In my humble opinion, Asheville is the best city of restaurants in North Carolina. The only trouble I have when I visit (at least twice a year) is fitting in enough of my favorites while still allowing time to try one or two new places that always seem to be popping up or that I just haven't gotten to yet. It's a good thing I don't live there because I might never cook (yes, really). The trend of farm to table restaurants with simple, yet wonderful food at reasonable prices has really taken off here. It's what speaks to me.
There is also a great eclectic vibe in this city. Artists are drawn there. Diversity is the norm. It's a cultural haven in the middle of the Bible belt. The dress is funky casual and you can't tell most people's status by their wardrobes. It's just a cool place to be.
Where to Stay
It's great to stay downtown where you are an easy walking distance to all of the shops and restaurants and don't have to worry about parking. I can recommend the Renaissance (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/avlbr-renaissance-asheville-hotel/). Rooms are nice and the hotel service is good. I'm excited about a new downtown hotel that I have not had a chance to try yet: Hotel Indigo (http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/). It looks very modern and they are pet friendly (although I have not checked out the associated fees). I have also stayed at the Crowne Plaza (http://www.ashevillecp.com/) specifically because they are pet friendly. It's just a short drive from downtown and it's a tricky route until you get the hang of it. There is a golf course on site in case you're into that.
Go hungry. Take leftovers home with you (plan ahead and pack a cooler). There are so many great choices, that there's no way I'll come close to covering them all in this post, but here are some of my favorites. Sorry I don't have pictures of scrumptious food from my last trip, but check out the individual websites and I guarantee you will be drooling.
The Chocolate Fetish (http://www.chocolatefetish.com/) It's a European style chocolate shop and I always make the time to stop by. These are no ordinary truffles. Try the key lime pie flavor with graham cracker crumbs on the bottom.
Cucina 24 (http://www.cucina24restaurant.com/) Real pasta and authentic Tuscan dishes like wild boar over noodles as a special. Close my eyes and I'm back in Italy unlike most NC "Italian" restaurants.
Early Girl Eatery (http://www.earlygirleatery.com/) This place has loyal followers, especially for breakfast. Be prepared to wait for a table unless you order takeout instead. Breakfast is great, but I really love their lamb, which is from a local farm and very reasonably priced.
Laughing Seed Cafe (http://www.laughingseed.com/) Vegetarian fare. Very good. You won't believe the sloppy jo (even if you don't usually like tofu). Ordering several tapas is also a great meal idea.
Over Easy Cafe (http://www.exploreasheville.com/) A local turned me onto this place and now it's my favorite breakfast spot (not just in Asheville, but anywhere). The coffee is very good and they always have interesting specials as well as omelets, biscuits, pancakes, etc. They also serve lunch and you can order from either menu at any time.
Tupelo Honey Cafe (http://www.tupelohoneycafe.com/) Very well known and loved and it's always crowded. Be prepared to wait, or offer to sit at the bar for quicker seating. This place has been written up quite a bit. The sweet potato pancakes are unbelievable, but really everything on the menu is good.
Rezaz (http://www.rezaz.com/intro.html) Located in Biltmore Village, Rezaz is one of the best restaurants I've ever experienced. It's a little pricey, but more than worth it. You can not go wrong with anything you order. Top your meal off with a large cup of cappuccino.
Sunny Point Cafe (http://www.sunnypointcafe.com/) This cafe is in West Asheville. Most tourist information won't tell you about it, but the locals know. Great place for a sandwich or salad. A lovely garden right behind the building supplies some of their ingredients. You can't get more fresh and local than that.
Things to Do
- You are going to need some exercise to balance with all of that eating. Luckily, you are right in the middle of the blue ridge mountains. Hop on the parkway for a scenic drive and you will find plenty of places to hike or bike.
- Check out the Asheville Outdoor Center (http://www.paddlewithus.com/) to kayak or raft the French Broad river or rent bicycles.
- Parking in downtown is free on Sundays, although there are no signs to tell you so. Spring and summer are great times to visit. Peak time is around the fall leaves season, when it will be crowded.
- Here's a good website for general Asheville information: http://www.exploreasheville.com/