. The tacos are mostly $3.50-$4, and most platters are in the $9-$12 range. The total for the two of us came to about $45 for the appetizer, two entrees and two margaritas, a little steep for a neighborhood taqueria. You tip in a jar at the counter, which probably cuts down on staff tips compared with table service.
Our enchilada platter was nicely presented, with green and red salsa, crema and red onion slices. But the enchiladas themselves were cold, and not served on a heated plate as at some of the popular local Mexican places. The carne asada plate looked like stewed beef, not like the expected sliced beef or the grilled, marinated steak you usually get.
There was not a Hispanic face to be seen in the restaurant, among the customers or, as far as I can tell, among the staff. This is a "full tilt gringo" place.
We hope the restaurant goes to table service, or at least gets a bartender to help the order taker. And we’d love to see the restaurant hire dear Delores and Mena to come in once a week and do their wonderful mixed dish, enchilada plate, bean burrito no carne and killer fries. We would come in for that alone.
I had dinner tonight at Zia Taqueria and am glad to report that it is much improved from our first visit not too long after it opened a branch in West Asheville.
I was with a group of 11 for a Mensa meeting, and I heard no complaints about the food. Service was excellent and well-organized especially since this was a group that required separate checks.
My taza de sopa de tortilla ($3.95) was muy buena -- lots of interesting flavors and full of chicken and tortilla strips. For an entree I had the chicken Yucatán (basically just grilled chicken) with frijoles negros, yellow rice and a large serving of mixed vegetables, with several corn tortillas. I think this was $11.99. I also had a house Zia Rita (margarita), which was okay but not up to the Top Shelf margarita at Papas and Beer, and a Dos Equis draft. The total came to around $27 with tax, before my usual generous tip.
The decor has been much improved since pur last visit, and the "full service" dining area to the left as you enter is a nice touch, especially for a group. We're told that the counter order is still more popular, but we prefer the full service section.
It wasn't very busy tonight, and our one table was close to being about one-half of the diners in the restaurant, but this was a very cold weeknight. We have heard it is pretty popular, although prices are a little higher than in most other Mexican restaurants in the area. Frankly, there aren't many true Southwestern dishes on the menu, and it's a little misleading to call it New Mexico or Southwest style food.
We still miss dear old Delores & Jose's, but we would go back to Zia's occasionally, though Papas and Beer on Brevard Road remains our go-to cheap Mexican spot.
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 ($11 to $13, with toppings $1 to $3), 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 daily 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, AmandaWest hair salon and Wedge Studios and Gallery. To get to the restaurant you have to wind your way around the Wedge Brewery and its food trucks, and the casual visitor might give up before finding it.
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 (unused the night we were there, a Tuesday).
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? If there's a pricing strategy, we couldn't see it. Some dishes and drinks are real bargains, while others verge on the outrageous.
There are small plates, snacks, a big selection of cheeses, a good bit of seafood -- from mussels and french fries to charred octopus, and a variety of oysters on the half shell for $3 each. There a few large plates or entrees (trout, filet mignon). I had the filet ($30), nicely done but overwhelmed by the Madeira sauce. What stands out is the mostly raw and steamed two-tier seafood platter for $85, easily enough for two or three, and a smaller one for $65, and caviar for $100.
The seafood raw bar are half price from opening at 5 to 6 pm.
There's a small and, yes, eccentric, wine list -- I couldn't find a cab on it to go with the filet mignon and settled for a Merlot blend -- some local craft beers and a nice selection of premium liquors and intriguing drinks at mostly reasonable prices.
Maybe it sounds like we didn't like the place, but in fact we did. We love the space and the atmosphere, and the service was friendly and peppy. Several of the dishes were wonderful, though in other cases the chef's reach far exceeded his grasp.
It was a special occasion (a birthday), so we didn't hold back. Our tab for two cocktails, two glasses of wine, two entrees and one snack, with tax and our usual generous tip, came to around $165. But we saw couples come in and probably drop less than $40.
