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Local Joints and Bars with Good Food in Asheville

I'll be spending several days in Asheville, so I'm doing my food research. From searching the boards, I think I have the "fine dining" side covered, but I'm looking for some more casual, less expensive options as well.

I like places with a good vibe and regular local clientele, bars that serve better-than-expected food - things like that. Craft beer on tap and a good jukebox definitely a plus.

I'll be staying in the downtown area, so walkable from there would be great.


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  1. There are plenty of places like this here, but there are so many spots downtown, it's good to know what to look for. You can't go wrong if you try any of the places below:

    Barley's taproom. Decent bar food, music some nights. LOTS of beer on tap (including local, organic, high gravity), taps downstairs (restaurant) are different than upstairs (pool, darts, foosball). If you're there on a saturday night, Preston will most likely be working upstairs. Best bartender in town, and he has great taste in music, plus if you tell him what you're looking for in a beer he'll give you samples until you find the right one.

    You'd also like the Asheville Brewing company on Coxe. Outdoor area with a couple of bar games, decent food, and their own beer.

    Jack of the wood. Green Man beer, Laughing Seed food. Music. Enough said.
    Also try Dirty Jacks. A little more off the beaten path, still walkable from downtown. Definitely a local spot. It's the tasting room of the Green Man brewery.

    Thirsty Monk- fairly new spot, all Belgian beers. Great atmosphere, servers are knowledgeable and friendly, and they have a small menu with some pretty tasty bites (cheese plate, several types of crepes, a few other items). Very cool, unique place.

    Mayfel's has a nice little patio bar in the back, kind of a hidden little spot (accessible from Wall Street down the stairs) It's beautiful at twilight.

    That will at least give you somewhere to start. And if you make it to the west side, the Admiral is a must for food/local atmosphere, and the Westville Pub is good too.

    1. I'll suggest 12 Bones in the River Arts District for lunch. It meets all of your criteria except for the jukebox. They are not open for dinner, however, or on the weekend. Don't let the line scare you off. It's worth it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Leepa

        I went to 12 Bones for the first time today, and I have to say, it will probably be my last trip there. After standing in line for upwards of 20 minutes to even get in the door, and then eating a mediocre meal at best, I am somewhat befuddled as to what all the fuss is about. I wasn't in the mood for ribs (and after seeing them, I'm glad I wasn't-I prefer tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs, which these definitely were not-I don't want to have to gnaw the meat from the bone, which is what I saw everyone doing with theirs), so I ordered the sliced brisket, mac and cheese, and green beans. I will say, the green beans and cornbread were stellar; I would have been happy with just those. The brisket was decent, nothing spectacular, and the mac and cheese was just about the worst I have ever eaten- I literally could not find a hint of cheese at all in the dish; it just seemed to be elbow noodles with some milk. After hearing "the guys" at work rave about the place (they eat there at least twice a week), I can safely report that I will not return anytime soon after such a disappointing experience.

        1. re: stephw1

          Sorry to hear you had a bad experience, stephw1. As usual, good BBQ means different things to different people. I've never had their brisket because, to me at least, BBQ shouldn't moo and in my world (albeit a small one) fall off the bones ribs are overcooked. I've never had their mac and cheese as I'm not a big fan of it in general. And their cornbread is sweet and my preference is true Southern cornbread which doesn't have sugar or other sweeteners in it. I'll take a bite or two, but generally I'll leave it on the plate. Just goes to show ya that we're all different in what we like, and BBQ is probably the most polarizing food of all.

          I truly do hope that your other food experiences in Asheville are more to your liking.

          1. re: Leepa

            I agree, I think you gotta go pork at 12 Bones. And the sides are the best. For brisket, try Luellas on Hendersonville Road. Much better than 12 Bones if you like beef BBQ.

      2. Burgermeister in W. Asheville
        Bier Garden downtown
        Mike's in Weaverville on Main St. - tiny but a local favorite with inexpensive good burgers, wings etc and Highland Gaelic on tap

        1. Ed Boudreauxs beside Barleys also has a nice selection of Micro brews.The BBQ is pretty good as well.

          1. Definitely Jack of the Wood - good food/music and a very local vibe.

            1. on the lower end (& mainly focusing on the west side as those are my stomping grounds)...

              tomato (on patton/smokey park) - good, inexpensive salvadorian eats. bottled beer & wine, working on liquor license as of a few weeks ago. eclectic crowd, but mainly sit down, so not a lot of mingling; westsiders, ethnic & foodies from all around.

              westville pub (haywood) - decent bar with a fair selection of taps & bottles. bad food. good local crowd of westsiders & friends. i don't recall a jukebox, but the barstaff usually plays pretty good stuff. live music some nights of week (i'm thinking tue/thur/sat).

              lucky otter (haywood) - smattering of taps & bottles. food's generally decent/ok (variety of glorified burritos/quesadillas), you just need to find what you like there. family crowd early, turning into 20-30-something locals gathering spot after family-dining hours. best margarita deal in town; $3.50 per & potent - for $15 you'll go home loopy.

