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Southern food recs in Asheville, NC

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My wife and I will be visiting Asheville for a weekend from Baltimore and I was hoping to beef up the traditional Southern part of our restaurant itinerary. So far, we're tentatively planning on (based in large part on reading this board):

dinners at Limones and Gabrielle's,
lunches at Salsa and 12 Bones,
breakfast at Tupelo Honey.

Of those, though only 12 Bones and Tupelo Honey seem to have a Southern emphasis to the food. Any recommendations for something I can switch out for a more Southern place (without dropping too far in terms of the food)? The only other criteria I can think of is we'd like to have at least one dinner be a nice night out, which is the spot Gabrielle's is currently holding.

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  1. I personally would skip Salsa's (although I am probably in the minority) I just don;t get the hype. You could check out Corner Kitchen in the Biltmore Village for lunch. Nice place with a southern twist (they have a website).

    1. I would add the early girl--southern local food emphasis. And I agree with the previous poster--Salsa's isn't what it used to be, the owner has opened a tapas bar(but I have forgotten the name it starts with a Z) that is especially good and has a neat atmosphere--that would be good for a nice night out and it is right over by Malaprops in downtown.

      7 Replies
      1. re: maisimai

        that's not quite right. the tapas restaurant is called zambra. it used to be owned by hector diaz (same person who owns salsa). he sold zambra a couple of years ago; food's still good, but not what it once was.

        his current restos are salsa, modesto and chorizo (i think that's what the new mexican one is). i straddle the fence on salsa; the food can be very good, but sometimes suffers from having too many ingredients thrown at it, and being rather one-dimensional (usually sweet with no contrast).

        i haven't tried modesto yet, but reviews have been all over the map, and the menu has been tweaked at least twice; he's still working this one out, i think.

        chorizo, if it's open, has not been open long, and i've heard nothing about it.

        1. re: mark

          Yeah I also agree...Tupelo Honey is always worth the wait (45min for breakfast) without being pretenious. Affordable and the best grits around. Haven't been to Zambras but I have been a die hard regular at Salsa's for at least ten years. Always happy with the menu and the service.

          The best steak I have ever eaten was at Limones, and you can't miss the Habenero Margaritas.

          1. re: annalillia

            I love food and all. But I just cannot imagine standing in line for 45 minutes for a meal. Do they take reservations? I mean I hear the place is tops so I want to give it a shot.

          2. re: mark

            chorizo is the best mix between delicious latin fare, excellent price and a wonderful environment. as hector refines his delivery in both modesto and chorizo its a great time to visit frequently. he is also quite responsive to suggestions... especially when showing your face frequently.
            hands down, hector is one of the smartest restaurant businessmen and most creative chef in asheville.. we RAVE about him when people ask about where to eat in asheville. chorizo and modesto are one and two on my list of restaurants in asheville depending on the occassion.
            one of the best parts of eating at any of his restaurants is his focus on local foods. truly one of the biggest players in the field to fork movement!

            1. re: bmccall17

              I have personally found Mr. Diaz's establishments to be terribly inconsistent..to the point where dining there is definitely taking a chance.

              1. re: bmccall17

                I think there are a lot of local restaurants who strongly feature locally grown. This is the "thing to do" in Asheville...from Sun Burst trout at Lobster Trap to green at Twig and cheeses at Gabrielle's. If Chorizo is featuring locally grown he's not unique.

              2. re: pslamp32

                I have reservations at your fine establishment this weekend, and am really looking forward to it. It will be our first time in Asheville.

            2. Your plans look pretty good to me. It's awfully hard to get good "southern" food in a restaurant. Tupelo Honey ought to be about as good as any along those lines.

              Personally, I like Zambra a lot better than Limones, but I seem to be alone in not being impressed w/ Limones.

              Don't miss Salsa. It kills me to hear people called Salsa "hyped". It makes it sound like some new trendy place. Salsa has become what it is through word of mouth from an absolute hole-in-the-wall with no tables 15 years ago.