It took years of searching, but I finally found it: Asheville's best burger!
At the Bull and Beggar, of all places.
And on Mondays from 5 to closing at 10 pm, it's only $6, including a large serving of excellent hand cut fries. (Fine print: Normally, the burger is available only after 9 pm, and it costs $12 with fries -- the Monday half-off price requires the purchase of a beverage, but it doesn't have to be an alcoholic beverage.)
The Bull and Beggar burger is a double patty of custom ground Angus beef -- brisket, shank and chuck -- with American cheese, grilled onion, homemade dill pickles and mayo on a potato bun. It is what it is -- at this price you can't customize it. The Bull and Beggar burger highly resembles the famed Bocado double stack burger in Atlanta.
Let me tell you: This is one delicious cheeseburger! Flavorful, the beef cooked medium well, filling but not overly huge. One caveat: The potato bun, while tasty, cannot quite hold up to the beef and fixins'. The bun could stand to be a little bigger. But that's nitpicking. If you like burgers, in Asheville Bull and Beggar is the place to go, especially on Mondays.
Also, Monday and every night from opening at 5 pm to 6 pm the restaurant has a seafood happy hour, with a choice of five or six different fresh oysters on the half shell or peel-your-own shrimp for half price.
We started with a dozen oysters on the half shell -- six small briny Wellfleet and six large Malpeque -- at the special happy hour price of $1.50 each. That's a good price for Asheville, though we look back with fond nostalgia on the 50 cent "ersters" in New Orleans.
With the oysters, my companion had the Greenpoint cocktail ($12) -- kind of a fancy Manhattan, with Bulleit rye, yellow Chartreuse, Carpano Antica red vermouth and Peychaud's and Angostura bitters, served up. Excellent! I had a solid G&T with Hayman's Old Tom gin ($8) and a Wicked Weed IPA on tap ($5).
With the two cocktails, one craft beer, a dozen oysters and two cheeseburgers with fries, the total for the two of us came to $59 before tip.
By the way, the Monday specials are popular. Arriving at 5:30, we got the last available two-top table. You might think about making reservations, even at 5 or 5:30.
We've been to Bull and Beggar before, but that was not long after it opened in late 2013. We had forgotten how much we like the decor -- brick warehouse walls and exposed piping. There's seating upstairs in a loft area as well as at the bar and in the smallish main dining room It's at the far end of the Wedge building in the River Arts District. You can count on the Wedge brewery being busy with lots of cars in the large parking lot.
Service was uber friendly.
Overall, a great burger and a pleasant early evening at an affordable price. But you can also drop some serious money on regular menu items at Bull and Beggar. For example, the two-tiered seafood raw bar platter is $85 and the 36 oz. dry-aged bone-in ribeye is $75 (both serve two.) Most regular entrees are near $30. So plan accordingly.
Gallery Mugen and Yuzu Patisserie Cotton Mill Studios, 122 Riverside Dr., River Arts District, Bakery, open Mon.-Sat. 11-4 Inexpensive
This is a combination pottery studio, gallery and patisserie. While craft artists Akira Satake and Barbara Zaretsky work in ceramics, Cynthia Pierce’s medium is sweet and savory pastries. Pierce, formerly a pastry chef at a local restaurant, sold her pastries under the Sweet Life Bakeshop name at the Asheville City Market. Most of the baked goods are in the French or German tradition, but some have a Japanese influence. For example, galettes and tarts might have green tea flavors.
The Junction 348 Depot St. # 190, River Arts District, 828-225-3497, www.thejunctionasheville.com; New Southern, open for dinner Tue.-Fri., brunch and dinner on Sat., brunch only Sun., closed Mon. Moderate to Expensive
We were knocked out ... by the hip River Arts District atmosphere at The Junction (everybody seemed cooler and better looking than we), the friendly and professional service, the interesting drinks selection and the food, which we’d describe as eclectic contemporary Southern.