              burgermeister's (haywood) - a few taps, decent bottle selection, but less locally-oriented. burgers & sandwiches are ok (i like the patty melt best as i don't care for their burger buns &/ burgers with lots of add-ons), good fried fish, decent fries. i actually want to say they have a jukebox, but i can't recall it ever playing (may very well be mistaken & picturing a tv that i transmogrified into a juke).

              sunny point (haywood) - good food; kind of a southern spin on a bistro/cafe menu. short but decent variety of mainly non-local beer. i think they have a single tap where they rotate local brews. no liquor. i've been disappointed by verbal dinner specials more than i've enjoyed them, but i find the regular menu to be solid. this is probably the most touristy place on the westside, also one of the few worth driving across town for, but still has a large local following.

              the admiral (haywood) - gastro pub. very good food, albeit pricey for a bar. i'm more impressed by the entrees than the apps and sandwiches. i know there's been good music playing & they have a jukebox. gets diners from all around, but a westside watering hole.

              i do most of my drinking within walking distance of the house, so i'm somewhat less well-versed on other areas, but here are a few thoughts on the other suggestions above (& asheville is a very easy town to get around in - easily walkable just about everywhere, decent & inexpensive bus service, taxis are pricey but the town is so small you'll rarely go far)...

              barley's (downtown) - great beer selection & generally good bar tenders, but the food is decidely mediocre. good crowd with a mix of locals & tourists.

              asheville brewing (downtown) - all right beer, unimpressive food. rarely go there.

              jack of the wood (downtown) - there won't be a concensus on this one. i've always found it to be disappointingly poorly-executed food (as i typically find with all the early girl-laughing seed-northstar-affiliated/spawned group) with atrocious service & very touristy during the on season, especially weekends. others think it the bee's knees. to be honest, i think it's me - it's just one of those places where fate & i don't coincide.

              thirsty monk (downtown) - good, but pricey, beer selection. food's limited & just ok (stay away from the chocolates - go straight to the source if they sound good); best on saturday when they do food discounts. more of a drinking place than an eating one.

              mayfel's (downtown) - good vibe, ubiquitously mediocre food.

              one love (downtown) - inexpensive jamaican. the h-ville store is very good. this one's been open a month or a little more. i've only ducked in once for quick take out, and didn't pay much attention to alcohol (if any), vibe, etc. given it's location, i'd say it's almost exclusively a local clientele.

              salsa (downtown) - given it's once very lofty reputation, it's a bit hit-or-miss now, but that really means that it's not as across-the-board-good as it once was (hector diaz, the owner, has strecthed himself thin by opening at least 2 other places simultaneously, and the quality at his established place has suffered for it). abundant & cheap-for-the-quantity caribbean-influenced foods. when they falter it's usually from throwing too many (often sweet) ingredients at a plate to see what sticks. good drinks. pretty busy place.

              yacht club (downtown) - good drinks & crowd, but haven't eaten there.

              nine mile (montford) - good, inexpensive jamaican-esque pastas. small beer selection with a few taps that they rotate beers on (i think they're trying to keep those kind of local). quickly becoming the montford hot spot, so good local scene.

              marco's (merrimon) - good pizza, but stay away from toppings that exude moisture; the sauce is thin anyway, and i find moisture-making toppings tend to waterlog it. mainly a sit down place, but fun to sit at the small bar & talk to the bartenders. no/few crafts beer to my recollection. good asheville-based clientele, especially from the north side.

              for bbq, definitely 12 bones over boudreaux's; the latter doesn't hold a candle. but take note, there's no consistently great bbq available commercially in asheville.

              there are more that escape me at this time. post back if you need more specifics.

              8 Replies
              1. re: mark

                Nine Mile...how have I missed this? Where in Montford? Do they have outdoor tables, by chance? I'm confused by the "jamaican-esque pastas" can you elaborate?

                As to Salsa...I had my first less-than-fabulous experience there. last Saturday it was SO different from every other time I've ever been to Salsa that I asked our waitress if Hector had sold it. (no, she says) The pork was completely different from the normally spectacular crispy-outsided, smoky, luscious pork...it was just plain old shredded pork. The salsas tasted like they had been refrigerated a while. The rice was mushy like someone had tried to make risotto. The beans tasted canned. There were no wild mushrooms, sweet potatoes, or goat cheese to be found, staples of Salsa. To the OP I would still recommend Salsa, because it certainly fits in the with casual vibe, good drinks, not (too) expensive requirement, and the food on Sat was still good...but...no magic. It's possible that the Rachel Ray wannabe at the table next to me who was RANTING about how wonderful everything was colored my experience somewhat. Wonder if she tipped?

