The food scene in Asheville, NC is exciting, with new restaurants and more local chefs focusing on Appalachian cuisine. According to Landis Taylor, public relations manager at Explore Asheville, “When people talk about Appalachian cuisine, there are several levels at play. They can refer to heirloom ingredients and a collective pantry that the chefs here. use in one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. You can also talk about techniques born out of mountain life that required pickling, conservation, and an intense focus on seasonal strategy, ingenuity, and creativity, using every edible (or wild) thing and making it last. during difficult times and cold winters. All cultures (Cherokee, African-American freed slaves, Scottish-Irish, German to name a few) have blended together to influence the dishes and techniques that have evolved over time.
Asheville’s food scene is called Foodtopia and it’s not just restaurants. You’ll find a very collaborative culinary community where chefs work directly with the makers and farmers of the ingredients that make up their culinary masterpieces. The surrounding area of Asheville is full of cheesemongers, foragers, dairies, family farms, apiaries and bakers. Visitors to the area can enjoy immersive culinary experiences such as a guided foraging expedition, farm tours, cheese trails, chocolate factory tours and a plethora of food festivals celebrating bacon, cheese, beer, cider and more.
Pro tip: I was overwhelmed with all the choices and couldn’t make a decision, so I went to an expert: Brittany, the concierge at the Hotel de la Fonderie. I explained the situation I was a travel writer working on some fantastic restaurants in Asheville. I said I was looking for different prices, and not necessarily the trendy places everyone is talking about, but the restaurants that locals prefer and visit again and again. She then gave me suggestions for each meal, and once I decided, she made reservations for me for each choice. I highly recommend using this service when staying at a luxury hotel.
The Hotel de la Fonderie
I looked at the locations of all the hotels in downtown Asheville and chose the Foundry Hotel for my accommodation. It’s a short walk from all of the downtown entertainment but located on a quiet street. The hotel accommodated me for one night and gave me a media rate for the second night. I paid for the food and drinks at the hotel.
The Hotel de la Fonderie is located in an area of Asheville known as “The Block”. It was the historic African-American business district of Asheville. The dining program pays homage to this history at Benne on Eagle, where you can sample a modern take on soul-food dishes created by Michelin-starred chef Ashleigh Shanti. Hanan Shabazz, who ran a neighborhood soul-food restaurant in the 1960s, serves as a culinary mentor. Benne on Eagle highlights the often forgotten influences of West African origins on southern cuisine.
I arrived late on a Friday and was able to enjoy cocktails and live music at the Workshop lounge. What a beautiful room. It has a clandestine bar feel, but the high ceilings keep it from being so dark. I enjoyed a Communipolitan, which mixes Tito’s, Buchaunt, sweet pomegranate molasses and fresh lime. Loved the attention to detail, like the bartender filling the martini glass with ice to chill it while he made the cocktail. It was such a tasty drink. My husband had an old-fashioned smoker, where pieces of wood were set on fire and the glass lay over them to capture the smoke. It was a very cool presentation and the old fashioned smoked was the most ordered drink while I was sitting at the bar. The Workshop Lounge also offers small bites. We shared a supply board that contained local cheese, honey, beef sticks, ham, hearty mustard, pickled raw vegetables and lavash crackers. It was simple, but so good. It goes well with wine and cocktails.
We had dinner at Tipper on Aigle for breakfast on recommendation of Britney, the hotel concierge. She said it was one of the best brunches in Asheville. I had the sweet potato pone, which was grated sweet potatoes and seasonings cooked like cornbread and topped with overly easy eggs and drizzled with blackberry sauce. It comes with a side salad, but I was able to substitute for the house fries and add a very generous side of thick bacon, which was enough for two. My husband enjoyed the Three Egg Omelet, which is a simple dish of bacon, cheddar, local green onions, and Benne seasoning. He also replaced the side salad with homemade fries. It was just a really good breakfast. It was very simple, but the fresh, local ingredients and the use of seasonings elevated these dishes.
Storm Rum Bar
Chef Jay Medford has created a destination restaurant, Storm Rum Bar, loved by informed guests to a young local clientele who like to close at 1 a.m. (late-night menu from 10 p.m.). I was lucky to have a reservation thanks to Super Bretagne. Local ingredients and classic American dishes with a worldly twist from other cultures and Chef Jay’s experience create a very eclectic menu.