Many ingredients here are locally sourced, and all meats are antibiotic- and hormone-free. The menu changes frequently, but expect to pay about $14 to $23 for dinner entrees. We started with the fried okra, whole pods lightly breaded and nicely deep-fried, attractively presented with a Hollandaise-style sauce ($8). I had the tea-brined fried chicken ($16), which was amazingly good, with fresh tomato "stew," not exactly what you think of when you think fried chicken, but which worked very well. The smoked barbecued ribs ($23) were good but perhaps a bit heavy on the smoke.
We’re more vodka martini or Jack on the rocks types, but many seem impressed with the innovative cocktails menu (mostly $9 to $12). The PBR, however, was only $2. If there's a downside, it is that the noise level is very high. The brick walls and concrete floors send sound ricocheting, and even sound-deadening panels on the ceiling don't help much.
With tip and tax, our meal ran a little over $80, a fair price for a nice evening. On a return visit with a party of five, we spent about $200.
Smoky Park Supper Club, 350 Riverside Drive, north edge of River Arts District, New Southern, currently open for dinner only. Expensive.
New in September 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 rate this new restaurant four stars 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. Potential pollution issues aside, this sounds cool, but for most dishes I don't know that you can tell the difference from dishes from a regular kitchen. The oven itself looks pretty small.
My companion and I both had specialty cocktails to start ($10 each). I had a pear gin & tonic, which was better than it sounded, but next time I'd get the regular old G&T. My companion had an Old Fashioned with Bulleit rye, which was okay but seemed a bit bitter.
We both had the Apple Brandy Farms Burger ($13, with no side). With smoked cheddar, tomato, "charred herb mayo," and a big white bread bun, It's one of the better burgers in Asheville. However, it doesn't hold a candle to the top burgers in the region. Once again, 7 or 8 oz. of meat in one big sloppy patty does not necessarily a great burger make. The trend now is to a stacked two-patty cheeseburger -- they're the ones winning the awards these days. Look at Bocado and Holeman and Fench in Atlanta, for example.
Plus, the burger comes with nada. No side at all, except a quarter of a pickle. You have to pay $6 for each side -- "smashed potato" or collards or kale or whatever. That brings the total for a burger and potato to $19 plus tax and tip. You can get a Prime burger and fries in the bar at Ruth's Chris for a good bit less.
By the way, the smashed potato is a baked potato that's literally been smashed flat, with some "garlic cream" and olives on top.
But, despite the overpricing, the burgers and sides were tasty.
Our biggest issue, and I do understand that the restaurant hasn't been open long, is that the seating is kinda crazy. Most of the booths are for EIGHT -- and how many people come in groups of eight? We were seated in a high top section in the back. We did have a good view of the French Broad. But overall I think the restaurant needs to rethink its seating -- it has few two tops or four-tops or booths for four or even six. There is picnic table seating outside, which would be great on a nice day, but not, as today, when it was raining.
Also, on the main door there's a sign saying that the restaurant serves lunch, which it doesn't yet (but may soon). So what's with the name -- Supper Club?!
Service was very good ... for us. But a couple seated near us was ignored for 20 minutes, and they got up and left. Again, it's probably a matter of getting a new restaurant organized.
By the way, vegetarian options here are limited at present -- there was a salad and a seared three-cheese sandwich on the menu, and a couple of the sides may be vegetarian (though the collards were cooked with bacon).
Our dinner for two -- burgers, plus one cocktail each and one draft each (local drafts are $5) -- came to almost $90 with tax and tip. If you had bar snacks -- things like hot chorizo & cheese curd dip ($9) or a regional cheese plate ($16), a few drinks or wine, and a main entree such as sunburst trout ($22) or bone-in strip steak ($27), plus the a la carte sides, dinner for two could approach $200 -- pretty pricey for this kind of place. Did I mention that the containers keep the sound bouncing around -- it was pretty loud, and while busy it was not 100% full (again, several of those booths for eight ended up with two or three people.
