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Aug 11, 2011 11:01 AM

Need 2 Lunches, 3 Dinners in Asheville for 2 Atlanta Foodies

My foodie girlfriend and I are taking a weekend trip to Asheville. We're looking for dinner spots Fri, Sat, & MAYBE early on Sun, and lunch on Sat & Sun... thought I'd turn to my fellow Hounds.

From what I've gathered on the boards, Admiral and Curate are both great. I've also read stuff about The Junction, Tupelo Honey Cafe, Marketplace, Table, and Sazerac. Is there ANYWHERE else we should be considering? Any of those we should skip?

Trip is, um, this weekend (I know, last second), so any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

Tupelo Honey Cafe
12 College St, Asheville, NC 28801

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  1. Do you have your Admiral ressies yet? If not, you're probably going to be eating a the bar at 5:00. Admiral is a MUST DO. I'd make that my fri dinner spot since you may have to dine at that uncivilized hour. But then you can make it to Sky Club or Grove Park to have a drink and watch the 8:00 sunset.

    For your other dinner, I like Zambra better than Curate. Zambra always has their 2 menus posted (regular and daily specials) outside. Decide for yourself.

    Lunch will be an exercise in not ruining dinner. I like The Junction and Storm Rhum bar as having some less-heavy options. Tupelo Honey would be a good, albeit heavy lunch. I actually prefer Sunny Point to Tupelo for that sort of food and the wait will be less (although not wait-free).

    You're missing out on 12 Bones, but that will serious dampen your excitement for dinner unless you eat lunch really early or are an extremely well-trained eater ;-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: danna

      another good lunch spot that's not too heavy is White Duck Taco. A funky little spot (WITH parking - always a plus) in the River Arts district. Cheap tacos ($3.25 I think) with all sorts of interesting flavor choices. Two tacos each should fill you up. This is not really a Mex place, they just use soft tacos as their "bread". Also, they are open Sundays until 2:30, so that's a plus as well (many places are closed on Sundays).

      And will second all of danna's suggestion including going to the Sky Club (Sky Bar?) in the flat iron building for sunset. A very cool little known spot and fantastic view. If you want to guarantee a table (the lower two levels - still great views), you can call for a res. (828) 225-6998 There is a one drink minimum each (drinks are $10). It's a pretty interesting drink list though and you are really paying for the view. If you don't mind standing, the top level works too.

    2. Thanks for the ideas so far! We're actually getting in late on Friday, so we made a 9:30pm res at Admiral. For Saturday, I've just been informed that we're doing the "food tour" in the afternoon, which is not exactly "not ruining dinner" like danna said. Because of that, we're probably going to play dinner by ear... maybe Curate or Zambra will be good that evening so we can just choose light tapas.

      Sounds like we'll also have some great options for lunch, too. Also really love the idea for Sky Bar / Club or Grove Park for sunset one of those nights!

      I'll be sure to report back with our dining experiences! I'm sure they'll all be great.

      3 Replies
      1. re: joond1

        The best dining experience I've had this year was at Curate.

        1. re: joond1

          tip: go up to GPI earlier than you think you need to for your sunset cocktail. They have recently started charging $10 to park in the garages if you're a guest, God knows what if you're not, so the regular parking lot is packed. There may be some driving around and hiking...unless you cave and let the valet have your car.

          1. re: danna

            we have always found free parking at GPI, especially near their athletic building, but you do have to hoof it up the hill. Take a right through the first parking area and weave around. You should find something. Instead of walking up the hill, you can also go into GPI down at the lower level and take the elevator up to the main level. The door is a little hard to find though. I highly recommend visiting GPI. The building is amazing.

        2. Update: After returning home to Atlanta last night, I must say I was more than impressed with our dining experiences in Asheville. We ended up at the Admiral, Curate, Tupelo Honey Cafe, French Broad Chocolates, and did the Asheville Food Tour. I'll try to keep the reviews short and to the point below, but can see this is gonna be a long post.

