Clubs and Nightlife
"The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind."
Drinkers and clubbers are fickle, so music clubs, watering holes and dive bars tend to change frequently. For the latest hotspots and openings and closings, see Asheville’s Mountain Xpress newspaper (a free tabloid-size paper published every Wednesday) or check review sites such as Yelp on the internet.
Note that a number of the clubs and bars in Asheville are “membership clubs,” which basically means that under rather ridiculous North Carolina beverage control laws the bars don’t serve enough food to qualify for a restaurant liquor license (to do so food sales must total at least 30% of revenue), so they are licensed as private clubs. This doesn’t mean you can’t go in and drink, but you may have to pay a small fee (sometimes as little as $1), separate from any cover or admission charge, to join the private club, or often you can be signed in as a guest of a member.
Here are some of the Asheville nightspots popular at the time of this writing in 2013. For more options see also the Beer City USA and Dining sections. Especially notable spots are highlighted in RED.
Music Clubs and Listening Rooms
Barley’s Tap Room (42 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-255-0504, www.barleystaproom.com) has live bluegrass and other music three or four nights a week, with no cover charge. The bar and restaurant (serving pizza, wraps and burgers) on the first level offers about two dozen microbrews on draft, and a second bar upstairs has a pool table, darts and more taps. Despite the fact that this is a bar, Barley’s is family friendly.
Broadway’s (113 Broadway, Downtown Asheville, 828-285-0400) is a dive bar with a good jukebox and a pool table and cheap PBR on the first floor. Live music, mostly garage rock, happens on the second floor. This is a private club, so you have to join or sign in as a guest, but it's no big deal.
Bywater (796 Riverside Dr., North Asheville, 828-232-6967, www.bywaterbar.com) is a unique combination of picnic grounds, bar and music club near the French Broad River. Bring your own food and cook it on one of the charcoal grills beside the bar, or buy from a rotating food truck. Bywater is set up as a private club, with a $5 membership fee. Live music most nights.
Grey Eagle (185 Clingman Ave., River Arts District, 828-232-5800, www.thegreyeagle.com) in the River Arts District is a very popular listening room with live music most nights. Mostly this is a rock venue, with national and local bands. Some name artists like Loudon Wainwright III, Chris Smither and Arlo Guthrie have played here. Ticket prices vary but range from around $10 to $25 and usually with no age limitation. There’s contra dancing on Mondays and occasional open mic nights. During the day, Grey Eagle is a taco joint.
Isis Restaurant & Music Hall (743 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-575-2737, www.isisasheville.com), in a full-tilt renovation of the old Isis Theater, most recently Pastabilities restaurant, comes alive with music after 10 pm. On the ground level, after you enter under a faux movie theater marquee, there's a dining area in the front of the restaurant and the main music stage at the back (where the movie screen was), with a bar connecting the two areas. On the second level, a more intimate bar/lounge, with a piano and small stage, is ideal for a lounge lizard or jazz trio. Overlooking the main music stage is a standing area for drinkers and music listeners. Music is an eclectic mix of bluegrass, rock and reggae, with jazz or a lounge singer upstairs. Drinks at Isis are moderately priced, with cocktails mostly $6 to $9, wine around $7 a glass and draft micro-brew beers $4.
Jack of the Wood (95 Patton Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-252-5445, www.jackofthewood.com) is a comfortable, friendly Celtic-style bar Downtown featuring English ales from Green Man Brewery. The music is mostly acoustic, with bluegrass picking and Irish tunes.
Lexington Avenue Brewery (39 N. Lexington Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-252-0212, www.lexavebrew.com), known as LAB, is a popular brewpub and restaurant. Open daily with live music many nights. If you don’t want to go home, there’s a hostel, Sweet Peas, above LAB.
The Mothlight at Mr. Fred's (701 Haywood Rd., West Asheville ,www.themothlight.com), new in the fall of 2013 at the location of Mr. Fred's Beds, is open daily from 5 pm to 2 am. There's live music three or four nights a week, mainly by local and regional bands, and you can dance. The Mothlight space has brick walls and a West Asheville feel. Street parking is available along Haywood Road; avoid parking on Jarrett Street, which is for local residents only. The Mothlight is a private club. You have to sign in as a member or as a guest.
Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club (101 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-225-5851, www.theorangepeel.net) is Asheville’s top mid-size venue for live music. In the 1950s the building that now houses the Orange Peel was a skating rink, and then it became a series of R&B clubs. It opened as the Orange Peel in 2002. In 2007, the Smashing Pumpkins played a nine-night gig at the Orange Peel, drawing national attention since this was the group’s first performance in the U.S. in six years. The next year, Rolling Stone named it one of the top five rock clubs in the country. Although it features many local and regional bands, it has hosted a number of big names, including Bob Dylan, Joan Jett, Blondie, Beastie Boys and Modest Mouse. After an expansion in 2009, the club now can handle up to 1,100 standing. And we do mean standing – there’s limited seating at the Orange Peel so be prepared to stay on your feet. The dance floor has springy wood slats. The PULP is a private club below the main level, seating up to 150 and serving drinks. The Orange Peel doesn’t have a parking lot, so you’ll need to park on the street or in nearby lots such as the City of Asheville garage under the Aloft Hotel. (When popular groups are at the Orange Peel, you’ll pay event parking rates at the Aloft garage, generally $7.) If you don’t have a car or don’t feel you should drive, when you’re ready to leave the club will call a taxi for you. Ticket prices at the Orange Peel vary from around $5 to $35, and more for a few acts.