Right now, the restaurant doesn't have a website or even a Facebook page (except one put up by someone else), and reaching the restaurant by phone has proved difficult. Sort of makes it hard to make reservations.
We found a parking spot, but because there was a bike function going on at the place next door on this night, the parking lot was full, and people had parked along Riverside Drive and in various places nearby -- made for sort of a dangerous situation, given the lack of street lighting in that area.
We'd go back, and we suspect this place will end up being successful, but we're hoping for a few changes.
12 Bones Smokehouse 5 Riverside Dr., 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 to 4, 12 Bones 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. As with any good 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. A half rack of six bones is $11.50 with two sides and cornbread, and a full 12-bone rack is $19.50. Sides include collard greens, corn pudding, mac and cheese, buttered green beans and mashed sweet potatoes. Also served are pork, chicken, turkey and beef brisket BBQ sandwiches and plates ($4-$8). There’s limited inside and outdoor seating, though many order for takeout. The crowd ranges from hippie potters from the River District art studio to downtown business people. A second location in South Asheville (3578 Sweeten Creek Rd., Arden, 828-687-1395) is open 11-6 Tuesday-Saturday, but after 4 pm it’s only open for takeout. 12 Bones was sold to some long-time employees in mid-2013 but appears to be continuing its winning ways.
White Duck Taco Shop 1 Roberts St. #1, River Arts District, 828-258-1660, www.whiteducktacoshop.com; Fusion Tacos, lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat., closed Sun. Very Inexpensive to Inexpensive; also has a location on Biltmore Ave. Downtown
White Duck Taco is a neighborhood joint for the River Arts District, serving a limited menu of interesting a la carte "fusion tacos" such as Banh Mi Tofu, Black Bean, Bangkok Shrimp and Lamb Gyro. All are moderately priced -- most under $4 -- and two tacos make a filling meal.
The atmosphere is funky but structured, if that's possible. You line up to place your food and drink order-- the menu is hand written on a large board above the counter -- pay for it, then find a table inside (fans but no A/C) or in good weather at picnic tables outside. Waitstaffers bring your order, and it's all quickly and efficiently prepared and delivered. You're warned, though, that waitstaff don't take drink orders. The website specifically says "We are a restaurant, not a bar. With this in mind please understand our view of alcohol is as an accompaniment to food. ... Our food runners and bussers will not take drink orders (or any orders) from you after you are seated." In short, if you need a second beer to wash down your tacos, you'll have to get back in line and wait. Our bill for four tacos, chips and two margaritas came to $33 with tip.
The restaurant is Living Wage Certified. A first-time visitor might have a little trouble finding the restaurant. Look for the bright orange building on Roberts Street toward the north end of the River Arts District, with picnic tables out first and below that a parking lot. There's a small sign for White Duck below a much larger sign for The Hatchery, a group of galleries and studios.
White Duck Taco now has a second location at 12 Biltmore Avenue, Downtown, at the site of the former Circle in the Square, in Downtown Asheville in early spring 2014. The Downtown location ihas a similar menu and prices as the original location. The owners, Ben and Laura Mixson, also are expanding to the Charleston, S.C., area.
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 vegan 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 (carry out and delivery only) and its main brewery on Coxe Avenue Downtown (see Beer City section).
Avenue M 791 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-350-8181, www.avenuemavl.com; American/Eclectic, dinner Tue.-Sat., brunch and dinner Sun., closed Mon. Moderate to Expensive
In the site of a former paint store and then a bar, Avenue M is a neighborhood restaurant with a good following in North Asheville. Dinner entrees, mostly $11 to $18, range from hanger steak to salmon to a vegetable tangine. The bar has a good selection of local and other craft beers, plus wine and a number of unusual cocktails. Half-priced martinis on Thursday.
Chiesa, 152 Montford Ave., North Asheville, 828-552-3110; www.chiesaavl. Daily for dinner except Mondays. Italian. Moderate to Expensive.
Chiesa isn't amazing Italian, but it's good neighborhood Italian, sort of a more hip Vinnie's.