              1. I ate at Salsa last Wednesday and enjoyed it as always. Those entrees can be overwhelming, both in quantity and the variety of flavor combinations. But that's what I expect, that's why I go, and that's why I hope to eat there 3-4 times per month when I become a local this summer. I also had good service.


                1. I realize that Salsa's is not a new and trendy place. I have lived here forever. i just do not like going to eat at an establishment having to hope that they are "having a good day". About half the time it is great, half not so.

                  1. Thanks for all the great info. I realize "Southern" is kind of a non-specific request, so I appreciate everyone's advice. If a restaurant that's Southern is a stretch, are there specific dishes / specialities in the same vein that I should be sure to try at the restaurants that have been recommended?

                    To follow up on a few of the specific comments: I saw the good reviews Zambra has, but since small plates are pretty well represented in Baltimore, wanted to venture out in a different direction while we're on vacation. With all the debate on Salsa, I'm eager to try it out and see for myself (though obviously we might not make every place on our list and lunch is likely to be the meal that's hard to plan for).

                    1. Breakfast - Tupelo Honey
                      Lunch or Dinner - Corner Kitchen
                      Dinner - Limones , Fig or Gabrielle's (though not even in the same class)
                      Gabrielle's is in a whole other league than Limones or Fig.
                      Interesting ones to try while in town:
                      Salsa(dinner), Tomato (West Asheville)(lunch or Dinner)- El Salvadorean food,

                      1. Where is Fig? For some reason, I thought it was near Biltmore Village but couldn't find it last week. I went to Rezaz instead and had a good meal and great service at the bar on the "fancy" side.


                        1. The Hunter's Lodge in north Asheville (Merriman Ave) does more traditional southern than Tupelo Honey or Early Girl. One of the few places who still fry their chicken in cast iron skillets rather than deep fryers. And it's always encouraging to see folks topping and tailing fresh green beans. This is pretty unapologetic, straight-ahead southern cooking, nothing fey, shee-shee, nouvelle, post-modern, reinterpreted, or rim of anything or anywhere about it. At its best in the summer when they can get good tomatoes and corn.

                          1. Fig is in Biltmore Village, well, at least on the outskirts. If you go through the Village, passing La Paz on your right you will drive for less than about 1/10th of a mile and there is a new-ish structure on the left right before a road that bears to the left. This is the building. There are condos in the top and retail shops and Fig in the bottom. As far as Hunter's Lodge...it is very, very normal food. I compare it to home cooking when you don't feel like cooking at home.

                            1. If you make a drive to Tryon N.C. you can have an absolutely uncompromised Southern dinner at the Caro-Mi. The ham is out of this world. So are the chicken livers, biscuits - small and pale, exactly like my very southern mother in law's, and served with an ambrosiale concoction of fried apples. Also on the menu, exceptional fried chicken, and an absolutely mysterious cabbage dish that straddles the definition of kraut and slaw. They also have a trout that is perfect everytime. If you order the ham it comes with grits that are the perfect consistency. Frank Stitt and the Southern Food Alliance could not improve on anything there. It is sublime in its very simple, gracious, consistent Carolina way. Everything is homestyle, the setting is gorgeous and the service gracious. If you truly want to eat southern food, you should eat at Caro Mi early in your trip, because chances are you will want to go again before you leave. It is an easy drive out of Asheville towards South Carolina. They are closed Mon-Wed. You can google them for more info. Do not miss it!!!

                              1. Thanks everyone! I've copied down the addresses to your suggestions and will try to hit as many as I can.

                                1. do not miss 12 bones - but remember it is only open for lunch on the weekdays (closed on weekends, no dinner). pulled pork plate and ribs are out of this world and the side dishes are phenomenal - esp the collard greens and cheese grits. don't miss tupelo honey either - but be prepared to wait. we were there on saturday at 2pm and still had to wait about 15-20 minutes.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: miss piggy

                                    i'm with miss piggy when it comes to 12 bones- can't beat the pulled pork with three ribs and the collards and grits? no one comes close to 'em!!

