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Asheville on a budget

There are a number of great Asheville threads on this board, but I wanted to create one specifically for an Asheville resident on a budget.

I've lived here a while, left once and came back, and have seen the changes. As we all know the city is changing, getting more expensive, and more and more "upscale" places are being opened, some of them living up to the hype, some of them pretentious.

You hear a lot of whining about the influx of wealthy people into the city -- That's not me -- I am just into good food, and I think that with a little knowledge and planning you can eat well on a budget, even in Asheville.

Besides, more expensive does not always mean better food, and I think that is especially true here, where dining out in the latest hoity-toity establishment can be fraught with peril, from uber-snotty service, to "foam" on the food (out-of-date everywhere else, just making an appearance here).

So, how 'bout it then.... good, cheap eats in Asheville, nourishing for the body and soul... any suggestions?

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  1. Any particular type of cuisine?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jeff C.

      Hi Jeff, I've noticed your presence on many of the Asheville-related threads. Thanks for your reply.

      I like food from all over the world. This helps when you're on a budget anyway, you open up the choices to any food, any style, as long as it's good!

      What are some of your favorites without spending beaucoup bucks?

      1. re: Budget Palate the Second

        Here are five dependable cheapies off the top of my head:
        1. Doc Chey's (pan-Asian and very fresh)
        2. Papa's & Beer (not terrible Cali-Mex)
        3. Rosetta's Kitchen (dirt cheap vegetarian)
        4. Lucky Otter (big bang for your bucks burritos)
        5. One Love Jamaican (in Hendersonville)

        Other places like Tomato Cuchina Latina (Salvadoran), The Laughing Seed (Vegetarian), and Sunny Pointe Cafe (eclectic) can also be pretty reasonable depending on what you order.

        BTW, I've only been served "foam" at an Asheville restaurant once, at Chorizo in the Grove Arcade, so you might want to avoid that one!

        1. re: Jeff C.

          I agree about Doc Chey's. We go there EVERY time we go to Asheville. We've got a lot of places attempting to be Doc Chey's here in the Triangle, but none carry it off as successfully as they do.

    2. Mamacitas - Noodle Shop - Noi Thai (lunch) - Asheville Pizza lunch Buffet - Marcos with a friend. Harmony bowl at the Laughing Seed. Asiana (south) for vegi sushi etc...

      It is possible to eat good n' cheap without too much trouble...

      keep us posted~

      15 Replies
      1. re: jbyoga

        I can't remember what the LS Harmony bowl costs, but damn, that's good, healthy eating. I don't really like the "comfort food" moniker, but if I had to use it...that's where I'd put it. (when I broke my leg and spent some time at Mission St. Joe, that's what I sent husband out to get me)

        Salsa's is not cheap like it was in the early days, but for $10 or so, you can eat for two or three days, if you don't mind taking a to-go box home.

        If you ever get to Hendersonville, El Padrino - good non-chain, non-canned Mexican - is the cheapest lunch I've had in forever. $7 for two of us. with soft drinks.

        If you go to Doc Chey, be sure to get a Karma card. You get points every meal, and on your birthday they load up enough points for a freebie. My whole dinner was paid for last time we went...my husband was shocked. Their "affinity card" really seems to add up quickly.

        1. re: danna

          Danna, does the Doc Chey's in Asheville take Karma Cards now? The last time we tried (about a year ago) they wouldn't take ours.

          1. re: Jeff C.

            Huh. I can't say that I'm sure about that. I THOUGHT they did, but I haven't been to the one in Asheville much since we got the one in Greenville. I'm almost positive the first one I got was in Asheville, but that's been a while.

            I ate at the G'ville location last night, and it really is sad how it's just not quite up to snuff. My friend's edamame sucked. How do you DO that? I guess cook the beans and then let them sit for a day and then reheat? My Pad Thai was bland. How do you do that? Fail to salt? Leave out the lime juice? I don't know. Summer rolls were pretty good and they gave me sweetened condensed milk to go w/ my Chai tea pot...that was a new touch that I liked.