I love the atmosphere, though it is LOUD (I thought our waiter asked me what we wanted to drink, when in fact he asked if we had been here before!). It's a small place, probably 40 seats max, but nicely done up in a sophisticated way.
Prices are reasonable, service is good and the owner is on hand to greet familiar faces.
But two things bother me: One is that Chiesa doesn't serve espresso. What?!? An Italian bistro that doesn't have expresso!? And another is that apparently veal is rarely if ever on the menu. A day without espresso and veal is like un giorno senza sole!
We started with a Peroni draft ($5). True, Italians aren't known for their beer, but it's nice to have draft Peroni, and I was thirsty. The complimentary bread with olive oil is a nice touch, and it's interesting how many Asheville restaurants charge for bread.
My small Caesar's salad ($5) was indeed small but tasty. For a main course I had the spinach ravioli with meat gravy ($18), with the ravioli a lot better than I could make at home. My companion has the eggplant parmesan with fettuccine ($16). We each had an excellent glass of Sardinian rosso ($11) -- very nice! Cannonau di sardegna, I think it was.
With two beers, two glasses of wine, one salad two entrees and a cup of (PennyCup, which I guess is local) coffee, dinner came to around $79 before tip. Fairly easonable.
I enjoyed the ambiance and energy, but whether I would put Chiesa on my list of regular stops I'm not sure. The menu choices are limited, and I'm not sure there's enough variety to tempt me to come more than once or twice a year. That being said, it seemed that quite a number of guests were regulars, so maybe there's more to Chiesa than meets my eye.
Gan Shan Station, 143 Charlotte St., North Asheville, 828-774-5280; www.ganshanstation.com. Asian fusion. Open daily except Sunday for lunch and dinner. Moderate to Expensive.
Gan Shan Station may deserve five stars on the basis of its kitchen’s creativity, the excellent service, the delightfully original renovation of an old service station space and the nice selection of Asian beers in bottles from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Sri Lanka and China. But like the sticky rice used in several of the dishes, the sticky question is whether we will become regulars here.
In many ways, Gan Shan Station reminds us of Ben’s Tune-Up on Asheville’s South Slope, which opened to great anticipation a couple of years ago in an interesting space with a somewhat bizarre Japanese-inspired menu, and later with a change of chefs switching to more Chinese dishes and an emphasis on its late-night bar business. It also brings to mind David Chang’s Momofuku, which opened as a noodle bar in New York and has since expanded to a group of hip, small, variously named, Asian-inspired restaurants in New York, Toronto and elsewhere.
Gan Shan, which means Sunset Mountain in Mandarin, with the logo written in simplified Chinese characters, is in a former Gulf service station, and the owners have done a stunning job converting the space, leaving the shell of the old building and some of its original elements, while bringing energy through the open kitchen. There’s plenty of parking, except possibly on the busiest of nights, and in good weather there will be outdoor seating.
We arrived at a little after 6 pm on a Thursday and were immediately seated at one of the last remaining tables. The restaurant was full while we were there, but there were people waiting only during one short period. It’s walk-in only here, no reservations accepted.
As for the food: We stayed with the starters ($6 to $8) and small plates ($9 to $14), although there are several mains ($14 to $19) and family plates ($25 to $40). On this night the special family plate was a deep-fried whole flounder, fresh from Charleston, at $40.
The Szechuan Pig Ears appetizer ($7) was interesting, with crispy strips of fried pig’s ears, tree ears, lime, cilantro and garlic, but, unexpectedly, it was served cold, and is not something we would try again. The Thai fermented sausage ($8) with sticky rice, a cabbage leaf and peanuts, was much better. Then, with our Hue and Lao beers ($4 a bottle), we enjoyed the Glazed Pork Ribs ($14) with a honey, lime, chili and scallion sauce. These seem to be a favorite among customers, and they were good, falling-off-the-bone tender. We also ordered the spicy pork meat dumplings ($9 for 5), which were better than some earlier reviews had suggested. To offset the heartier meat dishes, we had the heart of palm salad (a steep $9), with a little bit of green mango, carrot, grapefruit and quite a bit of shaved fennel bulb – not bad, but again, nothing that would draw us back and overpriced.