          We ate at the Admiral late Friday night upon arrival. I was surprised by how unassuming, unpretentious, and generally relaxed the place was. Granted, it was 9:30pm and I hear that it can get crazy there during normal hours. We ordered mussels and a shrimp dish from the small plates ("small" seemed a bit misleading... this was a HUGE tub of mussels with bread which would have been plenty for a meal. I was disappointed that I had to force myself to leave a good amount on the plate to save room for my main course). Both were delicious, the broth with the mussels was perfect for dipping, and the tender shrimp dish my girlfriend had was seasoned perfectly. For main courses, I ordered a chicken with foamed romano cheese, tomato jam, and farro; gf ordered scallops, which the Admiral was kind enough to serve as a half-portion. Both were great... the chicken skin was seasoned so perfectly, I don't think I've had that type of flavor in any restaurant in Atlanta. Finished up with Chai tea brulee, a fitting end to a fantastic meal.

          Saturday we skipped breakfast/brunch and went on the Asheville Food Tour in the afternoon. I must say, while it allowed us to see many places we wouldn't have visited otherwise, I was a bit disappointed. Our guide was fine, and incredibly nice about helping me deal with my food allergy, but the places we visited were so-so. I'd say that the specialty shops (olive oil tasting, chocolate shop, tea and seasoning shop) were more exciting than the restaurants (a forgettable cafe, some italian place with good pizza, other places I don't really remember). In all, an ok way to see a lot of stuff in 3.5 hours. But really, it seemed like just a way to drive business to those places (you get 10% off if you visit again after the tour).

          Saturday night (late again, after the tour) was Curate, which I must admit I was worried about after reading some of the complaints on the boards about price-to-satisfaction ratio. Honestly, I don't know what everyone was complaining about. This has to be one of the the best tapas experiences I've ever had (comparable to Spain, even better than a few places I went there), and we left full and satisfied with a total bill of $60! To be fair, we ordered beer and no cocktails, which may have put us under the average. Everything was executed so well and the food was delicious. I have to say, Asheville, you are lucky to have this place in town. Toast with tomato and manchego, iberian ham, summer salad w/ watermelon & tomato & cheese, patatas bravas, mushrooms, garlic shrimp. ALL GREAT! Our server was also incredibly helpful and took care with my food allergies. A truly memorable dining experience.

          Lastly, we visited Tupelo Honey for brunch before hitting the road on Sunday. We each got egg dishes and shared a single sweet potato pancake (we just had to, after seeing it and hearing that it's the thing to get there). The eggs were fine (tough to screw up, really). Maple pepper bacon was truly delicious. The potatoes were a bit disappointing to me- a little soggy and oily, IMO. But she liked hers, so we'll say it's a matter of opinion. The pancake, in a word, was great. Good enough that I was completely full, but snuck in more bites before the table was cleared. Now that I've tried it, though, can't say there would be anything else on the menu that would necessarily bring me back for a second visit. Did I miss anything there?

          In all, we just didn't have enough time to see and taste everything. We did visit GPI and sat outside for a bit, which was absolutely gorgeous. For what it's worth, parking was incredibly easy, too. It seems as though 12 Bones BBQ is closed both on Saturday and Sunday, so we couldn't try it, much to my dismay. Also, Scirocco, Atlanta is so overrun with taco stands and resto's that we decided to pass on White Duck Taco this trip, but from what I've heard, we'll have to try it next time.

          Thanks for all the suggestions... the short time we had there this weekend just means we'll have to find another time to head up that way!

          Tupelo Honey Cafe
          12 College St, Asheville, NC 28801

          French Broad Cafe
          French Broad Pl, Brevard, NC 28712

          12 Replies
          1. re: joond1

            great report! It's always nice to hear back to see if we hit or missed. Ya, I'm "meh" about Tupelo Honey. I do like their sweet potato pancakes, but that's about the only thing I go for.