Tressa’s Jazz and Blues Club (28 Broadway, Downtown Asheville, 828-254-7072, www.tressas.com; closed Sun.-Tues.) at one time was a lesbian club, but Tressa’s is now more focused on its jazzy, bluesy music (think New Orleans) though it still gets a significant LGBT crowd. Tressa’s has a full bar. It operates as a private membership club, usually has a cover ($5 or so) and attracts an older crowd than some of the other clubs.
Westville Pub (777 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-225-9782, www.westvillepub.com) is a popular West Asheville bar with live music many nights. Food is okay but not the main reason to come here.
Bars and Taverns
The Admiral (400 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-252-2541, www.theadmiralnc.com) you probably would consider more of a dive restaurant (but an excellent one) than a dive bar, but some people consider it both. It does have a divey bar feeling, dark, with low ceilings, and it’s in a concrete block building in a downscale section of West Asheville’s Haywood Road. It’s usually packed, though, so it’s not a place you can just drop in for a beer, at least not during dinner hours. After around 10 pm on weekends, the tables and chairs in the main room are pushed back, and a DJ plays tunes for dancing.
Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar (Grove Arcade, 1 Page Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-252-0200, www.batteryparkbookexchange.com), relocated to the Grove Arcade from the Battery Park Senior Apartments, is a combination used book store (with some 22,000 titles) and a wine and champagne bar (you also can get beer). Books and wine – what a concept!
Bier Garden (46 Haywood St., Downtown Asheville, 828-285-0002, www.ashevillebiergarden.com) offers about 200 different beers, including around 30 on draft, most priced at under $5 a pint.
Red Stag Bar at Bohemian Hotel (11 Boston Way, Biltmore Village, 828-505-2949, www.bohemianhotelasheville.com) with its garish decor, heavy on the reds, may put you mind of an old New Orleans bordello, but if you’re in Biltmore Village it’s a convenient place to get an after-dinner drink.
DeSoto Lounge (504 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-255-1109, www.desotolounge.com) was voted Asheville’s best dive bar by Mountain Xpress readers. Limited bar food, mostly small plates and sandwiches. There’s Ethiopian food on Tuesdays. Jukebox with a lot of indie music, pinball and foosball. Very loud.
5 Walnut Wine Bar (5 W. Walnut, Downtown Asheville, 828-253-2593, www.5walnut.com) has added more jazz and other music, so now it’s a place to hear music, not just to have a quiet glass of wine. Lots of brick and wood, and the wines are affordable, most $7 or $8 a glass.
Foggy Mountain BrewPub (12 Church St., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-3008, www.foggymountainavl.com, open daily for lunch 'til late night) is tucked off the main drag on Church Street. We had some brews and shots at Foggy Mountain (sometimes locally called Foggy Bottoms). While we didn't try the food, we're told the burgers and sandwiches are good, The beer was cold, service friendly and live music (some nights) was okay.
Great Hall Bar at Grove Park Inn (290 Macon Ave., North Asheville, 828-252-2711, www.groveparkinn.com) in the bar in the lobby of the century-old resort, but what a lobby this is! Two 14-foot wide stone fireplaces bookend the historic room, and you can wander out to the Sunset Terrace dining room and take in the views of Asheville. Drinks are fairly expensive -- signature cocktails are $12 to $16 and aren’t big pours, beers are around $5 and wine by the glass averages $10 – but you’re paying for the ambiance and part of the hotel overhead.
Greenhouse Moto Café (Mills River, 4021 Old Haywood Rd. (Brevard Rd., NC Hwy. 161), Mills River) has 26 beers on tap and about 60 vintage motorcycles on display in a glass greenhouse. It's not really a biker bar, though. It opened in March 2016. Somewhat in the same vein, Moto Vicious, a motorcycle repair shop at 99 S. Lexington Ave in Downtown Asheville ., also serves craft beers with its gears. Beer City Bikes at 144 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, offers beer with a shop full of bicycles.
The Junction (348 Depot St., River Arts District, 828-225-3497, www.thejunctionasheville.com) has a hip River Arts District atmosphere, with an interesting drinks selection and eclectic new Southern food. The cocktails menu (mostly $9 to $12) is one of the most creative in town, but the PBR is only $2. In good weather there's outside seating.
The Prospect (11 Buxton Ave., South Slope, Downtown Asheville, 828-505-0766). This is a no-frills old-school bar with a jukebox and a pool table.
