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Asheville (Area) Top Ten(-ish) Update!

Jeff C. Jul 10, 2012 09:57 AM

As a public service to our many summertime visitors, here's my current Asheville Area Restaurant Top Ten. No rules--any cuisine, any price range. It just needs to be consistently fresh and good with at least decent service. (Feel free to ad yours, Asheville Hounds, so we can get some consensus on this thing.)

1. The Admiral (nuevo southern)
2. Curate (tapas)
3. Limones (upscale Cali-Mex)
4. Storm Rhum Bar (upscale bar food and cocktails)
5. Zambra (nuevo tapas)
6. The Junction (nuevo southern)
7. White Duck Taco (innovative street tacos)
8. West First Pizza/Flat Rock Village Bakery (Hendersonville) (wood-fired pizza, pasta, salads, and baked goods)
9. Sunny Point Cafe (brunch, all-day breakfast)
10. Early Girl Eatery (brunch, all-day breakfast, meat & three)

Pending: Knife & Fork (Spruce Pine)

Sorry, visitors: Still no exceptional Asian-themed restaurants and only passable sushi, although Doc Chey's on Biltmore Ave. is a good choice for a quick Asian-Fusion lunch. Also, the Papas & Beer Brevard Road location serves up consistently good, cheap Americanized Mexican food.

  1. danna Jul 10, 2012 10:34 AM

    That's a pretty good list, Jeff!

    Personally, i've never had anything better than average at Limones, but I know it has enough fans that i can't argue too strongly with you on that one. Early Girl , however, i think that one should drop right off the bottom. Over Easy, Chorizo and Tupelo Honey are all better breakfasts, IMHO. The only real omission I can think of right now is 12 Bones.

    I can't remember your old list. what got added/subtracted?

    13 Replies
    1. re: danna
      Tom from Raleigh Jul 10, 2012 11:21 AM

      Jeff C. just visited The Admiral again on Saturday night, this time with my wife and kids. It was an exceptional experience as good a meal as we've had in quite a long time. Different than Husk in many ways but better. There was a certain confidence about the place. I had 2) small plates; 6 oysters first, and then fried sweetbreads over a bed of mashed potatoes (??). The sweetbreads was a mind blowing dish. All the flavors and textures worked harmoniously. The oysters were good, but I felt like I wasn't making the most of the opportunity to order from their menu. My daughter ordered the pork belly. This dish was a amaze-balls. Three pieces of pork belly cooked perfectly served over crowder peas.

      1. re: danna
        Jeff C. Jul 10, 2012 11:32 AM

        Crap! Thank you for reminding me about 12 Bones and Over Easy, Danna. Even if I am now forced to break my own rules:

        11. 12 Bones (bbq, ribs, sides)
        12. Over Easy Cafe (breakfast, brunch)

        BTW, the only place that has never made this list before is Zambra, mainly because we never got around to trying until a few months ago.

        Tom: Glad you enjoyed The Admiral. It's one of the best restaurants in the south, IMO. (And Husk is one of the most overrated.) Have you tried F.I.G. in Charleston or Five & Ten in Athens, GA? Both are amazing.

        1. re: Jeff C.
          danna Jul 10, 2012 12:52 PM

          ditto Admiral and FIG...my most beloved
          ditto Husk...not hated, but overrated

          but damn, I wish pork belly's 15 minutes would be over. No matter how genious the chef, it's still a big glob of fat. Normally I spit that out, not order it ;-)

          1. re: danna
            mollybelle Jul 10, 2012 02:25 PM

            Thank you Danna! I've tried to understand the pork belly thing,and I do get it.Its just not the religious experience thst everybody raves about(thats softshells for me).

            I've decided that pork belly is just bacon lost.

            1. re: mollybelle
              miss piggy Jul 10, 2012 03:21 PM

              Like the list, Jeff! I am preferring Over Easy over Sunny Point these days though!

              1. re: miss piggy
                Jeff C. Jul 10, 2012 03:25 PM

                I hear you, Miss Piggy. The last time we ate at Sunny Point, the service was lousy.

                P.S. Give me sweetbreads (esp. The Admiral's sweetbreads) over pork belly any day.

                1. re: Jeff C.
                  winefuhrer Jul 10, 2012 06:42 PM


                  Have you made it to Knife and Fork yet (is that why they are pending?). We went for brunch Sunday and I am continually amazed at what the Chef Nate does in Spruce Pine. If you go, please spend a couple moments speaking with him...he is so very passionate about everything he does. He had some "Nate-basco" sauce he put with a pork tenderloin, bell pepper, cilantro dish that was crazy good paired with a "prickly" Riesling. The cheese selection (with homemade bread) is always delicious as well. I am interested to hear your take on K&F.

