Asheville, North Carolina has claimed its place among notable American dining cities—an impressive feat for a town of just 80,000 people. It’s hard to choose just ten “best” restaurants here, but this list will give you a good overall view of the city’s food scene. Come hungry, and enjoy the warm Southern hospitality the region is known for.
The pride of Asheville’s dining scene, Cúrate serves up Spanish tapas with a farm to table twist. Case in point: dishes such as grilled chorizo with olive oil potato puree and fried eggplant drizzled with mountain honey. Cúrate, which means “cure yourself” in Spanish, is located amid the hustle and bustle of downtown Asheville’s historic district. After dinner, head around the corner to sister concept Nightbell—which has its own tantalizing menu—where you can sip craft cocktails made with seasonal ingredients and hand-carved ice.
11 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville. Phone: (828) 239-2946
Ready to be transported to the tropics? This sunny, veggie-friendly café offers a wide variety of super-fresh, Caribbean-inspired cuisine. The tempeh chili is a twist on a Southern classic, as is the grilled jerk Carolina trout in white wine ginger curry sauce. Health-conscious diners will be happy to see gluten-free fusilli on the menu, as well as a raw zucchini spirals which can be substituted in any rice or pasta dish. Save room for dessert: the black pepper-seasoned chocolate spliff cake with lemon thyme pastry cream is an unusual combination, but it works.
233 Montford Avenue and 751 Haywood Road, Asheville, 828-575-9903; 828-505-3121
In India, “chai pani” is slang for going out for a cup of tea or a tasty snack. At this innovative Indian street food joint, you’ll find traditional dishes (often with a modern twist, as in the kale pakoras) alongside Indian-American mashups like Bombay chili cheese fries: spiced lamb hash atop masala fries with paneer, onion, cilantro and tomato chutney. This is another restaurant with a sister concept right around the corner—MG Road specializes in craft cocktails and eclectic wines from around the world.
22 Battery Park Avenue, Asheville, 828-254-4003
Red Stag Grill
Whether you choose to have breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner at this rustic, European-style grill, you won’t be disappointed. With a focus on locally-sourced meats and sustainable agriculture practices, hand-hewn beams and plush booths, it’s easy to feel right at home. Located inside Asheville’s Grand Bohemian Hotel, the restaurant is known for its fine dining with a Southern flair. The buttermilk fried snails with squash purée and field peas are a perfect example.
11 Boston Way, Asheville, 828-398-5600
All Souls Pizza
Warning: once you’ve had All Souls Pizza, there’s no returning to mediocre pies. Here, all grains are milled in-house, and each pizza is prepared in a wood-fired oven. The pizza dough is naturally leavened from fresh stone-ground flour, which maximizes flavor, nutrition and digestibility, and the menu showcases North Carolina ingredients like local beets, squash and smoked shrimp. For something different, try the country ham and egg pizza with (gluten-free) polenta crust—it can double as breakfast too.
175 Clingman Avenue, Asheville, 828-254-0169
Rhubarb is innovative Southern cooking at its best. Think barbecue lamb ribs with collard green kimchi, or pickled shrimp with fried green tomatoes. If you can, go for Sunday supper—at 6:30 p.m. every Sunday evening, the restaurant serves a communal-style three-course dinner. Not only do ingredients reflect the bounty of Asheville’s local seasonal markets, these dinners are personally hosted by a local chef. Snacks are passed around, entrees are served family-style and you’ll finish with a simple, but delectable dessert.
7 Southwest Pack Square, Asheville, 828-785-1503
If there’s one thing Southerners know, it’s biscuits, and this place holds the title for the best in Asheville. Besides the fact that you can feel great about eating here—the owners strive to make the restaurant as close to zero waste as possible—the food is, as they say in the South, “slap-your-mama” good. Menu standouts include the mimosa fried chicken biscuit (served with Sriracha coleslaw, sweet potato butter and a poached egg), and smoked chèvre grits. Vegetarians will love the house-made “chorizo” and gravy flights—the smoked tomato creole and sweet potato coconut options are not to be missed.
733 Haywood Road, Asheville, 828-333-5145
You won’t find many vegan restaurants in North Carolina—after all, the state’s most famous cuisine is pulled pork in a signature vinegar-based sauce. Plant, however, is a welcome oasis for vegans and meat-eaters alike. Even the most committed carnivores can’t resist dishes like caramelized Jerusalem artichokes with lemon cream cheese. For dessert, indulge in the mocha creme brulee.
165 Merrimon Avenue, Asheville, 828-258-7500
Speaking of barbecue, 12 Bones does it right. President Obama even took Michelle here on a family vacation to Asheville. There’s not a lot of extra seasoning of the meats going on. Instead, they let the technique—long smoking time over select hardwoods—speak for itself. You’ll find all the classics including ribs, brisket, chicken and pulled pork, alongside sinful Southern sides like collard greens, corn pudding and jalapeño cheese grits. Standout side: smoked potato salad.
5 Riverside Drive and 3578 Sweeten Creek Road, Asheville, 828-253-4499; 828-687-1395
Don’t be fooled by the modest cinderblock building in a working class neighborhood and across from a gas station in west Asheville—this place serves some of the best food in town. The menu changes daily, but no matter the season, your taste buds will be in for a treat. A large selection of wines, cordials and after-dinner drinks will complement your meal perfectly.
400 Haywood Road, Asheville, 828-252-2541