                1. re: danna

                  nine mile is right on montford in piper's old location. where that wedge-shaped piece of land created by the intersection of montford & soco is.

                  jamaican-esque is the best descriptor i've come up with. various pasta shapes (as well as veggie-pasta substitute(s)) served up with primarily fish & chicken proteins & veggies. good vegetarian options. lots of jerk. i call it jamaican-esque simply because, to the best of my knowledge, i don't associate the islands with pasta; may very well be wrong & it's true jamaican cuisine.

                  there are two small (2 tops?) outside.

                  see link...


                  i've tried the "jamaican me thirsty," "nine mile," & "marley's magic" & they've all been good.

                  they're open for lunch & dinner 7 days, so might be a good option for your occasional mid-saturday afternoon needs.

                  1. re: mark

                    mark, you are a treasure! What an interesting menu! Some stuff sounds great (apricot mint dressing, caramelized celery w/ coconut curry sauce). some stuff sounds horrifying (jerk chicken w/ alfredo sauce). I can't wait.

                    We have a new puppy, and we're becoming one of those miserable yuppie couples who have to eat outside w/ their dog ;-) We've been trying to parse out all the places we can take Micah (see..yuppie...might as well have named him Tyler).

                    1. re: danna

                      have you tried the admiral yet? they recently built a good-sized covered patio (haven't asked if they allow dogs). the food has been really good, with very few misses.

                      congrats on the new pup. what kind of dog is it?

                      1. re: mark

                        I have not...I'll have to go back and read your accounts of it. We are in search of new al fresco places since we decided we are done w/ Modesto and think Chorizo is great at dinner and so-so at lunch. I've never been to the Spirtis on the River thing. Do you think it's worth a try? You know how critical I am ;-)

                        He's a Doberman...17 weeks...so the brain of a puppy but the body of a big dog hit w/ a shrink ray gun. He went to the farmer's market about a month ago, it was his first experience in a crowd. I LOVED that market (on College) by the way, there was a lady there w/ brownies w/ strawberries on top. Sounds a little suspect, but it was FAB. And some guy w/ great breads and pastrys . And a folk singer that the dog was afraid of...he had good taste ;-)

                        1. re: danna

                          wow, a doberman, quite an undertaking. great dogs!

                          i haven't been to spirits in awhile. in fact, i was under the impression they had closed, but now believe that not to be the case. their deck is gorgeous (or, more to the point, the setting is). i'm not entirely sure if you can get to the deck without going through the restaurant, which would, of course, preclude taking the pup. the 2 times i've sat out there, i went through the resto & didn't really look around for another entrance/exit from the deck. food-wise? eh. i haven't had anything spectacular there, but some of it's been pretty good & the prices are reasonable. at this point i really can't recall what i've had there, but do recall that i've had good luck with the owner's/staff's recommendations. i think it's one of those places that does a few things well, and then fleshed out the menu. give it a shot, it won't set you back much, and you can definitely do worse.

                          1. re: danna

                            Dobies are my favorites...my brother used to have a Warlock/Red Doberman who was amazing. He's still a legend in our family.

                  2. re: mark

                    Wow- your are 100% on the money.
                    I think you really hit the reason Salsa can be so hit or miss. It was miss too many times for me, so it has been off my list for years.

                    Really good list & descriptions - thanks.

                  3. Thanks for all of the great recs! I just arrived, and I'm off to get my visit started with a pint or two at Barley's.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: menuinprogress

                      Zambra has a great "underground" type atmostphere. Great wine list, cocktails and awesome tapas. Can get pricey if you order a lot or some of the more expensive tapas, but also a great place to have a seat at the bar, listen to a live band and grab some $3-6 small plates.

                    2. Ok, quick report back on our three very nice days in Asheville.

                      Barley's - nice, comfortable place with a really great local beer selection. We tried quite a few that we'd never had before. The beer more than made up for the pizza, which was not so great.

                      Doc Chey's - we were craving some Asian food, and stopped in here for dinner. Pretty good food for a good price. We sat at the bar in the back where you can see into the kitchen - fun to observe, but watch out for the *slam* of the big rice cooker lids.

                      Tupelo Honey Cafe - we had breakfast here. I really liked the feel of the place and we had good service. The food (an omelet and a Benedict) was average.

                      Mela - taking a break from "downtown after five", we stopped in here for dinner. I'm glad we did - easily the best food of our visit. Nice, relaxed elegantly designed place. The food was fantastic - really good, complex flavors with just the right amount of heat.

                      Jack of the Wood - what a great place! We caught two shows here during our visit. I love the bar and the fact that they pour their own beer (which, while not my favorite of the local offerings, is quite good). Food (we tried the Fish&Chips and the Irish Stew) was pretty bland, but despite that I would be a regular here if I lived in Asheville.

                      Thirsty Monk - we just stopped in here for a quick drink (it was a break stop on the LaZoom bus tour). This place is perfectly designed - it feels exactly right. Great selection of Belgians. We didn't have time to try the food.

                      Thanks again for the helpful info. We really enjoyed our visit.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: menuinprogress

                        happy you enjoyed your time here & thanks for the feedback.