                                  2. I got back from my trip to Asheville and wanted to thank you all again for your tips and provide a short trip report (limited by my spotty memory - especially of the dishes I didn't order). In the end, we went to Limones, Tupelo Honey, Gabrielle's, and Early Girl Eatery. We didn't make it back to town for lunch, so we missed Salsa and 12 Bones.

                                    Tupelo Honey and Early Girl were both breakfasts and big successes. I had the sweet potato pancakes at Tupelo Honey and the black-eyed peacakes (from the specials menu) at Early Girl. The sweet potato pancakes were fantastic and along with some biscuits and gravy filled me up well past lunch. The peacakes were something I had never had and were delicious.

                                    Limones was dinner on our first night in town and provided a great way to get the weekend started. I had a berry / cayenne margarita to start, which was nearly perfect (my only (slight) critique is that the cayenne taste built up as you drank it, so by the end it dominated the taste of the drink). The menu was genuinely interesting and even where there were slight misses in the execution of dishes, they were easily out-weighed by the creativity of the dishes. A roasted tomato soup starter particularly stood out - flavorful and rich, without being heavy.

                                    Gabrielle's was the only modest disappointment. The food was quite good, but more competent than interesting (the desserts were a particular disappointment). I had the rockfish was perfectly cooked and a high point of the meal. The service, however, was a step or two below what I would expect at that price level (especially since there were only four tables occupied in the restaurant). In particular, we got a poor reaction from the server when we didn't order wine with the meal and dishes were dropped off without any description.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: ark

                                      Thanks so much for the feedback!

                                      1. re: ark

                                        I'm a Boston hound visiting Asheville this week. Have been looking forward to Tupelo Honey and Early Girl but its Monday and both were closed for dinner yesterday and today. Went to Salsa's last night and really enjoyed it. Had a pork on plantain dish. Pork was exceptional. My wife thought that the flavors of her dish blended together after a while.

                                        Today since the places on our list were closed, we went to Laughing Seed, a vegetarian restaurant. I'm a carnivore and was dubious about this but my meal was very good. My wife and shared shitake-corn cakes and a foccacia-gorgazola melt. Salad came with delicious dressings. Still looking forward to some Southern cuisine, thanks for the Hunters Lodge tip. As for barbeque, we stopped at Bridges Barbeque Lodge in Shelby on the way to Asheville and that's probably as good as it gets.

                                        1. re: chuck s

                                          Still in Asheville. After eating in the above, very hip, "everyone is from somewhere else" spots, we took the advice of a couple of posters and went to Hunter's Lodge for some Southern cuisine. It's in a 1920's log cabin which hasen't changed, including the furniture and table clothes. I felt like I was in a 1940's movie. Everyone was from central casting. I expected to see John Garfield and Lana Turner. The biscuits and sides of fried green tomatoes, fried okra, cole slaw, and cucumber salad, were very good. My wife's broiled trout was also very good. The pan fried chicken which I was looking forward to and which was described on their website as including a breast, thigh, wing and drumstick, was only a boneless fried breast. The breading and frying were fine but the lack of bones resulted in a dry and less flavorful piece of chicken. All in all, a good experience. The all you can eat pulled pork and fried shrimp plate on another table looked very good. Maybe next time.

