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Asheville Food Scene -- What does it need?

I will be moving to Asheville in June. Outside of the Triangle, Asheville would seem to be the best food town in the state. I was wondering what the locals thought the town needed, if anything, food-wise.

Also, can you get local, grass-fed, pasture-grazed beef or pork?



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  1. we need good bbq. the bbq scene has improved a little, but we still don't have any really stellar stuff.

    good mexican - there are many mexican places, but most are cut from the same cloth, where a combo 13 at one will be basically the same as at any other. there are lots of little markets that serve tacos and the like, as well as a couple of taco trucks, but we don't have any really good, mid-range, sit-down places.

    vietnamese - have to drive to greenville for it.

    cheap italian - there are a variety of mid-high end places, some good, some bad, but we don't have any good, cheap, fresh pasta & sauce type places.

    we could use a good pastry shop. there are a few places (temptations - if it's still open, it wasn't very good; old europe - ok, but nothing special, + 1 or 2 others), but none are great. i've never had a restaurant/store-bought pastry/dessert in asheville that i just had to get again.

    we could also use a good chophouse. i'm not aware of any place in town that sells a good, high-quality steak accompanied by good sides. asheville's probably a tough town to sell meat in, but i think if it were approached properly (focusing on natural, sustainable, grass-fed, (preferrably) local meats), then i think it would work.

    asheville lacks ethnic diversity. you won't find much by way of specialty food stores. there is at least one asian store. there's an eastern european store, plenty of hispanic/latin markets. very little for western europe, the mediterranean, the african continent, or middle-eastern. you can find much of what you need, as long as variety & quality aren't important, and you don't mind visiting many stores. mail order will be your friend. asheville grocers wouldn't know good olive oil from cottonseed.

    the biggest thing asheville needs? a good butcher! this is not a good town for meat. you can get popular cuts from places like greenlife and earthfare. even ingles now carries things like ground bison and the occasional hanger steak. but, it's very difficult to find larger cuts, properly butchered cuts, less popular cuts. you won't find aged meat here. there is NO good sausage. you can get local beef, but it's not easy to find, and i'm not familiar with the production conditions. there's a place in horseshoe that raises beefalo.

    pork is a little easier to come by in that warren wilson college raises pigs in a sustainable fashion. you can buy 1/4 hogs or more. i believe they slaughter once a year, which is when you'll get the meat. not the cheapest, but not outrageous, and it's good.

    fish mongers are mainly on the east side, which isn't particularly convenient. quality is hit-or-miss. variety is pitiful, although some will special order.

    sorry if i paint a bleak picture, depending upon where you hail from, asheville's probably not that bad. my frame of reference is the large, diverse city i grew up in amongst my food-loving italian family. for a town it's size, asheville's dining scene is pretty good, and the shopping scene is improving.

    for what it's worth, on the shopping front, chowhound seems to carry some weight. it seems that recently every time i bitch here about local grocery chains, which would be mainly ingles, not carrying something, it'll show up within a couple of weeks as long it's not too exotic. for instance, right after a rant about meat is when ingles, after years and years of sub-par meat, suddenly started carrying ground bison and coleman beef. it's happened with a few other things in the past year or so. probably just coincidence, but i'm starting to wonder if ingles isn't trolling around here; if so, i commend them as it's improved my shopping experience.

    2 Replies
      1. re: johnb

        what about it? it's an ok store, with some less common items, but it's pricey and inconveniently located. it's a good bet if you're having trouble finding something that isn't too exotic.

