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Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, sits the distinctive and eclectic town of Asheville. Known affectionately by its residents as being “weird,” Asheville is full of unique shops, talented street musicians and even a drum circle that jams out in the middle of town every Friday night. And when it comes to the city’s restaurants, the selection is every bit as unique. You’ll find everything from vegetarian fare and Southern soul food, to tapas and comfort food, you’ll find a little bit of everything here to whet your appetite.
Located in a historic bus depot from the 1920s, Cúrate serves up traditional Spanish cuisine in small plate portions known as tapas. They use traditional flavors like olive oil, almonds and sherry wine to transport your taste buds to Spain from the very first bite. Choose from cold plates like the Ensaladilla Rusa – a classic Spanish potato salad made with carrots, hard-boiled egg, piquillo peppers, peas and Spanish bonito tuna, and the Sardinas Curadas – salt-cured sardines with toasted pistachios and pickled raspberries, or hot plates like the Tortilla Espanola – a Spanish potato and onion omelet and the Canelones de Carne – pasta that’s filled with pork, beef and chicken liver topped with manchego cheese and creamy Bechamel sauce, also known as “Spain’s gift to Italy.” You’ll also find sandwiches, grilled items and deep-fried delights, as well as desserts like dark chocolate custard, baked-to-order tarts and orange-saffron flan.
Early Girl Eatery
At Early Girl Eatery in downtown Asheville, you’re guaranteed to have a “farm-to-table Southern comfort food experience” thanks to owners, John and Julie Stehling, who opened the restaurant as a place where people would gather for locally-sourced meals, great conversation and a strong sense of community. They use local produce from family farms, as well as local meats and cheeses, to create comfort foods like pan-fried catfish, meatloaf and pan-fried chicken, as well as salads, sandwiches and all-day breakfast items including omelets, pancakes and of course, shrimp and grits.
Tupelo Honey Cafe
With two locations in town, Tupelo Honey Café is a must-do stop on your Asheville foodie tour. Particularly, if you love Southern food. In fact, the theme at Tupelo Honey is “Gracious Food, Southern Roots” and you’ll see why when you take a look at their menu. Using responsibly-sourced ingredients, they craft their recipes from scratch, using traditions that were born in the Carolina mountains and change the menu based on the seasons. Some of the deliciousness you’ll find here includes appetizers like fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese nachos and South Carolina egg rolls filled with BBQ pork, watermelon relish and cilantro, entrees like sweet tea roasted chicken, blackberry habanero ribs and sweet potato pancakes that are served with buttermilk fried chicken, apple cider bacon, fried eggs, grilled fruit and pickled blueberries. Is your mouth watering yet? If not, they also have amazing desserts like s’mores cake and honey buttermilk cheesecake.
Red Stag Grill
Located in the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Biltmore Village, the Red Stag Grill will remind you of being inside of a hunting lodge – albeit an upscale one. The exterior architecture is reminiscent of a European village and you’ll find a contemporary European influence on the menu as well. Indulge in some beer-steamed mussels and shrimp to start your meal, then dig into one of their specialties like elk loin, duck breast or mountain trout, accompanied by sides like sweet potato puree or Brussel sprouts with house-smoked bacon. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a craft cocktail like the pumpkin spice martini or cinnamon apple sangria, and finish off your meal with a slice of s’mores pie or white chocolate cheesecake. But if all the delicious food isn’t enough to impress you, their menus light up too and well, that’s just cool.
The Laughing Seed
As Asheville’s original downtown vegetarian restaurant, The Laughing Seed has been offering vegetarian fare with an international touch for over twenty years. Using organic, local, farm-to-table ingredients, they serve up delicious concoctions like the Fireside Salad, made with kale, smoked onions, cranberry-pickled apples, goat cheese, pecans and shitake mushroom “bacon” tossed in sherry vinaigrette, or the spinach pesto manicotti with zucchini “noodles,” cashew ricotta cheese and sunflower seed spinach pesto. They also have vegetarian versions of Southern favorites like steak and frites or shredded BBQ.
Green Sage Cafe
With three different locations, Green Sage Café is one of Asheville’s most popular spots and a favorite with the locals. Not only do they care about serving good food made from local, organic, non-GMO and humanely-raised ingredients, but they also make it their mission to be a sustainable and environmentally-friendly restaurant. In fact, they’ve been named #1 Best Green/Sustainability-Friendly Restaurant for the last four years by Best of WNC. Their menu is extensive with plenty of breakfast options, including bowls, sandwiches, pancakes, omelets and brunch plates, as well as sandwiches, salads, wraps and rice bowls. But don’t forget to try one of their amazing juices, smoothies or milkshakes before you go, like the Love Shack smoothie made with maca, chocolate sauce, bananas, almond butter and almond milk, or the ginger chai milkshake made with coconut milk and coconut milk ice cream.