Our server, Georgia, was excellent, and dishes came out quickly, as they were ready. There are a bunch of people working the line in the open kitchen, and delays were never a problem.
As noted, the question is whether this will be a place that will draw us back again and again, as do wonderful Asheville restaurants such as Chestnut, Limones, Cúrate, Rezaz, Fig, Ruth’s Chris, Zambra and The Junction and neighborhood or specialty spots like Papas and Beer, Nona Mia, Sunny Point, Avenue M, Pack’s Tavern and Zia Taqueria. At this point, I’m thinking it will be more like Ben’s Tune-Up, where we’ve only been twice for a meal in nearly two years plus once for drinks, or some of the “New Southern” places, which are beginning to tire us.
For Gan Shan Station to make us regulars, they’ll need to expand their menu or at least rotate a larger variety of dishes and specials. We wish the owners and staff well, as Asheville is still lacking in first-rate Asian spots, but we think, like Ben’s Tune-Up, they have some tuning up to do.
With three beers, two starters, three small plates and a side of sticky rice ($3), our meal including taxes and our usual generous tip came to $80 for two, a not unreasonable price though hardly a bargain.
One other thing should be mentioned: While Gan Shan Station has a nice selection of bottled Asian beers, a short wine list, plus sake and some interesting-sounding cocktails (though I’m a Jack on the rocks or a vodka martini guy and don’t go for fru fru drinks), it only has a couple of local craft beers on draft. It’d be nice to see more support for local beers.
Updating our original reviews, a recent dinner at Gan Shan Station was excellent. We started with a Gan Shan Gimlet (lemon grass infused gin and other stuff), and it was superb. It would make a wonderful summer drink. We also had a Plymouth gin dry martini, and it was perfect, although the extra $3 upcharge for 3 olives was perhaps not merited, given the regular $10 price on Plymouth gin (John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee drinks Plymouth gin). We then switched to Lion stout from Sri Lanka, just to be exotic.
Among the highlights of dinner were the Korean chicken wings appetizer, the steamed pork dumplings (amazing!) and the Drunken Noodles with black bean chicken.
Service was excellent, though the server was only on her second day on the job. The space is still wonderful, and we arrived early enough so that we weren't overwhelmed with the crowd or had any trouble finding parking.
Clearly, Gan Shan is getting better and better.
Homegrown 371 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-232-4340, www.slowfoodrightquick.com; breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, Southern, 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 tx 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 for under $8, or a fried chicken biscuit for $3.50. For lunch or dinner, meatloaf with gravy, roasted parsnips and collard greens is under $10, as is buttermilk fried chicken with two large sides. The restaurant’s power is partly solar, and Homegrown provides compostable takeout boxes and recycles wherever possible. Beer and wine only, no cocktails. Homegrown has a fairly low visual profile on busy Merrimon Avenue – look for Blackbird Frame & Art, which is next door.
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
Nine Mile is a perfectly good small neighborhood restaurant, with amiable staff, affordable prices and a comfortable setting in the heart of the Montford Historic District, but why do so many consider it one of Asheville’s best restaurants? It’s simply a mystery to us. At dinner, you might start with hummus and natty bread (about $6). 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 ($18). Or try the signature dish, grilled jerk chicken with peppers, tomatoes and squash, served over pasta, quinoa or rice ($10.55-$12). Dinner entrees are $9 to $18. Lunch entrees are around $7 to $10. Beer and wine only. Nine Mile has a second location in West Asheville at 751 Haywood Road.