            Isn't GPI amazing?! my husband and I call it our "free Biltmore" - unless of course you order stuff, then not so "free". :)

            No worries re: White Duck, but ya, I was trying to make the point that this isn't really a taco shop. It's just great really fresh creative ingredients that happen to be served in a soft taco. It's a bit out of the way too, so if you're not over there already, there are plenty of other spots to try downtown.

            12 Bones is closed on Saturdays and Sundays at the River location. There is another one in S. A'ville (closer to me!!) that is open Saturdays til 4pm, but you'd probably have no reason to be down there.

            Do you remember where the Food Tour went (I've never heard of it)? Just curious which less than memorable places it took you so we can avoid them!

            thanks again for the feedback! hope you come back and try some more spots.

            1. re: Scirocco

              Here's a quick rundown of the Food Tour. Let me preface again by saying the actual tourguide, Chris, was a great guy and paced the tour well (lots of walking and eating, and we never felt stuffed or rushed). Also, looking at reviews online, it seems like tours on other days went to other restaurants, so we may have just had a more mediocre group of locations. Or, maybe 2 chowhounds are just spoiled brats :-)

              Chocolate Fetish: The chef / owner was so nice and took us to see the kitchen, albeit through a window. She was great about giving background on the shop and saying how they make their chocolates. I couldn't eat due to a nut allergy, but everyone said the truffles were awesome.

              Green Sage Cafe: Gave us a salad and what looked to be about 1/16 of a wrap. I also told them about my allergy and they came back with a "salad, no nuts" which OBVIOUSLY had nuts on it. My first inclination was to not hold it against them since they were unprepared for an allergy on the tour, but then I realized "what if someone hadn't checked the second time like I did?" It could've been really bad news. Either way, everyone said the food there was just "ok".

              Fiore's: casual Italian, gave us a small slice of pretty good pizza and a standard salad. The person who "normally does the food tour groups" wasn't there, though, so we just sat and ate with no interaction from the staff.

              Olive n Kickin': this was, admittedly, very cool. Olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar tasting straight out of a cup, with pairings to make some unique flavors. Owners were very hands-on.

              Restaurant Solace (I THINK that was the name): Chef came out, gave us 3 slices of venison sausage and a salad, then left. We ate (it tasted fine, but again, nothing blew us away) and left.

              Woolworth Walk: While the art inside was very cool, they brought us to have a scoop of strawberry ice cream (certainly not made there, could have been Breyer's for all I know) and Sprite. Really, I didn't need the Food Tour to show me that, and if the idea was to see the art, we really didn't have enough time to do that.

              Spice & Tea Exchange: Our last stop was cool, and it was great to experience all the different smells and scents in the store. But Spice & Tea is a franchised company with locations all over the US... I appreciate supporting the local franchisee, but feel like we could've done a bit better.

              So, to the potential visitors out there, I'd say if you have 1 afternoon to see everything, do it and hope you get good restaurants. If you've got more time, pick some great places and go with them.

              1. re: joond1

                Glad you had a few good experiences. The food tour of Asheville doesn't make sense to me as a regular visitor for years and new resident. The best of the best of Asheville is so well explained on this board and it is an easy city to get around.

                I would love a food tour of Manhatten with bus dropping me off in front of the best and finest for small bites.

                1. re: joond1

                  hmmm...ya, nothing really of note in that grouping. I have had great food at Fiore's, but never had the pizza. Entrees were good. And the woolworth walk?? seriously? wow. some fun art, but food?

                  the olive/vinegar tasting places have just popped up here and is an interesting concept. there is also one in Biltmore Village (Tree and Vine).

                  I much prefer the French Broad chocolate lounge to Fetish, but that's me.

                  Solace took over Flying Frog's location (corner of Battery Park). Great spot for people watching, but just saw while googling that reviews have given it 1.5 stars. ouch.

                  never been to green sage.