                                          1. re: chuck s

                                            we were there recently as well. Everything is a bit bland and boring to me and the unseasoned cornmeal type breading I find annoying and unsatisfying. I hate to use salt but found I had to use it liberally here to even get some hint of flavor. Crabcakes were very bread-y, collards were tasty, and bread was good. I'll stick w/ my earlier description "home cooking (well, not my home) when you don't feel like cooking at home"

                                      2. I recommend the Sunnypoint Cafe in West Asheville. I believe it's the best breakfast in town. Also think the Corner Kitchen and Early Girl will be you best bets for a "southern" lunch. But also look at Rezzaz's, Fig and Zambras for a great dinner

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: catsailor

                                          On a recent trip to Asheville, my friends and I were very impressed with Sunny Point. The bacon and sausage were perhaps the very best I've ever had, although admittedly I'm not a major bacon or sausage connoisseur (but I would be if more of it tasted like this). Yum! Pancakes were very good, too. One member of our party was a vegan, and he enjoyed Sunny Point a lot too, and they brought him good soymilk for his coffee. The only problem was that the food took a while to come out, but we can't really complain since we were a large party and the place was very busy -- it was a Sunday morning and very crowded.

                                          1. re: catsailor

                                            I agree. Sunnypoint is a very nice place to eat. Their biscuits and sausage is quite sublime. Staff is friendly too. Try to beat the rush on Saturdays though because it stays quite packed on Saturdays :)
                                            I ate their almost every morning when I lived in West Asheville.

                                          2. ouch...you really should say something to Gabrielle's about your experience. We go there for our special occasions and once we had a fish that was just ok - not under/overcooked but just a bit bland and we said as much and instantly the manager and the chef came out to apologize and the item and more was swiftly removed from our bill - though that wasn't our intent.

                                            1. I'd pass on Gabrielle's. It seems to be more miss than hit and the service needs help - my folks were there a few weeks ago and their waiter was so inattentive that Dad inquired as to whether he had a pulse or not.

                                              Sun Point (West Asheville) has nice breakfasts too. I hit that often since it's a short walk from home.

                                              12 Bones is a must do. I've eaten there several dozen times and the food is always outstanding and the staff are always up.

                                              Salsa is more hit than miss, the last time I was in there Hector was there and was in a foul mood, he tore one of the staff a new one right in front of a full house, which startled my daughter (dude, take it out back). The food is good though if that type is your style.
                                              No one mentions the Rabbit Motel? :(

                                              Oh, pass on Moose Cafe. When I was working in the hotel biz their line was "all veggies fresh from the farmer's market". The beans I had were canned and the carrots tasted like they had spent several months soaking in water. The chicken was ok though, I thought I had a better meal at Cracker Barrel. :P

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: rick in asheville

                                                that behavior, is unfortunately, not rare.

                                              2. Went to Limones Thurs, 6/19/08. Good menu. Spoke to waiter and was informed seafood fresh, straight from Charleston. Opened with Civiche; fresh, timed right and really good. For the mains I got Horseradish-Potato crusted Seabass, wife got assorted seafoods. Both really good, perfectly cooked and obviously fresh. To point- the scallops were fresh and a lesson in perfect scallop searing. The Meyer Lemon cooked shrimp were delish and were cooked spot on. They also has a crab tamal that was totally unique and very flavorful. My seabass was tasty and cooked perfectly. Good desert menu also. Wines unique and good. Waiter knowledgeable and very helpful.

                                                What I found to place them above most (Charleston included) was the freshness and the ability to cook seafood perfectly.

                                                Not outstanding traits you would normally expect in the NC mountains.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: byteme55

                                                  Thanks for the Limones review...it is not surprising to me that you got good seafood cooked perfectly in Asheville. Besides the Grove Park Inn, Biltmore Estate and Gabrielle's we have many fine restaurants with exec chefs/owners who have graduated from CIA and Johnson Wales as well as other fine culinary institutions. If you had made the trip to say Marion or Hickory or Murphy...your chances of having a similar meal would be slim to none.

