City Guide - Asheville
North Carolina is beautiful state and one I've gotten to visit several times. I had never stopped in Asheville, so the time had come to see what had everyone oohing and ahhing when I told them it was the next city I was going to explore. These are not all of the places I visited, but the ones worth telling you about.
Asheville is a city surprisingly lacking in a variety of local coffee shops. After sampling two other places this became our go-to. They have two locations but I was partial to the one downtown on Rankin Avenue because it was a more cozy space and also lent itself to grab' n go coffee for exploring the shops nearby.
Trade & Lore is located on the very charming Wall Street and was the perfect spot to kill some time from the long brunch wait at Early Girl Eatery. It's a pretty big space with not a lot of places to sit which was a bit confusing.
Regardless of not enough spots for butts to plop the coffee was good and of course I love me some good branding.
My visit here was a pretty quick in and out as we made our way through the River Arts District but the iced chai was good. There were plenty of places to sit and they even had some food options.
You'll find out more about our visit to the Wedge Brewery later, but I was there strictly for the tacos. El Querubin sat unsuspectingly outside of the Wedge on a quiet afternoon with a simple menu sign. I opted for a few chorizo tacos and they were perfect with a bonus of cojita cheese. They don't have much of a social media presence so while in Asheville you may have to do some high-level food truck investigating to find them, but it will be worth it.
Located in West Asheville this place reminded me a lot of Lazy Moon here in Orlando (but better). Huge create-your-own slices for $2.25 with some delicious crispy crust. A great spot for good pizza at the perfect price.
This place was one of the highlights of my trip to Asheville and I'm so glad the talented Born and Bread baker herself recommended this place to me because I went twice.
It has a Little House on the Prairie vibe with the addition of homemade doughnuts. You get to watch the whole process unfold in front of you. Shaping the dough, frying it, and watching as the toppings are dusted on. They are smart and keep things simple with only four options to choose from. Fresh from the fryer you got a hot, light, and basically perfect doughnut. They were all delicious but I think the almond sesame cinnamon was my favorite. DO NOT go to Asheville without visiting Hole Doughnuts. It is by far the superior doughnut spot in town, and yes I had others.
I had a few breakfast disappointments in Asheville (I'm looking at you Early Girl), but Biscuit Head saved the day and I clearly should have visited them more than once.
I not just that the biscuits are heavenly tongue pillows, but the assortment of homemade jams at their jam bar are gooey accoutrements you cannot ignore. It's an overwhelming variety of choices but you can take small paper ramekins and try as many as you like. I quickly became obsessed with the sour cherry jam and smothered it all over my biscuit, something this non-southerner doesn't normally do.
I love Indian food, although that wasn't always the case. Chai Pani takes Indian food and puts a brilliant and youthful street food twist on it. There is good reason for these dishes to be on your travel eats list. Meherwan Iran, their chef, is a twice nominated James Beard culinary powerhouse.
Pictured below for example are the Bombay Chili Cheese Fries. Spiced lamb hash piled high on our masala fries, topped with paneer, onion & cilantro.
Their Thalia meals are huge and plenty to keep you full and happy for hours. This is another do not miss while you are in town. They have a mobile reservation system, so head over put your name in and explore the many shops nearby until you get a text that your table is ready.
I dare not try and tell you where to go for beer in Asheville for many reasons including I don't like beer and there are far too many places to pick from. What I can tell is where I went as a non-beer drinker and how I felt about those places.
Wicked Weed seemed to be the most popular spot to hit up if you are a beer lover, so of course it was on our radar. It's a big place with upstairs and downstairs seating area along with two open patios. Plenty of space for thirsty locals and tourists and it was always busy when we walked by.
Thankfully for this hater of hops they had cocktails, so I was able to get a delicious grapefruit moscow mule-esque drink that left me feeling like I belonged at the crowded bar. Also good to note, Asheville state law doesn't allow flights of beers or ordering another drink while you are still drinking one. So don't get your flannel in a bunch when you get turned down by your bartender.
We honestly went into Catawaba because we had time to waste while we waited for a table at Buxton Hall next door. This was a smart synergistic move as these two places share a main entrance. As Babette from the Gilmore Girls says: "Location, location, location".
They had an adorable blue-grassy duo playing, lots of people hanging out enjoying brews, and little kids dancing to the live music. It was what I had noticed about the city my whole trip. It's young and full of life. 20 and 30-somethings with kids take them out everywhere and still enjoy their lives. All venues are for everyone with no judgmental glances to worry about.
I helped myself to a small pour of a cider they had and enjoyed the chill ambiance
Perhaps the best place I found to drink my calories was the Urban Orchid Cider Company. True "cider bars" are hard to come by so needless to say I was in a state of adult-apple-juice bliss here. For some reason I was allowed to get a flight of cider, so I got to try four varieties. What was great about this place was the intriguing variety. From the potent taste of ginger and jalapeno to the softer fruity blends I got to indulge in drinks tailored for me, the lone cider drinker in a city of beer fanatics and it felt good.
The Wedge, located in the River Arts District, is a sprawling outdoor space with a small bar with the brewery indoors. We were told by a local to visit and try the Iron Rail IPA, which is quite popular and sells out on a regular basis. Due to the hype by a local beer enthusiast I decided to give it a swig and I actually didn't cringe much or call it poison. The citrusy flavor was incredibly fresh and with a 7.0% ABV it still packed a punch.
Asheville is not lacking in art lovers with galleries and an art museum to explore. There is also the River Arts District made up of 22 former industrial and historical buildings now the home of many artists and working studios.
Beyond that you can easily catch sightings of local street art all over the city.
Downtown is where you will find the bulk of locally owned shops. Vintage stores, music shops, gift shops and several book stores line the city streets. My favorite hands down was Honeypot Vintage. We even found a comic book shop outside of the city and a mall that makes the West Oaks Mall look like they've got it together, so plenty of spaces to explore for better or worse.
Where to stay: There are hotels downtown, but we enjoyed an AirBNB in West Asheville that was walking distance to local shops and restaurants as well as a grocery store if you have a longer stay. It took less than 10 minutes to get into the core of Downtown and was not far from entering the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check it here.
Do you need a car? If you are planning a short weekend trip and staying downtown and don't wish to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway you will be fine without your own wheels. In all other instances a car would be very helpful for maximum explorations of Asheville's adjacent nature and outer city limits.
Are there live music venues to check out while I am there? Yes! The Orange Peel is downtown and home to many national touring acts as well as local bands and events.
Fly or Drive? No major airlines fly direct from Orlando International to Asheville so be ready to have a quick plane hop in Atlanta, otherwise if you have time for a road trip it will cost you eight hours each way. You can check the Sanford airport for direct flights on what I call the scary airlines.
Here's a little virtual taste of the city to enjoy.