                  I feel your pain re: the nut issue. While I don't have an allergy to them, I simply don't like them. I don't know how many times either a) they show up when not listed on the menu or b) show up when I've asked them to be left off (and told that was no problem). sigh.

                  well, at least you got some good experiences out on your own!! :)

                  1. re: Scirocco

                    It's all about which businesses pay to "sponsor" the food tour, not necessarily about places that have the best food. It's all about someone wanting to make a buck off of tourists. Not that there aren't good places on the tour, but it's not a "best of Asheville" tour. Just a food tour.

                  2. re: joond1

           got so screwed on the "food tour". All except Choclate fetish, which I say is better chocolate than French Broad, even though FB has by far the hipper vibe. So sorry your allergy made you double-screwed.

                    The Spice place is cool too...I could stay in there all day, but I get overwhelmed and wind up not buying much. Did not know it was a chain, but that makes sense. I assume the olive oil place is a chain as well, anyone know?

                    And, btw, I agree w/ you that Tupelo HOney is not bad, but kind of a yawn.

                    French Broad Cafe
                    French Broad Pl, Brevard, NC 28712

                    1. re: danna

                      That food tour is random! My two cents on TH is that it's better for lunch or dinner...the only two standout breakfasts to me are the pancake and the bowl served with grits, beans, sausage, eggs and salsa.

                      great report...thanks.

                      1. re: miss piggy

                        How can the food tour be random if the restaurants that are visited have special items prepared for the people on the tours? And their website clearly lists their partners, as they call them. There isn't anything at all wrong with it, as long as the people who take part know the way it works.


                        1. re: Leepa

                          I may be wrong but I don't think Miss Piggy meant the tour was "random" in that it was actually a random bunch of locations we all just showed up at. I think it was more just saying that some of those places wouldn't necessarily be considered "food destinations" in Asheville. Going into it, we did our research and knew that the selection of restaurants on the tour would be luck of the draw, depending on which sponsors they chose that day. We saw the list of partners, but also, through looking online, realized that in the past the tour had gone to other places not listed on the website, too. Even after doing that research, though, a non-local like me still didn't exactly know what I was getting myself into, since "our partners are X, Y, and Z" means nothing to me, not being from the area.

                          IMO, I think it's a bit of a double-edged sword to not have the Food Tour tell you where you're going... on one hand, it's cool to be surprised. On the other, you could end up with a tour that just serves to push tourists towards visiting certain resto's looking for business. Either way, we knew it was a gamble and took it, since we love food and wanted a great way to see the city. There's NO WAY we would've been able to see all those places without the tour, and despite the seemingly odd choice of locations that day, we're happy we did it.

                          1. re: Leepa

                            Random has taken on a slang meaning of surprising, out of context, weird, unknown, capricious, surreal. I never realized miss piggy was a college girl ;-)

                            i gotta get that pancake, I guess. appears the restaurant has created a dynasty on the strength of a sweet potato pancake !

                            Is Green Sage that place on the corner of Biltmore that used to be the fairly cool coffee shop?

                            1. re: danna

                              Yes, I just meant "random" in the sense that if I were to design a food tour representative of Asheville's excellent dining options then I wouldn't pick any of the places the OP was taken to by the tour group...Solace, Green Sage and Woolworth Walk especially!

                              Funny side note...not mentioning this thread, I read my husband the list of places on the food tour and his response was "wow, that's random." Hilarious! Oh Danna, how I wish we were still in college! :)

                              Green Sage is on Broadway right across from the BB&T building. Really nothing special. I'm actually surprised it has stayed open as long as it has. I've not heard positive reviews and we had a bleak experience there and haven't returned. Good location though, and it seems to do a decent lunch business with workers in the nearby offices.

                              1. re: miss piggy

                                Thanks, Danna. I knew what you mean once you explain. I guess I took it to be a unscheduled random thing - meaning the restaurants wouldn't know one was coming. All is good.