Nestled in the mountains in western North Carolina, Asheville’s thriving food and drink scene is astounding, marrying global flavors and Appalachian traditions with the bounty of the region. Foodies and beer aficionados likely already have the pint-size mountain town and its CHOW CHOW culinary festival, held three weekends during the summer months, on their bucket list. Asheville was also just ranked Yelp’s No. 1 city for foodies this year. Combine a few days hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains with a food tour of Asheville for the perfect itinerary. Below, our cheat sheet for how best to eat and drink your way through the charming and green city.
Housed in a gorgeous 1920s Art Deco building, this year-old food hall boasts an ice cream shop, tacos stall as well as a two-story taproom by Highland Brewing, Asheville’s first brewery dating back to 1994. Grab some grub and sample one of the 18 beers on tap, including Peachful, a light ale made with the signature Southern fruit.
Though not new, we would be remiss not to mention this Asheville institution, which has been dishing out authentic Indian street food since 2009. Tuck into bhel puri (crunchy, puffed rice doused with cilantro, tamarind and garlic chutneys) and pav bhaji (a spicy vegetable mashed eaten with pillowy bread), paired with a mango lassi of course. Owner and chef Meherwan Irani was named a James Beard Award winner this year.
In the South Slope neighborhood, this modern pizzeria serves up delicious pies along with easy drinking beer and wine. Dig into the Spicy Yuma, with a chipotle-spiked tomato sauce, jalapenos, corn and roasted red pepper, and thank yourself later. Don’t miss the view of Mt. Pisgah from the rooftop patio either.
This trail-blazing vegan restaurant has been elevating vegetables to showstoppers for the past decade, winning over one skeptic at a time. Start with grilled carrots and shishito peppers laced with harissa and pistachios or the fantastic plant-based cheese board (picture almond ricotta and aged cashew cheese with olives, fruit and pickled veggies). The ravioli made with macadamia, cremini mushrooms and kabocha squash is another local favorite.
Bargello & District 42
This stylish restaurant, outfitted with marble, velvet powder blue banquettes and gold tones, is the flagship eatery at our very own 128-room Kimpton Arras Hotel, right in the heart of downtown Asheville. The produce-driven, Mediterranean-inspired menu features burrata with beets, citrus, pistachio and honey; falafel; lamb pizza; house-made pastas such as cacio e pepe; and saffron-laced seafood paella. Follow with cocktails at the hotel’s sister lounge and bar, District 42. Try a Banana Hammock, made with local coconut rum, banana liqueur and cardamom bitters, or a Carolina Mule, made with whiskey, raspberry red wine shrub and ginger beer.
Blueberry glaze with crushed pecans? Mango with pistachio crumble? Apple fritter? Order all the donuts at this inviting South Slope neighborhood shop, which sells until it runs out. Donuts for breakfast, donuts for an afternoon pick-me-up? You can’t go wrong either way.
With more breweries per capita than any other city in the U.S., Asheville sure loves its beer. Choosing which breweries to visit may be the toughest decision of all.
Wicked Weed Brewing
Start at this decade-old brewery and taproom for a proper introduction to Asheville’s beer scene. First opened in 2012, Wicked Brewing now boasts three locations in town. Sample the full range of ales, IPAs and barrel-aged sours. The brewery also highlights other small-batch beers and ciders, including dangerously drinkable and tasty Southern Apple Hard Cider by the Appalachian Mountain Cidery.
This massive LEED-certified outpost of the famed brewery takes sustainability as seriously as it does beer, with solar power panels, rainwater storage and the conversion of vegetable oil into biodiesel. Plan to eat lunch here too, as the menu (think vegan chili, cheese boards, pizzas, salads, banh mi sandwiches) is as tasty as the flights.
Families will especially love this unique brewery in nearby Fairview, which serves beers out of two train cars, and offers a three-acre grassy garden-cum-patio with mini golf, bocce ball, Connect 4 and even a slide, for plenty of fun and entertainment.