    1. For pasture-grazed beef and pork (as well as lamb, poultry, etc.) try Springhouse meats at Hickory Nut Gap Farm (www.springhousemeats.com). Warren Wilson does beef in addition to pork, but I think you have to buy a whole side or at least a quarter. I think Mark's post is very accurate, although I would give 12 Bone Smokehouse a try for BBQ. The first two times I ate there it was marvelous, the third time just OK, and it has gotten a pretty lukewarm reception elsehere on Chowhound. When Jim Leff ate there on his Chowtour, he didn't care for the post-modern self-irony of the decor and the menu, but did credit the BBQ sandwich (Chowtour Dispatch #21).
      The best pastries are at Greenlife downtown (Michelle, the bakery manager, used to be pastry chef at Zephiro's in Portland, OR -- voted best pastry chef in Portland a number of years) or at Well Bred Bakery in Weaverville. Some overlap in the pastry case as Michelle was the first pastry chef at Well Bred before she moved to Greenlife. Pastries that you will have to get again: dog bones (almond caramel bars dipped in bittersweet chocolate), ginger florentines, citrus almond cake, chocolate buttermilk cake. Eclairs are also very good (and massive). The bran muffins are very good, too, but very rich -- not exactly health food; make sure you get them with the rum-butter glaze. The Earth Fare in South Asheville also makes pastries in-house. I haven't tried them, but last I was there the chocolate torts and fruit tarts looked tempting. I agree about Old Europe being bad. I went there twice, and each time the pastry tasted like it had spent a week in the refrigerated case.
      The best thing about the food scene in Asheville is the farmer's markets scattered throughout the area in the season. There are organic farms scattered all over Buncombe and Madison counties, many of them offer CSAs, and most sell produce at the local markets.
      The restaurant scene is changing, and in general seems to be improving, although it still seems to me overpriced and of lesser quality than Charleston, for example.

      5 Replies
      1. re: JepJonson

        I agree w/ Mark, about pastry I think dessert is the single biggest hole in the Asheville food scene. I also agree w/ Jep that the pastry at Greenlife is the best thing going...except perhaps the breakfast-type pastries at City Bakery.

        Those ginger florentines at Greenlife are great! The eclairs are actually cream puffs, IMO.

        I further agree that the tailgate markets are the best things about Asheville.

        You can ride down the mountain in about an hour to Whole Foods if you have to have a dry-aged beef fix. Mark, WF has some unusual meats and seafoods. ex: skate wing, veal breast...not your average grocery store offerings.

        1. re: danna

          thanks for the wf rec. didn't realize g-ville has one. mmm... skate wing, haven't had that in awhile. i wonder if asheville will get a wf sometime?

          1. re: danna

            Having moved from Asheville to the Boone area, I've concluded that the lack of decent desserts is endemic throughout western North Carolina. Even restaurants pricey enough to afford pastry chefs have gone the route of SweetStreats or boxed desserts from Sysco. Of the few who make desserts in house, most show little imagination or flair. The standard dessert menu has a flavored creme brulee, some variation of death by chocolate/flourless chocolate tort, a fruit cobbler, and a gussied-up bread pudding -- all stuff that can be thrown together ahead of time by one of the cooks and reheated or finished for service. Very few, even at the high end, make their ice cream in-house (notable exceptions: Wildflower in Boone, who still have a proper pastry chef, and Marketplace in Asheville). And at the other end of the price continuum, I have yet to find any place that makes a really good apple pie (my litmus test for pastry shops).
            For me, dessert should be all about titillation, and the difficulty of choosing between too many temptations. In WNC it is too often a matter of do I really want to bother and risk disappointment (and by the time you reach that point disappointment is more a certainty than a risk). Maybe we need a separate thread recognizing (and encouraging) area restaurants who take dessert seriously.
            There have been rumors for several years that Whole Foods was coming -- that they were going to buy out Earth Fare (this one spread mostly, I think, by wishful-thinking Earth Fare employees), that they had purchased Deal motors on Merrimon and were going to convert that to a WF store, that they were building a new WF near the airport. Perhaps we should adopt the philosophy of Peter Pan (or is it Jiminy Cricket?); if we only wish hard enough, it really will come true.

          2. re: JepJonson

            12 bones is the improvement i mentioned above re the bbq scene. it's good, but not great stuff, and their hours stink for anyone with daytime jobs.

            i've found the things made in house at greenlife to be bad to mediocre, but have to admit i haven't ventured into their sweet offerings due to the awful savory i've had. i'll have to give it a shot.

            thanks for the meat rec, i'll definitely check that out.