                                                  1. re: leahinsc

                                                    We live approx. midway bet. Chas and Asheville. For years when we wanted a special meal / weekend, we head to Chas....but Chas seems to be resting on their laurels (and unjustifyably pricey). We have been getting much more interesting, creative, and better prepped meals in Ashev.. The culinary skills gathering in the city are evident. The infrastructure of locally grown and prepared foods (especially the meat) is unique and is providing an experience that cannot be easily duplicated elsewhere.
                                                    Also Ashev. breweries and music scene = way cool. The city has a great vibe and everyone is so friendly. We are often in WNC to visit family and leaving a day early to hit Ashev. makes the trip much more fun.

                                                2. I would say give Modesto's a shot. I hear persons saying the food is iffy, but these reviews are from back in 2006-2007. For the money the food is good with a little taste of Europe in Asheville. Which btw, most in Asheville aren't accustomed to. I've travelled extensively and you get what you pay for. Expect 8-24 USD pp
                                                  Lobster Trap is a good place to eat, 18hr lobster tails, so fresh isn't a problem. Plus free entertainment, best place I've found recently. Expect 35-60 USD pp, excluding drinks. If your looking for good country food for 10 USD try Moose's this place has done nothing but grow grow grow. Chinese? Asiana Grand Buffet 15-25 USD pp, or Oriental Pavillion 10-45 USD pp. I hope this helps.
                                                  PS Need help for Europe? Oh and happy to help.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: zandorit

                                                    wow, once again ... interesting to see how tastes differ. but it is also dangerous to make judgements on the palates of locals and imply that we have not travelled and therefore don't know what is good. Having travelled to Greece, Paris, Hungary, Austria, Germany and Italy within the past 3 years I think I've experienced "a little taste of Europe"
                                                    Have tried Modesto in 2008 and been underwhelmed w/ food and service. I think Lobster Trap is ok but can be overpriced. Some dishes are great and others just mediocre. They excel at their bar though and it is a great casual spot to have simple things like oysters on the 1/2 shell or shrimp. Moose's is very basic and if you like country food and biscuits in a plentiful supply in a shoddy place (why, if they're doing so well can't they fix carpeting and clean bathrooms?and make the place smell better as you walk in?) then Moose cafe is the place for you. Asiana Grand Buffet(s) just cater to the glutton in many of us...nothing great but lots of it.

                                                    1. re: leahinsc

                                                      i have to agree w/ leah on Moose cafe. The biscuits are good, but not good enough to make me eat there, it's just out-of-can meat and three IMHO.

                                                      Modesto, though, is a conundrum. I've had some FANTASTIC items there, and a few seriously bad ones. I'm usually one to roll the dice when the chance of getting something brilliant presents itself, but I'm finding it harder and harder to get lucky there.

                                                      1. re: danna

                                                        agree. moose=seriously bad canned meat.

                                                  2. Cats & Dawgs is a good place to eat. You can expect quick service and nice music over the PA with no squabble. It's not the Ritz, but a great place for a quick lunch :)

                                                    1. Pineapple Jacks on Haywood Rd is a good place to eat. Their wraps are divine and they share a wireless signal with friends. Chad has remodeled PJ's recently to make it a bit wider and the help there including Sabrina are warm and come by your table frequently to see what you may need.
                                                      I give Pineapple Jacks a two thumbs up.....nice work Chad & Crew. If you stop in tell them Dragons Of Darkness sent you///

                                                      1. West End Bakery? A cool place to be in West Asheville. Be early because I've seen WEB packed full with lines quite a lot. And do not forget the doggie snacks while your there.
                                                        Nice place and surprised Asheville has it.
                                                        That makes me think I need a West End snacklet.....chow chow heads.
                                                        Dragons Of Darkness

                                                        1. Short Street Cakes in West Asheville....Haywood Rd but you cross over 240 and keep driving for about another mile, bear left and as the road goes downhill towards Asheville it's on your LEFT. GREAT cupcakes...natural and organic ingredients. Get little bitty ones for $1 to taste and then splurge on bigger ones...

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: leahinsc

                                                            I was just across from that place today. My family has the heating cooling place across the road.
                                                            I like pies, do they make Custard Pies?