Plant 165 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-258-7500, www.plantisfood.com; daily for dinner, brunch Sat.-Sun. Vegan, Expensive
This is not your Auntie Jane’s veggie joint. Plant has overcome its location, a former TransSouth loan office and coffee shop, among other things, a little away from churning downtown crowds, to become what most everybody says is Asheville's best vegan and best vegetarian restaurant. Plant serves sophisticated dishes like chanterelle and lobster (no, not that lobster) mushrooms with mashed Yukon potatoes, presented in a snow-white bowl-like plate, just like in Manhattan. On a recent visit, we had the mixed mushroom grill with farro risotto, topped with arugula ($17). Another is our party ordered the raw enchiladas ($15), and even they were pretty good if you’re a raw food sort of person. We started with the flamed seitan skewers with fried bananas ($8). Lovely, and the seitan tastes just like chicken, of course. The homemade ice cream (made with coconut milk) is fantastic. We had the banana ice cream with macadamia nut topping and caramel sauce ($2 for a single scoop). Fabulous, especially with a shot of espresso ($2.50).
The decor is minimalist, with just one piece of art and a window overlooking the new Harris-Teeter supermarket across Merrimon. There's outside seating on the south end of the building, though it's not exactly a sidewalk-in-Paris setting. The staff is amiable. Plant offers only wine and beer, not a full bar. The organic Cuma cab was nicely drinkable. Dinner for two, with a total of two glasses of wine, one beer, one shared dessert and tip came to a little over $80.
Stoney Knob 337 Merrimon Ave., Weaverville, 828-645-3309, www.stoneyknobcafe.com; Greek-American, lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat., brunch Sun. Moderate
Stony Knob is one of the long-time favorite neighborhood restaurants for those in Weaverville and far North Asheville. The menu is extensive and varied, the servings are large, prices are moderate to high-moderate and service is friendly and prompt. Words fail us in trying to describe the decor. The booths near the open kitchen remind us of a diner, while the two end dining rooms are on the funky side of interesting, with Greek busts mixing with religious sculpture and icons, all with a 1960s psychedelic twist.
On our last visit, we had a selection of appetizers rather than main courses. The Greek sampler with hummus, falafel, spanakopita, pita bread, olives and cheese ($11) was huge, more than enough for an entree. The fried calamari ($8.50), "Southern oysters" ($8.50) and fried green tomatoes ($7) were far from delicate, with heavy breading. The small Greek salad ($4.50) was ordinary. With one draft microbeer ($4.50), a glass of wine ($7) and a Jack on the rocks ($7) and with tip and tax, the total came to about $75, reasonable for the amount of food. Bottom line: worth considering if you’re in the neighborhood, but not worth a special trip.
Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian 641 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, www.vinniesitalian.com; Italian, open daily for dinner Moderate 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, but in our opinion the food lacks nuance and delicacy, and prices are a little high for a neighborhood eatery.
On a recent revisit, our appetizer calamari ($8) was well prepared, but the blushing pink marinara dipping sauce was heavy. The veal parmigiana ($18) was a sizable hunk of veal, a little overcooked, on a huge bed of spaghetti with that pink marinara sauce. The Wednesday-special all-you-can-eat steamed mussels ($15) in a white sauce were pretty good. Pizzas (16-inch, enough to serve two) are popular here and are only $11 to $16, plus $1.75 per extra topping.
The Top Asheville Dining Spots
(In alphabetical order)
The Admiral, West Asheville
Bull & Beggar, River Arts District
Corner Kitchen, Biltmore Village
The Inn on Biltmore Estate Dining Room, Biltmore Estate
The Junction, River Arts District
Plant, North Asheville
Rezaz, Biltmore Village
Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Biltmore Village
10 Places to Eat Very Well at Very Affordable Prices
(In alphabetical order)
Chai Pani, Downtown
Food Truck Lots, Downtown
Harris-Teeter Prepared Foods, North Asheville
Papas and Beer (Brevard Road), West Asheville
Roman’s Deli, Downtown
Sunny Point, West Asheville
Taco Billies, West Asheville
Tastee Diner, West Asheville
12 Bones Smokehouse, River Arts District
White Duck Taco Shop, River Arts District, Downtown & South
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.