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Jul 10, 2008 09:42 PM

Bleak prospects : Good food in the mountains of NC?

In two weeks, we will be well on our way to North Carolina. Destination: Franklurphyshiersboro City. With a possible stop in Asheville, but not before a detour to Charleston. All of us in a road-hogging, Sunday drivin' gramma-paced, frequent stop-making, Florida-registed RV.

Our family summer trip was originally planned to be a two week visit to Washington state. My tastebuds were set on delicious food we can't get here in the swamplands: fresh caught coldwater fish and exotic shellfish (whoa, there geoduck!), delicious just-picked summer fruits, decent Asian meals in Seattle. Well, when our journey to the majestic, sophisticated Pacific Northwest turned into to the family-roadtrip-from-Hell to gap-toothed, electricity-lacking, deep-fried, white bread Appalachia of 'Deliverance' fame, my enitire digestive system revolted (my tongue is protruding through my cheek right now. Got good ol' Southern blood on both sides of the family.) The southern Appalachians just don't have a reputation as a culinary destination.

But I have hope; hope that there is food worthy of a 600 mile drive in a road-submarine in far western Carolina. I'm down for BBQ, diners, down-home Southern cooking (which is always better in the home of a good cook, I know), white tablecloth, whateva ya got. I'd really just like what this region does well (but really hoping for some good barbeque. Eastern Carolina-style vingared-sauced pork would make my year.)

I've already done my homework here on Chowhound. At first all I found were dismal reports which confirmed my fears, but it sounds like there are some decent possibilities. To clarify, we'll be spending most of our time in NC west of Asheville. We'll likely pass through the towns of Waynesville, Franklin, Highlands, Bryson City and possibly as far west as Murphy. All points in between are fair game. Based on my research here, these are some of the rec's I have noted:

Asheville : Tupelo Honey, Salsa, Sunnypoint Cafe
Waynesville : Lomo, Clyde's Restaurant
Bryson City : Anthony's, Freymont Inn
Highlands : Paoletti's
Murphy : Herb's Pit BBQ

...And some others. But what's good these days?

Also, we'll be camping, so if there is any good source for fresh produce or meat (seafood?) in this region, I'd love to hear about it. Look forward to hearin' about some good chow!

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  1. Oh, no, no, no, you've got Asheville ALL wrong. These are the restaurants with the largest ad bugets and the biggest ties to our neighborhood food bully, the AIR, who prohibits our local journalism outlets from printing honest reviews by yanking on the chains of thier collective ad budgets. Tupelo Honey used to be good, but the last several times, the best things were gone from the menu, the food was poorly prepared, and the portions were downsized. Salsas is confusing and a little grimy at best. Sunnypoint does a great job advertising to tourists. It's just right down the street from me here in West Asheville. Very few locals I know dine there, the food is just mediocre at best, but it's always packed with fanny-packs.
    Worth trying in Asheville: One Love Jamacian, downtown
    Southside Cafe, Hendersonville Rd
    12 Bones, river arts district
    Rosetta's, always a staple, downtown lexington
    Cucina 24, downtown wall street
    Bar 100 at the Marketplace, also downtown wall street
    Marco's pizza makes a good white pie for lunch
    And we have several fairly decent sushi joints, including downtown's Kanpai.
    Good luck, and for god's sake, don't believe the hype. or the mountain xpress.

    1. My favorite place in [downtown] Asheville is Early Girl; it serves very well-made local fare. Downtown Asheville isn't very RV-friendly, though (somewhat narrow streets, parking issues), so if you don't have a smaller vehicle for cruising around, I'd watch the heart rate...

      4 Replies
      1. re: Rand

        I think your picks for Asheville are fine. Be warned that Tupelo Honey will most likely have a very long wait, so if you are in need to get back on the road, it might not be your best choice. I do not like Salsa personally after a few bad experiences there, but many seem to like it (they must have better lunck than me!). I must disagree with the previous poster's thoughts on Sunny Point. My opinion is that the clientele is mostly locals, and I have never had anything less than stellar food there. The food and atmosphere is very indicative of "Asheville." Again, be prepared to wait if you are in town on a weekend as their brunch is very popular. They serve local and organic food, huge portions, and again, it's excellent. I would also agree with the recs for One Love, 12 Bones (great BBQ - only open during the week for lunch, no weekends, be prepared to wait in long line outside but it moves quick), and Marco's if you are craving pizza but it's a bit out of the way if you don't want to get too far off the highway. Early Girl is OK, but I prefer Sunny Point and Tupelo.

        There are many more great spots in Asheville, but these are all really good choices, esp for lunch.

        1. re: miss piggy

          I agree...jakistar is going to "bizarro-world-Sunny Point" I never see toursits/fanny packs there. In fact, the clientel is SO local, hippie,alternative, etc. that my husband has dubbed it "the communist cafe." I love the place...the only meal I ever had that was disappointing there was dinner...stick w/ breakfast/lunch type foods. The outdoor area is great, two weeks ago our server brought a nice bowl of water for my dog, and everything was great. i had one occasion where I wanted to take our shaggy server out back and kill him with my bare hands, but other than that...always good experience there.

          Although my very last lunch at Salsa was off..I've been eating there since the mid 90's and it's my favorite restaurant in the Carolinas.

          West of Asheville, add Relia's at NOC and Annie's Bakery in Slyva to your list of consideration.

          I've been living it up at the farmer's market on Charlotte street in Asheville (Sat 8-1, I think) you should be able to get provisions there...fruit, pastry, goat cheese..the basics of life. You won't even need electricity to cook them, nor even teeth for the chevre....

          1. re: danna

            I have never been to Salsa, and after what I was told yesterday, I definitely will not darken their doorstep. My employer took his mother there for a birthday dinner, and just after they paid the tab, his wife was finishing her drink when a server(not theirs) approached the table and informed them that they would have to leave, because another party was waiting. (They were told by the server that the request was made by the manager, who turned out to be the person who waited on them. Of course, she didn't have them booted out until she had gotten her tip.) They were so offended by this rudeness that they have decided never to go back, and they've been patrons for 10 years. If that's the way they treat customers, you can bet they won't get one thin dime of my money, no matter how good the food is.

            1. re: stephw1

              I haven' t been to any of Hectors joints in years and never will go back because of a similar experience - so many better places that appreciate your business. Like any tourist town we'll always have the 'traps...

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. You will be able to find PLENTY of fresh produce, meat, etc. up there. There are farmer's markets everywhere and I would be totally shocked if you didn't see a ton of roadside stands on your travels as well.

          Here's a list of the area's tailgate markets and their hours of operation - most of them do business on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

          1. I just learned of this list, and this is my first, but definitely not my last, post. I too am looking for food west of Asheville, in the area of the Cherohala skyway, Rte 129. We'll be in that area on the 20th, and in Charleston on the 21-23rd. My wife, daughter and I will be on Ducati motorcycles, so if you see a redhead leading a pack of three Ducati motorcycles, it's likely us. I am trying to get food sources from the motorcycle touring groups, so if I get good info, I'll post it here this week.