            1. re: mark

              yep. in-house savory looks bad to me. We got roast beef last week. I don't know if they made or bought it, but it sucked. WF, OHTH, makess their own roast beef to be sliced in the deli. It's almost always rare and delicious.

              I'm trying to get them to sponsor our bike team. If the marketing person knew how much $$$ I spent there and how many people I have RAVED about WF to...maybe she would return my call ;-)

          3. We'll be coming from Nashville, which has a nascent food scene, some good spots and shops, but far too few for a town of its size. With its high income suburbs, you would expect much better.

            Does Greenlife have just the one location just North of downtown? This may factor into our "where to live" decision.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LPM

              Greenlife has only one location, but it is only a couple of blocks out of downtown (just on the other side of 240). If price is no object, that would indeed be a nice part of town, either in the neighborhood that edges up to the Grove Park Inn, or up on Town Mountain.

            2. I think Asheville needs good Vietnamese, Ethiopian and Thai restuarants..we have way too many EXPENSIVE Asian joints with average food..(except Noodle House...good stuff)

              1. I'd say pretty much the same as jbyoga - definitely the Thai. Greenlife is ok but you can't really shop there. There prepared stuff is virtually identical to what Earthfare has always offered. Large beer and wine selection - maybe this is where they are making their money. Their hot bar and salad bar look ok but have never tempted me overly much - not like Whole Foods. Most of the new, larger Ingles offer pretty much everything you could want - including a Starbucks (N.Asheville and Long Shoals)

                1. just curious as to why you say one can't really shop at greenlife. for the record, i don't like the store, but it has more to do with the clientele, specifically the trustafarians & yuppies, than anything else. that said, they do fill a niche that is otherwise empty in the downtown area, and they carry products that ingles/bi-lo/food lion don't. what are your reasons for deeming it unshoppable (if you'll grant me the leeway of inventing a word)?

                  1. I meant that it is more like a glorified cafe then a supermarket. It has a very limited amount of things focusing more on beer/wine, prepared foods and the hot/cold bar. The staples are much too expensive and even many of their packaged organic/natural items are more expensive then the same items at Ingles.

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: leahinsc

                        Funny how different people perceive things differently. I see Greenlife as strong on produce, bakery, bulk items (like honey and dried fruit), meats, cheeses, dairy and breads.

                      2. They just don't have the variety or the selection. They have some really good quality items but they aren't trying to be a supermarket, therefore you cannot do all of your shopping there. I think it is ok - Bakery - I wish they had individual rolls and not just loaves, their meat looks good but not incredible, they have a nice cheese selection but not vastly differnt than the gourmet selection at Ingles. Dairy - I like the Greek yogurt....I find their HBC (cosmetics, homeopathics) very good. Prices are really high for their packaged grocery items - even comparing them to Earthfare and especially to Ingles. I know a woman whose husband is a manager there and he shops for most of his staples at Ingles because it is too expensive and they have even said that Ingles' prices are better on many organic products than Greenlife.

                        1. I will make the 2-hour drive from my house to Asheville to eat at Salsa's - one of the best things going for downtown A'ville. If you want ethnic, make the one hour (or less?) drive to Greenville. They have many wonderful options (Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, German, Dutch, Greek, Columbian (South America), Middle Eastern, etc. etc.)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: emlo

                            now I would agree that Asheville has only so-so Thai but we do have some good sushi (Green Tea, Wasabi and Zen). German - Berliner Kindl in nearby Black Mtn, South American - Cocina Latina in West Asheville, Middle Eastern - Jerusalem Garden....

                            1. re: leahinsc

                              I didn't know there was a Thai place in Asheville?

                          2. My husband and I have always said that Asheville is really missing out by not having a Roly Poly! I think that would really do well here and would be a great opportunity for someone! Also, agree about EarthFare and Hickory Nut Gap Farm for meat...
                            Take care!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: jlr2810

                              Your wish is my command. My wife and I are opening the first Roly Poly in Asheville July 7th of this year at 1550 Hendersonville Rd. We will be open for breakfast, lunch and early dinner and will also offer tart frozen Yogurt which is the newest offering by Roly Poly. We welcome you and your husband.