            My friends who treated us left $6.50 on a near $50 bill, so I may not be allowed back in there. I HATE when that happens. Some friends you could say something to...and some you just don't dare embarrass. I guess husband or I should have faked a last minute trip to the bathroom so I could add some more cash.

            1. re: danna

              You said the food sucked. How about the service?

              1. re: Jeff C.

                No, no. Didn't suck, at least not by Greenville standards, just disappointing.

                And I regret to say, the service was fine ;-)

                1. re: danna

                  I see.

                  P.S. If you're still with us Budget Palate, I have never had less than great food or service at the Asheville Doc Chey's, so the recommendation stands.

                  1. re: Jeff C.

                    Go Noodle Shop over Doc Cheys - Very good food...less hype...

                    1. re: jbyoga

                      Hype? I don't see anything hypey about Doc Chey. I would say that Noodle shop is less "Americanized", though.

                      What do you get at the Noodle shop? I only went once and it didn't knock my socks off, but my own personal food logic tells me that the more "ethnic" place should be better. We really like soba...do they have any good soba dishes?

                      1. re: danna

                        among my crowd, if either restaurant is "hyped", it would be the noodle shop. regardless, both are good. i like the various soups at the noodle shop, therefor it's more of a late fall-winter-early spring place for me, which is fine as i've had bad service there during tourist season (mainly due to them being overwhelmed).

                        and i'll add my $.2 to jeff c's, the asheville location of doc chey's is good, albeit often packed to the point where i won't wait.

                        a few other budget suggestions:

                        havana has decent cuban at fair prices.

                        tomato can be a great deal. i often dine on a tamale, pupusa & salad which tots up to around $8 ($13 or so w/ a beer and tip). even eating off the entree menu is a really good deal.

                        wings at westville pub are usually good (don't get anything else there! - actually, the deep-fried jalapeno rings are good if you want something to nosh w/ a drink).

                        there are many little taco places around town, and you can try most of them for less than $2 a pop. helps if you know menu spanish. the taco truck on haywood used to be good, but i haven't been able to catch them open recently.

                        lucky otter is good bang for the buck (moreso if you stick to their signature burritos, the build-your-own can rack up quickly), especially if you want to drink margaritas (3 of them will set you back $10.50, and you'll be feeling gooood!).

                        nona mia's for pizza (split w/ a friend or have leftovers). eat anything else there at your own risk (has been VERY inconsistent in my experience).

                        patty melt at burgermeister's is good, although subbing anything for fries or buying drinks will quickly ratchet the bill up.

                        urban burrito (a local chain) is good, and not expensive when you factor in the amount of food.

                        not really cheap, but ultimate ice cream is a wonderful treat, and they give generous scoops.

                        for something a little fancier, stone house market is priced right. not sure what their hours are as the chef was overseas for the summer, and they usually close for the winter. (i just checked, they're open thurs-sat; 252-1200)

                        also for less expensive finer dining (more relative to food than ambience), try 28806. good food, and priced a bit lower due to location and the attached catering business.

                        gotta add another plug for one love.

                        if you ever come across mr gene's catering truck at a festival, try their fried chicken.

                        papas & beer can be inexpensive (unlike jeff c's "not terrible", i'd characterize it as pretty good - i'm in lust w/ the carnita torta).

                        12 bones for bbq. it's a little expensive for bbq, but it's still reasonable, and by far the best q in asheville. lunch on weekdays only.

                        cats and dawgs for hot dogs in nearly any incarnation.

                        i'm sure there are others, but my brain's not working today...

                        pay attention to specials. many places in asheville offer discounts/special prices on certain nights (bouchon, for instance, does a 1/2 price mussels thing on mon or tues; lobster trap runs specials during the off season). ads in the mountain xpress are a good place to look for this type info. also, if you drink, special drink prices can really help out the bottom line; $2 local brew at sunny point on weds & 1/2 price wine on sat, $3 for 32oz dos equis at papas & beer on tues & thurs, margaritas & mimosas at lucky otter $3.50 all the time (i do most of my drinking within walking distance of my house, so can't speak to drink specials elsewhere).

