The Asheville area is full of micro breweries, small farms, discerning foragers, and eager homesteaders, and dining in this mountain city is a distinctly local experience. Menu ingredients celebrate the area and its culinary talents, with produce, meat, and dairy products often coming from the restaurant’s own (or nearby) gardens and farms.
Asheville is a casual town, and many of its best restaurants are barbecue shacks, brunch spots, and sandwich joints with large servings, fun atmospheres, and no dress codes. More refined dining choices still celebrate local vibes (and local, organic ingredients), and these sophisticated, inventive menus are worth the higher price tag. Here are the best restaurants in Asheville, North Carolina.
Chef Meherwan Irani’s “chaat house” is a bustling haven of Indian street food in downtown Asheville, and has become a must-stop foodie destination. The distinct offerings here have light, fresh touches of local character. Take the okra fries, for example: a crispy, North Indian-inspired rendition of a vegetable most often associated with the American South. The James Beard Award-nominated chef prepares a tasty full menu, with snacks to share that are bursting with flavor; modern Indian sandwiches, like the chicken tikka with naan bread or the best (and probably only) lamb sloppy Joe you’ll ever try; and a choice of thali, which are traditional, specialty platters created out of favorite small dishes.
12 Bones Smokehouse
Often considered the best barbecue in Asheville, 12 Bones is known for being President Obama’s favorite place to dine while in town. The ribs, available in a few delicious rubs and sauces, are some of the best you’ll find anywhere. A variety of smoked meats are served as platters, sandwiches, or added to the surprisingly tasty (if not terribly healthy) salads, and a self-service sauce bar lets you sample all of their innovations. As far as sides go, the traditional slaw, beans, and greens are all fine, but the corn pudding and jalepeño cheese grits seriously can’t be missed. The hip River Arts District location, attached to a brewery, is only open until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but there is a second location in Arden that is open on weekends.
Smoky Park Supper Club
This new restaurant combines some of the very best things about Asheville, serving creative food, local brews, and craft cocktails in a casual riverfront setting. Most ingredients here are cooked over a wood fire, the kitchen’s specialty method that lends itself especially well to seafood like the whole local trout, grilled North Carolina. oysters, and smoked mussels. Bar food, like the smoked burger and the loaded fries, are good choices as well, and everything tastes far beyond its modest price. Sit at a picnic table and watch the river go by, or order a delicious cocktail inside the restaurant built out of shipping containers, and full of natural light.
Sunny Point Cafe
During brunch hours (and pretty much all day long), this bustling spot on West Asheville’s Haywood Road, is filled with tourists and locals alike, enjoying the friendly service and generous portions of fresh eggs, homemade biscuits, and stuffed french toast. Breakfast specialties like huevos rancheros and the indulgent brunch burger are served all day long. Next door, diners can visit the cafe’s own garden, where flowers and produce are grown for the restaurant. Dinner, served Tuesday through Saturday, is the only time reservations are accepted, and it’s best to arrive for brunch early.
This refined country restaurant serves Southern favorites with elegant twists, like collard greens with pork bottarga and kimchi; and entrees of Kentucky quail, Sunburst trout, and snowy grouper. The house pickles, cures, and preserves many of its own ingredients, and the house-cured plate—with choice pates, rillettes, and smoked fish salads—is a real treat to order for the table. The menu, dictated by local produce and meat, changes seasonally. On Sundays, the restaurant serves a special three-course meal at its communal table, inspired by the produce found at weekend farmers markets.
A favorite local secret, Nine Mile is known for its casual Caribbean vibes, big servings, and decadent, spicy sauces and rubs. With plenty of vegetarian options, entrees combine grilled protein, vegetables, and rice or noodles, to create favorites like the Raggy Road: spiced tilapia, zucchini, and peppers in a simmering sauce of white wine, coconut cream, and chipotle. The garlicky bread that comes with every meal is an added delight. Portions and prices are reduced at lunchtime, and there are three convenient locations in Montford, West Asheville, and South Asheville.
Benne on Eagle
Not only is the food delicious, but diners at Benne on Eagle get to take part in the revitalization of an African American neighborhood in Asheville. Part of the Foundry, a boutique hotel inside a former steel mill, Benne on Eagle pays homage to the neighborhood’s rich African American history and former residents (whose family members are often on staff), and celebrates the African, Carribbean, and Southern flavors of their heritage. Former Eagle Street resident Hanan Shabazz serves as a culinary mentor here, contributing such gems as Hanan’s famous fish cakes, served with a curried tartar sauce you won’t soon forget. Elsewhere on the menu, the oxtail is incredibly tender and well-seasoned, and the craft cocktails, served up by a friendly bartender, are bright and inventive.
Star Diner in Marshall
It’s worth the short trip out of Asheville to visit Star Diner in Marshall, North Carolina, a picturesque little town that sits along the French Broad River. The white tablecloth restaurant, run by the former chef of Asheville’s famous Tupelo Honey Cafe, is inside a charmingly restored 1950s gas station filled with tasteful antiques and memorabilia. Expect homey dishes like meatloaf and chicken saltimbocca, prepared with impeccable skill and plenty of nostalgia, and local trout, marinated vegetable garnishes, and indulgent fresh pasta specials. On Saturdays and Sundays, diners can reserve a brunch table for fresh farm-egg scrambles and Benedicts.
Like other Asheville dining gems, Cucina 24 takes local ingredients and incorporates them into elevated, global flavors. Here the menu is rustic, yet sophisticated Italian fare, and discerning diners can choose to snack on antipasti and wood-fired vegetables, or indulge in the consistently delicious chef’s table. The multi-course, prix fixe chef’s menu changes often, and can include everything from New York strip, to King Mackerel, to locally acquired greens and foraged vegetables, marinated with bright citrus and spices.
Downtown Asheville’s Bouchon has the warm, homey atmosphere of a small French brasserie, inspired by the chef’s childhood home in the farmlands outside of Lyon. Locals pile in on Mondays, when the excellent moules frites (prepared in classic white wine or local mustard and PBR beer for a modern twist) are all-you-can-eat for $21. The rest of the menu is full of fine renditions of the classics, like escargots with plenty of butter and roasted garlic, seafood bouillabaisse, or steak au poivre. The French wine menu is modestly priced.