(Updated 2023) There are SO many good dining options in Asheville, and a number of our restaurants have received accolades and awards, cementing us as a “foodie” destination. You can easily do a Tripadvisor or Yelp search to see the top reviewed. We’re not attempting to replicate that, but offer some of our favorites, and the type of atmosphere to expect. You can also reference Asheville Independent Restaurant organization (AIR)’s website for current restaurant hours and dine-in/out status. https://www.foodinasheville.com
To combine your meal outing with a local beer, see recommendations for breweries in the Asheville Drinks section, or to combine them both with a hike, see our “Bites, Boots, & Beer” section.
Be sure to check out current hours, kid or dog friendliness, prior to your visits.
Downtown Asheville has become a foodie mecca; there’s a plethora of unique options, with virtually no “chain” eateries to be found. Wherever you go, we recommend allowing ample time to just meander and let your eyes and ears show you around, particularly when the weather is warm and the creativity of the town is more on display. Also, many places don’t take reservations and can fill up, so a taste of wandering serendipity and flexibility may be part of your evening.
Beginning with the simplest eats, if you don’t want to spend most your time or money at lengthy sit down meals, and would rather spend more time hopping around for food / drinks at a few different places and listening to street buskers or people watching in between, then you can get good quick eats and spend less money at Baba Nahm (MiddleEastern) in the Grove Arcade, or White Duck Taco (downtown location), or for a variety of fast options, check out the historic Art Deco S&W Market Food Hall which has several unique local counter service eateries and Highland Breweries downtown tasting lounge.
On the other hand, if you’re in town for a special occasion or want the finer fare of a refined sit-down meal, then try Limones (artisanal Mexican), Cúrate (a 2022 James Beard winner with excellent Spanish tapas), Cultura in the South Slope, The Market Place (serving craft meals with seasonal, local ingredients long before downtown was cool), Zambra’s (Tapas), or Bouchon (French comfort food) are a few favorites, although many places could go on this list.
For more of a “best of both worlds” balance of fine food in a casual setting that is uniquely Asheville, consider Chai Pani (another 2022 James Beard winner, manicured Indian street food in a sitdown restaurant), Sovereign Remedies (Slick bar with refined seasonal food menu), Early Girl Eatery (Farm to table comfort food), Heiwa Shokudo (Japanese / sushi), Salsa’s (Latin local), The Vault (clever bar with an awesome burger) and Mehfil (Indian).
After Dinner Desserts in Downtown:
Treat yourself to some truffles and a hot drink at The French Broad Chocolate Lounge but be prepared to wait in a line out the door. The Chocolate Fettish is good for take home delicacies. The Book Exchange Wine Bar is a labyrinth of bookshelves and cozy nooks for a drink or dessert. Double D’s Coffee & Desserts is literally a Double Decker bus serving coffee and desserts. Crave Dessert Bar is high end fancy, but the outside patio is one of the best places to people-watch the sidewalk nightlife.
Away from Downtown:
These are some of our favorites because they started out in random or neglected places that didn’t already have a captive audience that downtown or West Asheville provides, and yet they became popular and thrived, and became anchors for renewed interest in their chosen location.
Nine Mile: 233 Montford Ave This Jamaican themed restaurant has multiple locations now on account of its popularity, but the original is in our neighborhood, about a half mile from where we live. We love that it is nearby for us to walk to, but it’s not just our neighborhood that loves it; voted #1 all around restaurant in Mountain Express locals poll. No reservations and is likely to max out over dinner, so consider arriving ahead of the dinner rush.
White Duck Taco Shop: The original location in an old hatchery building in the River Arts District couldn’t contain its popularity, and now it boast several locations in town, but Riverside Drive one on the northern end of the River Arts District is the most quintessential Asheville, particularly with nice weather to site outside by the French Broad River. Great food and friendly prices. It currently sits at the end of our ever expanding greenways along the river, so it also makes for a good meal in conjunction with a bike ride, stroll or jog.
12 Bones BBQ and Wedge Brewing (Foundation location): These two founding fathers of the River Arts District’s popularity, now share space in a revitalized collection of warehouses near the tracks. Apart from the great food or beer, it’s worth it for a visit just to see the showcased graffiti art all over. Check 12 Bones for hours, as they are lunch only and limited on weekends.
Decades ago, this side of Asheville was disparagingly referred to as “Worst Asheville” for its struggling homes and businesses. But all those early 1900’s brick storefronts on Haywood Road are the very types of venues young creative entrepreneurs have prized for revitalization efforts in the early 2000’s, now making West Asheville one of our most desired neighborhoods. Rather than radiating around a town center, West Asheville’s “hip” zone is linear, following the long line of Haywood Road for nearly 2 miles, full of popular restaurants, brewery/bars, and unique shops, with a younger, more hipster vibe. Haywood Road is buffered on both sides by old residential neighborhoods, and at least for now, no modern hotels or condo-developments capitalizing on its popularity.
The many restaurants range from the upscale culinary craft of Jargon to the casual pub fare of the Universal Joint or Oyster House. If you’re there for breakfast or lunch, Sunny Point and Biscuit Head are very popular (always lines out the door so expect a wait). The main core of West Asheville is where Haywood meets Brevard Road, but you can follow Haywood Road a mile in either direction to further encounter the offerings and character of West Asheville. It’s best enjoyed as a pedestrian, so find a parking spot and walk a stretch of it.
Don’t really care if it’s organic, local, farm to table, etc…
We’re also big fans of traditional diners. While the food may not be as crafty and local as the trendy progressive places, the people who eat there are more local, more culturally diverse, and less pretentious. Our favorites are “The Med“ downtown (breakfast and lunch) and 5 Points Diner (just off downtown). These are the places that were around offering down home affordable meals when downtown was a commercial wasteland, before it got super popular, and we’re so glad they’re still around just being themselves without all the trendy buzz.
A great breakfast, as well as good views, is “Hemingway’s Cuba” downtown, which is the Cambria hotel’s rooftop bar/restaurant. Also popular for breakfast and lunch is “All Day Darling” in our Montford neighborhood with a great patio during nice weather. Mentioned above already are Sunny Point and Biscuit Head and Tastee’s Diner in West Ashevllle. If you’re looking for more of the traditional down home diner, try “The Med” downtown and “5 Points Diner” mentioned above, or if on your way for a hike or drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway “Moose Cafe” by the WNC Farmer’s Market.