                        you also might consider getting a wnc insider card. they cost about $30, and give you 2-for-1 at a large number of asheville eateries for the 1st visit, with an 10% discount on food thereafter. our 2007 card paid for itself within the first 2 weeks and within walking distance of the house; it was all gravy after that.

                        1. re: mark

                          Ooo-wee! That card sounds like something I need to get. Do they have them at restaraunts or is there a web site or something?

                          P.S. I forgot about (and second) Urban Burrito. Really cheap, and usually really good--unless there's a long line and they're rushed. (Dig the fish tacos, esp.)

                          1. re: Jeff C.

                            see link for details (please note, i am not affiliated with wncinsider)...

                            http://www.wncinsider.com/

                        2. re: danna

                          I mainly stick to the Dan Dan noodle soup and their other vegi dishes. I love the fact that they have the clear 'glass' noodles.

            2. Tomato(cucina Latina) - W.Asheville - El Salvadorean
              Asiana Buffet
              Stone House Market (Leicester)
              Stoney Knob
              Asheville Pizza (buffet)

              2 Replies
              1. re: leahinsc

                Is Stone House Market serving dinner again?

                1. re: NANCY

                  yes, my friend was on the "call" list and the owner called and said they are doing Thurs -Sat nite dinners again.

              2. Wow... thanks everybody. I moved away for about year and when I came back, everything was different. For example, used to be, for a quick breakfast, coffee-and-a-bagel at Gold Hill. Now that's gone. Where to go for a decent bagel/roll/pastry and coffee?

                For fun, my own thoughts about some of the places:

                Zambra - "on a budget" doesn't mean you don't splurge a little. A tapas and a couple glasses of cava. This was a couple of years ago. Hope they didn't go up in price.

                Doc Chey's - good spicy brothy noodly stuff, as I recall. Although one time, girlfriend got a Korean pork-wrapped-in-lettuce thing, and she said the pork tasted like it came prepared out of a plastic tub. She was right, avoid that dish. Otherwise, good cheap eats.

                Rosetta's - smashed potatoes with nutritional-yeast gravy used to be a favorite

                Tomato - want to try it

                Stoney Knob - ate there for years, a few years ago we walked in and it looked different and the menu was a couple bucks more. Still good though

                Wings at Westville - probably moving out that way soon, and will definately check out Westville Pub. Will be nice if it turns out to be a laid-back neighborhood pub. If the food is good, even better. I think Lucky Otter is over that way too.

                Havana - sucker for Cuban/Latin/Caribbean anything. Want to try it

                12 Bones - definately want to try it. My plan is to try every bbq place in the city and pick the best. One catch - I like beef briskit (sp?), better than pulled pork. Another catch - I like beer with bbq, but to me wine goes better with it so I am looking for a bbq place with a decent wine on hand.

                Cats and Dawgs - heard they have an italian beef sandwich with the pickled veggies on it that's really good

                Burgermeister's - If I remember right I had a lousy burger here once, but I think we were just there for the cheap drinks. Maybe I should have gone with the patty melt.

                Bistro 1896 - had a beef salad there one time that offered a little class and flavor for cheap.

                Chorizo - heard the breakfast is phenomenal
                .
                So many good cheap eats, so little time....

                2 Replies
                1. re: Budget Palate the Second

                  yeah, I would say Zambra has gone up in price. Not cheap eats, and lately, rumor has it, quality has gone down. Dripolator is my fav coffee house. Good coffee (discounted if you bring your own cup) and good quiche. Not sure about pastries. Gold hill is now "picholine" a coffeehousebistrowinebar with an identity crisis and bad coffee. so sad. I will have to add Mela lunch buffet to the list as well as Noi's Thai kitchen out on merriman ave.