                              1. re: rolypolyavl

                                Please expound. What is a Roly Poly?


                                1. re: Leepa


                                  It is rolled sandwiches made with top quality meats and fresh vegetables. The sandwiches are rolled so that each bite contains a little of each ingredient unlike a wrap or traditional sub where there is too much bread in my opinion. some sandwiches are grilled slightly but not too much so that you can get all the taste and benefits from the vegetables and meats. We also serve a reasonable sized portion at a fair price so you do not have to take home leftovers and eat them days later when things are not as fresh.

                            2. Just moved here from Charlotte. There are several original local restaurants uptown that I really like but I'd love to see a Jason's Deli and a Nova's Bakery. When Trader Joe's finally opened in CLT, you would've thought it was the second coming; but I think they're overrated. Recently tried Cocina Latina out on Patton in W. Asheville, was impressed. No tatted hipper than thou oh so cool snobbery there, no pretension just authentic good food and friendly servers. I'd like to see more affordable, casual type eateries with varied menus like that outside the downtown grid. Dean & Deluca or Cheesecake Factory would be fun, but don't see this area as a fit for those markets.

                              Wish list: 1) A downhome cafe with artery shaking fattening southern cooking i.e. country style steak; 2) A good fish camp with typical fried seafood and awesome hushpuppies.

                              (And Mark is right about the bbq - but you can get a fix of the best there is if you ever drive thru Shelby; Alston Bridges on Grover St. or (Red) Bridges BBQ on Hwy. 74E can fix you right up.)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mtwilkins

                                Sorry, but the last thing Asheville (or any other town) needs is Jason's Deli or Cheesecake Factory. They are the epitome of mediocre chain food.

                              2. Has anyone tried Picnics? I was thinking of taking a picnic with their pie on our trip out of Asheville. Any good? We do love good pie:)

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: gungadin

                                  Picnics is great. You order at the counter and they have it all out cafeteria-style. Pick your main dish (ex: pot pie, roasted chicken, chicken salad, pasta salad, and they always have a special or two), plus two sides (varies daily). Or get a veggie plate with 3 sides. Desserts are great, bread is OK. People in there are super nice. I never really understood it for a "picnic" though, because a lot of the food is hot so if you're driving for a while it might not be so great.

                                  1. re: miss piggy

                                    Picnics is very good but kind of expensive. Several years ago my sister gave me a picnic from Picnics and they make up this really nice basket of food. I remember it as being very good. They have great pastries and breads and I love the kale and the chicken and the duck.

                                2. Asheville needs a Vietnamese place! (I currently have to make the drive to Saigon Fast Food in Greenville to get my my fix.)

                                  1. I'd have to disagree with the comments on the lack of good meat. Go to one of the farmers' markets and make friends with the folks at HNG. If they don't have what you want on hand, you can place an order and they'll bring it next time. Beef, pork, lamb, etc...

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: sarahyla

                                      this is a two year old thread, so some of the above has changed a bit (i think hng was just hitting the radar at that point). asheville still lacks any kind of one-stop, regular business hours, 5-7 day a week butchers. you're right that good meat has become more accessible, but it's still not easy to get. and butchers often offer meat-related things like good soup bones, house-made sausages, various animal fats, etc that are still extremely hard to find here.

                                      i'm with jeff in that we still lack vietnamese.

                                      1. re: mark

                                        We need good Korean,Vietnamese and Ethiopian - Preferably dives with authentic and non touristy/overly Americanized menus. We need more dives in general...

                                          1. re: mark

                                            BUT I had a cannoli from Cucina 24 the other day, and I'll be going back for dessert. The server says their desserts are all made in house by the pastry chef. I can't wait to try more!
                                            The cannoli's shell seemed to be made of the traditional pastry dough, but had the sweet and salty taste of a fortune cookie. Maybe the frier oil was just dirty, but man, it was good. The ricotta filling had orange zest in it. A very tasty little morsel.