Rankin Vault Cocktail Lounge (7 Rankin Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-4993, www.rankinvault.com) is dark, popular and mostly local, with cocktails moderately priced at around $7 to $9 for most. It does have an actual room-sized bank vault in back. Parking is handy across the street at the City of Asheville’s Rankin garage. The Vault also has a good burger. You place your food and drink order at the bar, and it's brought to your table.
Santé Wine Bar & Tap Room (Grove Arcade, Suite 152, 1 Page Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-8188) serves both wine and beer out of kegs. There’s also wine in bottles. In good weather there’s outdoor seating.
Sovereign Remedies (29 N Market St., Downtown Asheville, 828-919-9518. www.sovereignremedies.com) is in a cozy, elegant but fairly small space in a convenient location Downtown, diagonally across from the Asheville Community Theatre. Bartenders serve up creative craft cocktails at not-too-expensive prices, but if you're more old-school they'll also do traditional drinks like Gin & Tonics, Old-Fashions and such. This newish bar is a fine place to enjoy a nightcap after dinner Downtown. The bar also is open for lunch, serving a limited menu.
Social Lounge and Tapas, formerly Sazarac (29 Broadway St., Downtown Asheville, 828-575-9005, www.socialloungeasheville.com) is Asheville’s take on an adult cocktail bar. There’s bar (and limited table) seating on the main level, and an appealing rooftop bar upstairs.
Sky Bar (18 Battery Park Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-225-6998) in the historic Flat Iron Building is Asheville’s bar with a view. The bar literally is on the fire escapes of the sixth, seventh and eighth floors, with nice views to the west especially at sunset. To get there, believe it or not, you take an elevator with a real live attendant. There’s no cover charge but there is a one-drink minimum, and the drinks are a little on the pricey side ($10 or so).
Storm Rhum Bar and Bistro (125 S. Lexington, Downtown Asheville, 828-505-8560, www.stormrhumbar.com) is more of a restaurant than a bar, but you can get cocktails ($8 to $10) and a good burger with fresh-ground meat. Fairly dark, and it can be loud.
Thirsty Monk (92 Patton Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-5470, www.monkpub.com) has around 60 tap lines with a rotating list of draft beers. Over the course of a year the bar serves more than 1,000 different beers. Some complain about the relatively high cost of brews here. The bar also has a brew pub in South Asheville at Biltmore Park and a location in north in Woodfin at Reynolds Village. Top of the Monk, upstairs at its Patton Avenue locale, is known for creative cocktails.
Timo’s House (5 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-575-2886), a newish spot on Biltmore near Pack Square, with a DJ and dancing most nights. It has a giant Jenga game.
Tiger Mountain Thirst Parlour (103 Broadway St., Downtown Asheville, 828-407-0666) opened in mid-2012 on the lower end of Broadway near the expressway and was an instant hit. (It was voted “Best Scenester Bar” in the 2012 Mountain Xpress poll.) During Bele Chere 2012 it allowed only locals in, with an ID to prove it, no out-of-towners. Very kitschy atmosphere with red lights and velvet paintings. Some consider it a singles spot.
Wedge Brewing Co. (125B Roberts St., River Arts District, 828-505-2792, www.wedgebrewing.com) in the old Farmer’s Federation Building in the River Arts District is one of Asheville’s most popular brewpubs. A kid’s playground and picnic/seating area is outside. The bar doesn’t serve food, except free peanuts, but you can buy Korean BBQ or tacos or other items from food trucks that set up here. In summer, the Wedge shows movies outdoors. The bar is very dog friendly.
Wicked Weed Brewing (91 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-575-9599; www.wickedweedbrewing.com), next to the Orange Peel, opened in late 2012 and instantly became one of Asheville’s most popular brewpubs. There’s a good restaurant upstairs, serving pub food and more, including steaks, mussels and trout, in a beautifully built out space with raw brick and a glassed-in open kitchen. Prices are a good value. The tasting room and brewery are downstairs.
W xyz Bar at Aloft Hotel (51 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-232-2838, www.aloftashevilledowntown.com) is on the second floor of the hotel. You can sit at stools at the bar, in chairs in eye-popping colors or sip your drink on an outdoor ledge patio overlooking Biltmore Avenue. Re:mix lounge, connected to W xyz bar, has free Wi-Fi and a pool table.
LGBT Bars and Clubs
O. Henry’s (237 Haywood St., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-1891, www.ohenrysofasheville.com) is one of the oldest gay bars in North Carolina, usually attracting an older, quieter male gay crowd. The Underground at O. Henry’s is a second bar and dance space at the club. Under new management.
Scandals Nightclub (11 Grove St., Downtown Asheville, 828-252-2838, www.scandalsnightclub.com), around for more than 30 years, is usually considered Asheville’s top gay bar, though many patrons are not LGBT. It’s actually three venues in one, part of a complex of clubs and bars at historic 11 Grove Street, at one time Asheville’s YMCA, the others being Boiler Room (a live music space) and Club Eleven on Grove (a somewhat quieter lounge). The main Scandals Nightclub has a lot of room for dancing, drag shows and live music.
Smokey's Tavern, a fixture in Asheville for 60 years, closed in 2015 after a lease dispute.
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