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Bleak prospects : Good food in the mountains of NC?

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Agent Orange Jul 10, 2008 09:42 PM

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. j
    jakistar79 RE: Agent Orange Jul 10, 2008 10:06 PM

    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. r
      Rand RE: Agent Orange Jul 11, 2008 05:19 AM

      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...

      http://www.earlygirleatery.com

      4 Replies
      1. re: Rand
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        miss piggy RE: Rand Jul 11, 2008 05:30 AM

        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
          danna RE: miss piggy Jul 11, 2008 07:44 AM

          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
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            stephw1 RE: danna Jul 11, 2008 08:14 AM

            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
              jbyoga RE: stephw1 Jul 11, 2008 12:25 PM

              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. romansperson RE: Agent Orange Jul 11, 2008 05:59 AM

        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.

        http://www.exploreasheville.com/what-...

        1. b
          Beppe RE: Agent Orange Jul 11, 2008 06:03 AM

          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.

          Beppe

          1. s
            Spreadhead RE: Agent Orange Jul 11, 2008 06:40 AM

            The Log Cabin in Highlands is superb.Its an upper crust steak and chops place.Reservations are probably a good idea as the locals usually have it booked up.

            1. s
              sarahyla RE: dd992emo Jul 11, 2008 08:57 AM

              I second the recommendation for Annie's in Sylva, also for Sunnypoint...Yes, it's busy and you may have to wait up to 45 min. on a nice day for brunch, but i've always been pleased with the food and atmosphere (Huevos and the breakfast sandwich are my faves - they also have yummy herbal iced tea). I live walking distance to there, and see mostly locals, who often bring out-of-town friends for brunch...maybe this is where the fanny packs come from? Anyway, if you want a less crowded and even better brunch, hit up the Admiral down Haywood on Sunday.

              I've never really been a fan of Salsa's. You'll find more tourists there than Sunny point with a longer wait, and not as good service. Every time i've been to Salsa's they were out of the salsa trio...irony?

              Tupelo is also very touristy with long waits. I like Early Girl better than tupelo...get the spinach or garlic potato cakes with tomato gravy....

              Recs for 12 Bones, Rosetta's and Bar 100 are all on point.

              4 Replies
              1. re: sarahyla
                danna RE: sarahyla Jul 11, 2008 09:19 AM

                I went to Rosetta's a couple of weeks ago. Damn, it seems like such an unlikely place...but the peanut butter tofu and the hot fresh sweet potato fries were both delicious. I didn't think the kale was all it could be.

                Had a good meal at Chorizo last Sat for lunch too... a crepe w/ chicken, mushrooms, goat cheese, some kind of really nice salsa w/ carrots, + blackbeans and sweet potatoes (which were a little bland, my only down note.) That, and less than stellar service. If good service is really important to you...hector's places are a risk ;-) i don't much care though, i was enjoying the sidewalk-hanging-out experience.

                1. re: danna
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                  sarahyla RE: danna Jul 11, 2008 09:37 AM

                  My faves at rosetta's are the vegan mac n cheese and the smashed potatoes with vegan gravy...you'd NEVER know they were vegan...SO good, but very rich.

                  1. re: sarahyla
                    danna RE: sarahyla Jul 11, 2008 10:17 AM

                    You know, that's the thing...often I find vegetarian stuff to be higher fat than what I would normally order in a regular restaurant. So the mac and cheese is soy cheese? Normally, i would say PASS on that in a big way, but Rosetta's is pretty amazing. I still haven't had a vegan dessert i could stand, though.

                    I had some vegan beer there was excellent ;-)

                    1. re: danna
                      s
                      sarahyla RE: danna Jul 11, 2008 12:14 PM

                      yeah, the mac n cheese is soy cheese....I don't even like mac n cheese that much, and i'm definitely NOT vegan, but the stuff is delicious!

              2. meatn3 RE: Agent Orange Jul 11, 2008 10:15 AM

                Just heard from friends in Murphy/Brasstown that there is a new place on the square in Hayesville which is quite good. I'll try to get the name of it. The square isn't that large, so shouldn't be hard to locate without the name.

                For fresh food buy local. Seafood isn't your best bet. You will be in mountain trout country with many opportunities to catch your own if desired. If you must have seafood to cook, stop by Dekalb Farmers Market in Atlanta on the drive up.

                I suspect if you look at the demographics you'll find a sizable population in those areas have relocated from your neck of the woods...

                1. b
                  byteme55 RE: Agent Orange Jul 11, 2008 10:16 AM

                  I recently visited Limones in Asheville. I really liked it. Surprisingly good seafood. Early Girl is good too, esp. breakfast.

                  1. Suzy Q RE: Agent Orange Jul 11, 2008 12:18 PM

                    And don't forget that staple of any good Southern backroads road trip, boiled peanuts. Just keep in mind that the very best ones come from the places on the side of the road with hand-lettered signs.

                    1. a
                      Agent Orange RE: Agent Orange Jul 11, 2008 12:48 PM

                      Thanks everyone for your recommendations. Looking forward to visiting at least one of the Asheville restos mentioned here. Although, I think we'll be spending most of our time more than an hour west of that city, so any advice on places to eat in towns along 19, 64, 441 and that whole area would be especially appreciated. And of course boiled peanuts will be consumed, with frequency. No road-side bawlld peanut stands in these parts.