                                            1. re: jakistar79

                                              I am probably gonna be the villain here,but BBQ INN on Patton has good BBQ,and it"s cozy and country inside.It's very affordable,too. As far as Mexican food goes,La Posada at Oakley Plaza is great,Also Cocula in Oteen,Guadalajara and La Fiesta in Arden.If you want something you think the cook could prepare thats not on the menu,usually they can make it(Guadalajara).Sometimes you have to venture away from the downtown vicinity to get quality,affordable food.People can say what they want about Asiana,but they are consistent(at lunch and dinner not between or after)I have heard that buffets are just"glorified feeding troughs"for people.Well don't blame it on the buffet,blame that on the patrons.When I go I have a beer and 1 to 2 plates.I eat until I am full then I go home.I love Thai,but some of our Thai joints are inconsistent or they have an inconvenient location.Noi's,I would have to say is the best.Thai Orchid on Tunnel Rd. has good food,but they have wishy washy hours and last time I was there,they still didn't have beer(they might now).They had a Japanese menu,too and a Sushi bar,the guy was good,but then he up and quit.As far as Vietnamese,Wanpen in Arden used to have,but I think they're closed and the lady the seated me last time was flat-out rude for no reason.I have to say that going to Greenville just for Vietnamese is ridiculous,you must be rolling in time and dough.

                                              1. re: foodnbeer

                                                I can't comment on what you say about BBQ or Mexican but yeah, you are being a bit of a villain in regard to the Thai and Vietnamese.
                                                (1) Noi's serves up what is just plain not authentic Thai food.
                                                (2) I believe that Thai Orchid was probably the best Thai restaurant for authentic food this side of Raleigh but there is question now if they are still open. We have called them twice during business hours in the last week and get no answer and their web site is off the air. But yes, they did get their beer license maybe 2 months ago.
                                                (3) My wife and I have been going to Wanpen's for four years and in that period she never had Viet food and she certainly does not now. She is Thai, her husband is Thai and they do all of the cooking. But they are open (except on Mondays). She occasionally does close for extended periods (a month or so) when her family goes back to the home country for a visit.

                                                1. re: foodnbeer

                                                  BBQ Inn has lovely bbq sandwich's. It's been there forever and isn't going away any time soon. Now it is NOT like a fancy farty place. However I was thinking about their sandwich's last week. Dress how you like and if the trains running about in the ceiling, tell them I sent you and they can shut them down >8~)
                                                  Marginally better than Mcdonalds.
                                                  Dragons Of Darkness

                                      2. Asheville needs a good NY style deli. Yeah, we have all the trendy food one could want, but there's almost no place to get a simple sandwich.

                                        Nothing wrong with trendy food. Just saying there's a need for something else.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Leepa

                                          Asheville needs a good Mongolian BBQ like Bali Hi (not sure of the spelling) in Raleigh on Wake Forest Road. It is awesome.

                                          Asheville also needs consistency in the restaurants it has. They are all pretty much hit or miss. There are a few exceptions but for the most part you don't get what you pay for and the service isn't spectacular for the calibur of cuisine the chef is trying to achieve.

                                          And Asheville needs decent desserts. And some really good seafood. Now, I haven't been to the Lobster Trap, but every where else just hasn't met my expectation.

                                          Just my 2C

                                          1. re: Leepa

                                            Have you been to the NY deli on Long Shoals Road just before the intersection w/ H'ville Road towards the airport? It's on the side headed away from the airport and it's awesome. They serve Boars Head meats and make huge sandwiches, as well as make their own sides (like pickled cuke salad and macaroni salad) in house. It's in an inconvenient location if you don't live other there, but worth a try!

                                            1. re: Gabriella36

                                              I'll give it a try sometime when I'm out that way, but that's rather infrequent. I work in east Asheville and live in north Asheville and don't often go south.