                  1. re: winefuhrer
                    danna Jul 10, 2012 07:16 PM

                    I'm desperately trying to get up there. Can anyone say how far it actually is (driving time) out of Asheville?

                    1. re: danna
                      meatn3 Jul 10, 2012 08:49 PM

                      I used to make that drive frequently. It is right at 2 hours by either route (40 to Marion & then N. or I - 26 N. then E. on 19 through Burnsville). Parkway, of course, another hour iirc.

                      1. re: danna
                        JTomWilson Jul 11, 2012 04:34 AM

                        Mapquest has the drive from Greenlife in Asheville to Knife & Fork as 50 miles and 1 hour & 2 minutes. With the construction on 19E it probably takes a few more minutes now but no where close to 2 hours. I've been up there from Asheville a couple of times lately via that route.

                        The trip via I-40 and 226 is a couple of miles and a few minutes longer. If you like narrow curvy mountain roads that the way to go! No me.

                        1. re: JTomWilson
                          meatn3 Jul 11, 2012 06:40 AM

                          Sorry, I spaced - the two hours was Boone. You are right, Spruce Pine is right about an hour, Multitasking = not enough attention to anything! (Pouring more coffee and attempting to focus...)

                        2. re: danna
                          Leepa Jul 11, 2012 04:19 PM

                          I regularly go to the Penland/Spruce Pine/Bakersville area from Asheville and it only takes me about an hour. Depends on which one I'm going to, but I'd budget an hour.

                        3. re: winefuhrer
                          Jeff C. Jul 10, 2012 07:38 PM

                          Haven't had time to make the drive yet but very much want to give it a try. I'm also very excited to hear that Chef Nate will be designing the menu at a new restaurant to be built in the River Arts District.

            2. m
              mojoeater Jul 10, 2012 07:26 PM

              Just returned from another trip to Asheville and must agree with Early Girl, Zambras, Limones and 12 Bones. Still haven't made it to Admiral. We fully intended but staying within walking distance won out.

              I'd add Salsas. The food and drinks are awesome and affordable. Portions are big so we usually split an app and entree.

              8 Replies
              1. re: mojoeater
                danna Jul 11, 2012 05:13 AM

                I was thinking Salsa, too. Just because it's not what it used to be, for a visitor who doesn't remember when it was absolutely fantastic...it would still be a good choice.

                1. re: danna
                  Jeff C. Jul 11, 2012 05:52 AM

                  I need to go back to Salsa--it's probably been three or four years since we've been. All I can say is the last time we went, the wait was long and the service and food were a mess. Do they still have the "Spliff Roll" app.?

                  1. re: Jeff C.
                    danna Jul 11, 2012 06:05 AM

                    It's been a couple of years for me , too, but yeah...the spliff roll was still there last time I was. Let's face it, there was always a long wait and scary service. My food was not a mess...it was pretty good...just not what it used to be. I think I would go there more except it just makes me sad to remember it in it's heyday.

                    1. re: danna
                      Jeff C. Jul 11, 2012 06:36 AM


                      And while I've got some of the most respected local foodies here: Has anybody done one of those Blind Pig thingies? Worth it?

                      1. re: Jeff C.
                        miss piggy Jul 11, 2012 09:48 AM

                        I'm going at the end of this month and am SO excited! Admiral chefs cooking Mexican-Japanese fusion...sounds so interesting! The lastest event advertised would have been a must for me too but we're going be out of town - Cucina 24 chef doing a Havana/Hemingway theme - Cuban cuisine. I will report back on mine!

                        1. re: miss piggy
                          Jeff C. Jul 11, 2012 11:04 AM

                          Please do!

                          1. re: Jeff C.
                            miss piggy Jul 11, 2012 05:06 PM

                            Was just revisiting your list. For me it would be exactly the same with only two changes - Over Easy instead of Sunny Point and I'd have to work Plant in there so I'd nix Early Girl. And pending for me would be Cucina 24 and Marketplace. We are so lucky to have so many great local restaurants here in Asheville!

                            1. re: miss piggy
                              Jeff C. Jul 11, 2012 06:19 PM

                              I snuck Over Easy in at number 12, but upon reflection, I do think it is better than Early Girl and maybe even Sunny Point. If I were a vegetarian or vegan, Plant would be in my top ten for sure, but though I eat less red meat than I used to, I remain an unrepentant carnivore.

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