Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Southeast >
May 1, 2013 04:24 AM

Foodiest City: Asheville, NC vs Charleston, SC (or possibly Savannah, GA?)

Which city in the southeast has the most variety of ethnic food?

If you were to pick a city that would appeal to both foodie tourists and (that has the most culinarily "aware" locals) which would it be (outside of Atlanta, GA)?

Also, If you wish to throw the Research Triangle into the mix, so be it, I'm all ears.

I live in the northeast and hands down (outside of Boston) the award goes to Portland, Me.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't think Savannah even comes close to those cities you mentioned or to Research Triangle area. And really? Portland, Maine as compared to parts of New York? Some how I don't think so.

    1. Besides ATL and in order...
      1. New Orleans
      2. Miami
      3. Charleston
      4. Asheville
      5. Nashville
      6. Louisville

      I agree with burgeoningfoodie, Savannah is not (yet) a "foodie" town.

      4 Replies
        1. re: Jeff C.

          What area's comprise the South East? I don't generally think of Kentucky or Missou as South East and same for New Orleans. I don't consider Florida the South if we are talking about something more like cuisine types but if she is asking about as far as location/direction than yeah it is... if that makes sense.

          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

            Good question. I assumed "southeast" meant the entire region.

            1. re: Jeff C.

              I'm assuming SE refers to the parameters of this board.

              I also assume NE is within CH parameters, hence NYC not being part of the equation.

        2. Thank you for the replies, sorry for the confusion. Basically I meant the "Southeast" as specified by this board. Miami, New Orleans, Florida, Kentucky and Atlanta all have their own categories. so I didn't include those. So, it seems the consensus is Charleston first, then Asheville, with Savannah coming in at a distant third.

          Yes, I should have written Northern New England (not Northeast) when mentioning Portland, Maine.

          Doesn't Asheville have more brewpubs and more of a farmer's market scene vs Charleston? It also has three or four Indian places, does Charleston have that many?

          What about ethnic markets, taquerias, spice shops, etc? I know Charleston has a Whole Foods and Trader Joes over the bridge on Mt Pleasant, does Asheville have any decent markets in town?

          3 Replies
          1. re: bewley

            I'd say Asheville as far as variety of "ethnic" food. Charleston has a lot of good food, but is there a variety of ethnic foods or restaurants?

            We (Ashevillians) have two Earth Fare markets as well as Greenlife Grocery (bought out by Whole Foods and a sort of Whole Foods Lite) and a Trader Joe's under construction within two blocks of downtown. We have some Asian markets and many Latin markets. There is also have a market that specializes in Eastern European ingredients. There are fabulous farmer's markets - mostly on the weekends but also a few during the week.

            Hope that helps.

            1. re: Leepa

              Charleston has an unbelievable amount of excellent restaurants in a concentrated area, but I don't think it has the ethnic variety of Asheville. Farmers markets operate in different areas on different days of the week. The climate is such that the growing season is long, so fresh beautiful stuff is available year round. There are a couple of brew pubs in Charleston but not as many as Asheville. And, while Savannah has great restaurants too, I didn't see lots of ethnic variety during my short stay there. Charleston has all the WF, EF, TJ's too.

            2. re: bewley

              North Carolina is (and I may be saying this wrong) the largest exporter of beer or has the most brew pubs.

              I think RTP has more diversity than Charleston, but with Charleston I can only think of southern and gullah style foods. And I know that the farmer's markets of RTP area are ranked better than Asheville or Charleston.

              As far as restaurant establishments that are foodie worthy, I think probably Asheville and Charleston exceed there.

            3. That is a very tough call. I've spent time in both cities, and each certainly in terms of ethnic food has a great variety of it spread out across each area. Charleston recently had a nice explosion of new ethnic restaurants to add to it's already fairly solid list of ethnic food, including some great food trucks like Refueler's (filipino) joining oldies like Roti Rolls. Some new stuff like Xiao Bao Biscuit and new Vietnamese restaurants along with a giant wave of banh mi have made a strong case for Southeast Asian food. There's a few French staples and European restaurants throughout the pennisula along with strong Southern restaurants that we all know and love by now (FIG, Husk, McCrady, SNOB, etc.). Asheville is no doubt a wonderful mecca for ethnic food in the culture district and just a great, great eating town in general. I would not throw one above the other, they are fantastic towns, both well worth spending time in for different reasons, as a foodie and tourist.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ForagingFoodie

                As a former new yorker, who has lived in Cambridge Mass. I plump for the Triangle, due the big Asian population here we have tons of South Indian restaurants plus Northern, Chinese, Greek, Thai, German-Polish,Korean, Japanese restaurants, there are huge Chinese and Indian supermarkets, farmer's markets. Also thanks to immigration tons of taquerias and markets. I really miss nothing.....

                1. I just cannot comprehend the Asheville hype. Please don't even use ethnic and Asheville in the same sentence.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: kdeats

                    I cannot comprehend the tiny minority who bash the Asheville food scene.

                    1. re: carolinadawg

                      okay, a dozen ethnic eateries around town. Our utter lack of ethnic diversity is clearly reflected in the food scene. Just sayin'

                      1. re: kdeats

                        If you count Indian, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Sushi, Thai, Vietnamese, and Salvadorian as ethnic, there are way more than a dozen. (Still no true Dim sum, alas.)

                        1. re: kdeats

                          Are you serious? There are nearly a dozen that are members of AIR alone...Mela, Chai Pani, Jeruselum Cafe, Curate, etc., etc. I have no idea what you are "just saying' ".