                      1. l
                        leahinsc RE: Agent Orange Jul 11, 2008 01:04 PM

                        good luck w/ your vacation/camping trip/RV adventure....sounds like you could use Chevy Chase or Robin Williams
                        Here are my pics:
                        Asheville environs - Stoney Knob(Weaverville), French Broad Taqueria (Marshall)
                        Waynesville - Sweet Onion. Lomo is tooooo slooooow
                        Balsam - Balsam Mtn Inn
                        Sylva - Annie's

                        Fresh produce - check out www. asapconnections.org for Farmer's Mkts, u-pick and tailgate markets
                        Seafood - not so much - you're in the mtns --- you'll be able to get Sun Burst Trout at many of the local restaurants

                        1. johnb RE: Agent Orange Jul 12, 2008 07:17 PM

                          I live in Franklin. Your fears are largely justified. Be aware there is no good BBQ in Western North Carolina, and that includes Herb's in Murphy IMO (I have not tried that XII Bones place in Asheville). In Franklin we have a BBQ place called Willy's close to the Wal-Mart, and a semi-outdoor place next to the Whistle Stop Mall called Cash's, both of which are half decent. There is a new white tablecloth place in town called Lilli's that seems to have a chef who knows what he's doing. It's next door to the "From the Vine" wine shop. Behind the Hot Spot is Cafe REL, which is also good (especially the crab bisque). Unfortunately there aren't many mid-scale places that I can recommend. If you want some good beer and a light meal, the Rathskeller is nice.

                          If you stray down to Clayton Ga. you will pass the Spring Ridge Creamery (still in NC) which has very excellent ice cream (Jersey cows with lots of butterfat). There are several produce stands along the way, and a seafood guy in the flea market old factory building in Mountain City who goes down to Apalachacola every week to get his stuff; he's open Thurs to Sat. In Clayton there is a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place called La Jerezana that has great tacos and everything else. Avoid the Dillard House in Dillard at all costs, unless you value quantity over quality. The best buffet I know of is also in Clayton, however; Henry's, just south of the Wal-Mart/Home Depot, lunch only Tues-Fri and Sunday. Outstanding chicken and southern foods generally.

                          1. Suzy Q RE: Agent Orange Jul 13, 2008 12:15 PM

                            Seems like ages ago there used to be a decent rib/BBQ joint up that way...Fat Eddies, Fat Buddies, something like that? I've not been in that neck of the woods in ages but perhaps someone local can chime in...

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Suzy Q
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                              Spreadhead RE: Suzy Q Jul 13, 2008 01:18 PM

                              Fat Buddies is AWFUL!!!

                              1. re: Spreadhead
                                johnb RE: Spreadhead Jul 13, 2008 06:03 PM

                                Agree on Fat Buddies, which is why I didn't mention it before. It may have once been better, but if so now it's not.

                                There is another ambitious white tablecloth place about to open here in Franklin, but I can't yet say more obviously--it is to be called Yeti's Bistro or something like that, and is is a strip center just south of Franklin next to Roomfull of Nuts, a healty-food store. We are also experiencing an invasion of chain casual dinnerhouses, now having a Cody's Roadhouse and about to get a Fatz. Cody's is nothing special; I've never been to a Fatz, but am not holding my breath.

                                Correction to my post above---Lilli's is no longer next to From the Vine, in that FtV has just moved. Anyway, it's on a small side street very close to Cafe REL and the Hot Spot, in fact in easy sight of them--walk out of REL and look straight ahead up the small street and it's about 1.5 blocks up there, before Cody's.

                                1. re: johnb
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                                  Spreadhead RE: johnb Jul 13, 2008 06:31 PM

                                  The only Cody's I have been to is in BelleAire Bluffs Fl. For a chain I found it to be REALLY good.It could have been that I just found a good location amongst the chain, but I would think that in Franklin it will probably go over really well.

                                  1. re: Spreadhead
                                    johnb RE: Spreadhead Jul 13, 2008 06:36 PM

                                    It has indeed gone over really well, but I myself haven't found the food to be particularly great, although it might be, as you said, good for a chain.

                            2. a
                              Agent Orange RE: Agent Orange Aug 28, 2008 11:25 AM

                              Update:

                              I just wanted to (belatedly) report back on our trip to North Carolina. We never made it to Asheville, but we did try three restaurants that were mentioned here. The first was Relia's at the NOC; food was solid and the menu more daring than one might expect. (I had mango baby-back ribs with horseradish sauce: strange combo, but it worked. Dad had the trout which was very good as well.) Service was great too.

                              We also dined at Cafe REL in Franklin for lunch. The crab bisque I found too salty, but overlooking that, it was pretty tasty. The sandwich I ordered was served in a crusty baguette, which elevated an otherwise unexciting dish. The service we received here was also excellent. The desserts we ordered were what really made the pit stop worth it. The bourbon pecan pie was delicious, but the caramel cake was just as good as my gramma's (and that's saying a lot.)

                              And I cannot forget the taqueria we visited in Clayton (GA). We order a huge spread of food and were able to sample most of their meats (family wasn't diggin the lengua or cabeza) in various tortas, tacos, tostadas, and sopes. The chorizo torta was especially good. The owner (I presume) of the tienda was fluent in English and could not have been more grateful and welcoming. I have to admit, this taqueria was better than most of the taco joints that I frequent down in Florida. We grabbed a few Mexican cokes and Jarrito's for the road, and toasted Chowhound for the opportunity to discover hidden gems like La Jerezana.

                              For most of the nearly two-week long trip we ate in our ridiculous but endearing RV during the day or next to a fire at our campsite at night. It was a great opportunity in learning to cook a substantial meal over a campfire and with limited resources. We did have a couple of disappointing meals along the way (none of those resto's recommended here; just sporadic stops along the way.) I think we all had a great time, I only wish we could have checked out Asheville too. I'll have to make my way up there sometime soon.

                              Thanks again to all those who gave their rec's. Cheers.

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