                  1. re: Budget Palate the Second

                    well, budget palate, if you're moving to the west side, you'll be in my neck of the woods, so i'm sure i'll see you around.

                    if you are a "sucker for Cuban/Latin/Caribbean anything", then definitely get thee to tomato; you will not be disappointed. the only complaint i've had there is the "paella", which, while tasty, is not true paella.

                    oh, and at the otter, on thursdays they do a jamaican special which is usually very good, especially the greens.

                    as to burgermeister's, i'm not much of a fan of their burgers either, but that's due more to the bun than anything else. the patty melt is the same burger, but served on sourdough, which makes a big difference (i ask for light mayo as they tend to glop it on). some of their other sandwiches are decent, and the fries are usually pretty darn good.

                    i know 12 bones serves up local/regional beers (mass-produced ones, too), but i don't know about wines.

                    food at westville is extremely inconsistent. when good, the wings are excellent (if you like spicy, their "whoop ass" wings are yummy - and they have one of the better bleu cheese dressings/sauces among the various wing places), but they too, although to a seemingly lesser degree, suffer from the same inconsistency. sometimes the jerk sandwich is ok, equally often it's not. the all-you-can eat lasagna (tuesdays?) is ok. many things there will be markedly different from one visit to the next; the quesadillas, for instance, sound good, but often what you get will bear little resemblance to the menu description. oh well, it's a good place for a drink, to hang out, and maybe hear some live music.

                    i think sunny point was mentioned above, and, especially if you are on the west side, you won't want to miss it. their price range seems a little high for breakfast, but when balanced with the quality and quantity, it's worth it. breakfast is served all day (including dinner hours), and they have a small variety of sandwiches for midday. the dinner menu trends a little higher in price, but it's still not unreasonable, and there are always a few less expensive offerings.

                    nona mia has good thick crust pizza; although it's thick, it's a pretty light crust, and they don't pile the toppings on, so it's not a super heavy pie. while they have their devotees for the rest of the menu, i haven't been impressed. i did get a good cannoli there.

                    while technically in leicester, stone house market is an easy drive from the west side. as mentioned above, they only serve dinner thurs-sat. they had a lunch menu at one time with a bunch of really tasty sounding sandwiches, but no one has answered the phone there during lunch hours recently, so i don't know if they still do that. for the food they serve, their price point is notably lower than comparable food would go for in asheville proper. the place is tiny, you will want reservations. last year they were getting fresh oysters in a couple times per week. they were a steal, pricewise. it was chef's choice as to the method of preparation.

                    enjoy!, and hope to see you around

                  2. I'm not a resident (I'm from Atlanta), but I love how you can get good food for not a lot of money in Asheville. The two of us can eat for what it costs one of us to eat in Atlanta. In fact, I used to joke with my girlfriend that every restaurant in Asheville is 2 for $25. If Salsa's used to cheaper, I'm sorry I missed those days.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: boyleschris

                      I guess the grass is always greener... I visited a friend in Atlanta and had some great meals that weren't expensive.

                    2. Lets keep this one alive in 2008! Good cheap eats Asheville Some of the best restaurants here in town are not expensive. Early Girl and Doc Choys come to mind first. I have actually had some really awful dinners at 1 or 2 of those uber-snobby places you speak of.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: martinetti

                        not a usual Chowhound worthy place, but The Waffle House in Azalea is the best "Diner" food you will find ANYWHERE between midnight and 2 PM the next day.Another hidden Asheville gem is "The Med" downtown across from "Table".I grew up here, you didnt.

                        1. re: Spreadhead

                          I have always wondered about the "Mediterranean Restaurant." The name cracks me up. What is it like? What do you order there?

                          1. re: miss piggy

                            it is a Greek owned place ... think diner food with a Greek twist - nothing special

                      2. The tacqueria on Haywood in the Mexican market (dont know the name?) is outstanding. The two of us got 3 huge plates of food (more than we could eat) and 2 sodas for less than $11. It is in a white building, sorry not more help! Just be prepared to brush up on your spanish, because usually no one there speaks English.