I started with a craft cocktail; my Mai Tai was very tasty and lemony without being sweet. For the appetizer, I tried the Pok Pok pork meatballs which were served piping hot. Loved it showcased this perfectly seasoned meatball with no sauce, just a slice of pickled ginger on top and topped with fresh greens and blackberries.
I went on a shrimp and grits quest while visiting North Carolina, so I had to try Chef Jay’s version which was a doozy. A buttermilk waffle was topped with creamy Yellowstone oatmeal, then topped with sautéed shrimp with red peppers and pears in a sauce containing maple syrup. The huge portion could easily be shared and was very tasty accompanied by a sauvignon blanc.
White duck taco shop
the White duck taco shop is in the River Arts District on a large property with ample parking overlooking the east bank of the French Broad River. It has brightly colored picnic tables and umbrellas in an outdoor courtyard with a ‘Beer Bus’. Indoor seating is also available. The name comes from a chef who gets enthusiastic and quickly speaks to the kitchen staff, who nicknames her La Pata Blanca, which means White Duck. The menu is simple: a variety of fusion tacos with unique culinary pairings such as duck with mole, Korean beef bulgogi or mushroom potato with romesco. The menu changes frequently and everything is served à la carte to keep it affordable. Worth stopping for dinner along the river or downtown.
Blue Ridge at the Omni Grove Park Inn
the The blue crest serves the legendary Sunday Brunch at the Omni Grove Park Inn. When a resort has served customers for over a century, you know it will be good. The experience begins with your drive to the historic hotel well outside of downtown Asheville through a charming neighborhood. The anticipation grows as you climb the hills to the resort. Free parking is available in the covered car park until 3 am.
Sunday brunch is the classic luxury experience you would expect from a hotel of this caliber. The dining room overlooks the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. The artisan farm-to-table buffet fills three rooms full of delicious treats. There is even a room just for desserts. It redefines everything you imagined brunch could be. Stations include a sculpted beef au jus steamboat, omelets, Egg Benedict with poached eggs to order, and even an avocado toast station. Culinary displays include a display of cheeses and cold cuts, balsamic roasted vegetables and Rockefeller oysters. The beetles are filled with a variety of breakfast and lunch favorites, and there are a variety of salads available. My favorite was the dessert room with an action station with a chef making Foster bananas and serving a variety of chilled desserts from a crate. Another section contained individual sized desserts. It was an amazing variety, and I was in dessert heaven.
Pro tip: If you’re not a buffet fan, head to the Sunset Terrace for lunch. This magnificent covered loggia offers an incredible view and the restaurant has received ten times the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. It is known for its hand-cut steaks, premium chops, fresh seafood, and its partnership with local farmers.
Take time before or after your meal to explore the hotel and its gardens. The Moni Grove Park Inn is truly the grand dame of Asheville lodging.
The Biltmore Estate Dining Room
While in Asheville, plan to enjoy at least one meal at the Biltmore Estate. The restaurants on the estate were farm-to-table before it was even a thing. George Vanderbilt was a pioneer in sustainable land use practices and the estate breeds Angus cattle, White Dorper sheep and Berkshire hogs to supply beef, lamb and pork to the estate’s culinary program. A variety of products are cultivated and the estate’s vineyard produces Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Biltmore supports community farmers and food producers when demand exceeds production on the estate.
The estate’s most exclusive restaurant is The Dining Room, located in The Inn at Biltmore Estate. It received four stars from the Forbes Travel Guide in 2019. When you walk into this dining room, it’s like stepping back in time and you almost feel like you’re dining with the Vanderbilts. The beautiful views over the estate as well as the white linen tablecloths, fine porcelain and crystal create an elegant atmosphere perfect for savoring carefully prepared cuisine. The menu offers a variety of meats, seafood, homemade pasta, and vegetarian options that showcase the seasonal estate and local ingredients.
Note that the dress code is casual, and to dine on the estate, guests must have a day ticket, an annual Biltmore pass, or stay at a estate property overnight.
These are some of the places that I enjoyed during my visit and there are so many more that I did not visit. To learn more about the food and dining experiences in Asheville, go here.