looking for cheap (but good) eats in asheville
I've been browsing through previous posts and have not been able to find recommendations for local, hole in the wall places to eat. i'm talking about the mom and pop places that consistently draw a crowd, rich and poor, and don't necessarily have websites or get reviewed in the local papers.
my friends and are i driving through asheville in mid-June (unfortunately, on a monday evening) and while we appreciate fine dining comparable to big cities such as nyc or san francisco, we don't necessarily want to spend that much money at each road stop! and actually, after having browsed through tons of menus, mostly in the $18-$30 price range, they are not all that different from each other.
we like fresh, locally grown ingredients, if possible, and/or food with local flavor. for example, we've had excellent po boys at a bayou shack in new orleans, great lobster rolls at a roadside stand in wisccasset, maine, and the best roast duck at a hole in the wall Chinese restaurant/take out in the richmond district in san francisco (for under $5!).
right now i'm obsessed with finding a place that serves mountain trout or catfish or fried chicken/bbq/ribs) with the local fixings (and also banana pudding). but i will eat just about anything (fried grasshoppers, monkfish liver, alligator meat, etc).
i can't speak for my friends but for me, flavor trumps service and decor almost every time.
we are also heading to atlanta, memphis and oklahoma city through birmingham and little rock so any recommendations for those areas would be appreciated as well.
here's a quick rundown of some of my favorite cheap eats:
tomato cocina latina serves up salvadorian food, and you can spend what you want. a frequent repast for me is a pupusa, a tamale and a "gringo" salad, plus 2 beers. under $20, everything included. most entrees are in the $10-$20 range.
lucky otter is a good place for cheap, decent eats (various burritos/wraps, quesadillas, daily special - the thursday jamaican special is usually good) and good, inexpensive, potent margaritas.
sunny point (eclectic southern/diner food) features their breakfast & lunch menu even during dinner hours. most items on those menus are under $10 (the dinner menu is considerably pricier). the mountain trout, when it's on the menu, is usually excellent. have also had good catfish there.
doc chey's & the noodle shop for fairly inexpensive pan-asian.
papas & beer for good, cheap tex/cali-mex. they also have highland gaelic ale on tap for $2, probably the cheapest you can find it.
salsa doles out various caribbean fusion foods. food is not too pricy, but drinks aren't cheap. food is usually very good, but sometimes is one-dimensional (mainly sweet) and/or suffers from having too many ingredients thrown at it.
chorizo is owned by the same guy that operates salsa, this one has a mexican/latin american focus. prices are in about the same range as salsa. have only tried it once, and it was somewhat hit-or-miss (strengths & weaknesses along much the same lines as salsa), though mainly good stuff. hasn't been open long; they just started dinner service & opened the tequila bar a few weeks ago. i expect it to be as good as salsa once the kinks are ironed out. (modesto is another owned by the same guy. it's italian, but i'm not convinced of hector's abilities in that cuisine. also probably out of your desired price range.)
havana for decent cuban food.
12 bones for q. only open 11:00a-4:00p. not great q, but good & the best asheville offers. i've found the ribs to be inconsistent; sometimes quite good, others very dry & over-cooked.
another q place, luella's (sp?) is getting some attention for their sides, but not so much for their q. however, their hours might be more conducive if you really want q on your way through. please note, i have not tried it personally, but base this on advice from friends and local print reviews.
tupelo honey usually does a pretty good job on catfish, although it's going to trend toward the mid-teens $wise.
there are plenty of others. while there are some restaurants here that push the price boundaries, there are many more that fall into the reasonable category. personally, i find most of the pricier places disappoint when the cost is factored in; some are good enough solely on the basis of the food, but not at their price points.
as to the soul/southern food you seek ("...a place that serves mountain trout or catfish or fried chicken/bbq/ribs) with the local fixings (and also banana pudding)..."), it's not a great fave of mine, but here's what i know. the ritz, i'm told, is a decent enough place for lunch, but not worth the trek if you don't happen to be downtown already. there's a place called hunter's lodge that gets some kudos (as well as some raspberries) for their fried chicken. i believe it's served up family-style. i haven't tried it (i have a southern wife who is more than able to make fried chicken if i want it). if you can hold out 'til tryon (it's 30-40 minutes south of asheville), there's a place called caro-mi that seems to get good reviews for its southern, family-style meals. don't know if they're open monday.
that's all i can think of off the top. hope you find something that satisfies.
A few caveats to mark's post... Hunter's Lodge is no more, according to another post here, being remodeled/retooled as a German place, I believe. Not sure Tupelo Honey is open for diner on Mondays, I'd check their Web site. There are several other places that come to mind, but none open on Monday night...If everyone can agree on fish, Harbor Inn Seafood on Brevard Road does a nice job on fried and broiled seafood at very reasonable prices. The dreaded Moose Cafe (not a favorite of some folks on this board) serves up local produce, but in a very uninspired way; better for breakfast than dinner.