                                              Thanks for the suggestion!

                                              1. re: Gabriella36

                                                Is this the place that was next to the self storage facility? If so, it was wonderful, but it's been closed for at least two years. If not, do you know the name? I work in South Asheville, and it sure would be nice to get a good sandwich for lunch. Also, Circle in the Square on Merrimon has Boar's Head meats, and they make great sandwiches.

                                            2. wow, no mention of Indian chow, specifically Mela? not exactly cheap, but delicious and sublime... and a must eat joint every time I'm in A-ville, so as far as I'm concerned, y'all have Indian all sewn up. I dream of their pistachio lamb curry special.. gah! yum!

                                              1. Warren Wilson has beef/pork during certain times of the year.

                                                This place has a ton of mexican joints. Like someone said they're all pretty much cookie cutter. If I need "mex" I'll go to El Chapala's. Cheap and they have ok drinks. If I'm driving around I'll hit one of the taco vans that are parked here and there.

                                                Asian places...either cheap chinese or pricey. Dragon Inn was good but their new place next to EF I thought was way too expensive.

                                                Bakeries....tons but they're all identical. I like the french place up on Merrimon if I need a fix. The "bakery" at EF I didn't like (bland). GL has some items, the jalapeno cheese biscuits are good.

                                                For BBQ I wait until I'm in Shelby then go to Alston Bridge's. Vietnamese I wait until I'm home in VB then go to Saigon 1.

                                                Restaurants up here seem to be really highly priced/over rated or so so.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: rick in asheville

                                                  I second Rick for mentioning Creme on Merrimon. They make fresh bread, pastries, confections, whole cakes in the French tradition. They even make sugar free and gluten free desserts.

                                                  1. re: Apple.at.chin.

                                                    Uh, this thread is over two years old...Time to start a new one on the subject?

                                                    1. re: Jeff C.

                                                      But more than half the replies are less than a year old. Still relevant.

                                                      1. re: Jeff C.

                                                        sadly not much has changed! still no good dives!

                                                    2. I would like to see some good Deli's in Asheville and a choice Middle Eastern place too. Jerusalem Garden really IS NOT much competition if Asheville had another. I wouldn't eat there if I were starving. The place is just dirty if you ask me :(
                                                      Oh and I'm not actually a squirrel with a bazooka. But at times I think I may need one.
                                                      There is a pic of me here. Ten years old but it's all I have.

                                                      1. Steer clear of Woolworth Walk as far as getting food. The manager is very very rude. She asked me not to return for no explainable reason. Couldn't give me an owners name, address or telephone number.
                                                        I will spend my money elsewhere. Oh well no worries just a word to the wise on this place.
                                                        Go figure.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: zandorit

                                                          Does anyone know what new restaurant is coming to town? Matt Mittan on WWNC is teasing it and says he ate at the restaurant in Charlotte today.

                                                          1. re: oppland

                                                            I think it's probably 131 Main. It is supposed to open in June in Biltmore Park. They also have one in Charlotte.

                                                        2. OK, this is an old thread, but Asheville could use some inexpensive Indian restaurants and a South Indian restaurant, for sure.

                                                          1. The Chinese food here is a joke and while Pho-r-Us does a nice Pho, we could use a few more Vietnamese places as well. The best Thai Ive found in AVL proper are Pon's and a cart called Little Bee Thai. Heres a link to my list about Thai food in Asheville

                                                            Greek food is another problem. Obviously when a place as mediocre as Apollo Flame wins the Best of WNC for 20 straight years, you need some fresh blood. There isnt a single place where you can get a gyro with meat cut from a spit in WNC that I know of.
                                                            As mentioned by others, BBQ is sorely lacking as well. Which I find quite amazing, considering..
                                                            Cuban, Middle eastern and Seafood round out our weak points.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: DrexlerMcStyles

                                                              I was just thinking the same thing about Greek food in Asheville.

                                                            2. How about a decent Jewish Deli????

                                                              1. This post is really o-l-d. Somebody please start an updated version!