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Asheville itinerary consultation

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My husband and I will be on our first visit to Asheville in about a month. I'm starting to put together our dining options, and I could use input!

Some details:
-We'll have from lunchtime Saturday through lunchtime Wednesday.
-We'll be staying in between the center and the Montford area. We're planning to spend Saturday in the center and RAD, and one day at the Biltmore. On the other days, we'll likely kayak on the river, drive and hike somewhere along the Blue Ridge, and see where else we end up.
-We're not beer drinkers.

So far, I'm thinking (in no particular order)...

Up to 4 breakfasts (or brunch) -- but probably fewer, since we'll sometimes just grab something light/quick from a cafe.
-Tupelo
-Sunny Point
-Early Girl
Any of these to prioritize?

5 lunches:
-12 Bones
-White Duck
-Corner Kitchen on the day we go to the Biltmore (Or we could stay on the property for Deerpark or the Stable Cafe or...? For this one, we do want a good lunch, but a convenient one is more important than a fantastic one, and we're only up for $$$ if it's really worth it.)
-Red Bridges BBQ Lodge on our way back to Charlotte airport
-??? on Sunday (12 Bones and White Duck are closed Sundays and it's not our Biltmore day or our departure day. What's open, not pricey, and a good idea?)

4 dinners -- we're thinking two nicer places and two cheaper ones:
-The Admiral
-Seven Sows
(I keep reading about Curate, but the menu just isn't doing it for me.)
-Nine Mile (closest restaurant to where we'll be staying)
-??? Where else? Prefer <$20 entrees for this one, and we live in Boston, so we're more interested in uniquely Asheville or southern spots, and less so in particular, ethnic cuisines that can just as easily be found here.

So, thoughts? Anything you'd sub in or out? Anything else we should know?

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  1. I'd add Over Easy to your breakfast list...and Homegrown or Dough if you want something on the simple/quicker side (great biscuits, etc). Tod's Tasties in Montfort also good for a quick/good breakfast. I like all of the breakfast places you've mentioned, my personal order being: over easy, tupelo honey, sunny point, early girl. Posana also serves a lovely brunch.

    Your lunches sound great. You could do Curate for brunch on Sunday - they have a special brunch menu as well as the regular - that way you could try it without committing to a dinner. Wicked Weed would be another fun, casual spot - good food even if you don't drink beer. The Junction in the RAD would also be worth a look. Corner Kitchen would get my vote over the Biltmore restaurants.

    Limones, Bull and Beggar and Zambra would be good "nice" dinner choices (love SS and The Admiral too although their menus may be too alike? PS - make your reservations for The Admiral soon). Nine Mile is cool. Other less expensive dinners could be Tupelo Honey (if you didn't get there for breakfast) or Plant. Plant is vegan and most definitely uniquely Asheville - and it's fantastic. Or any of the lunch spots you missed outside of 12 Bones.

    That's a lot of eatin'! Have fun!

    1. I agree with miss piggy that The Admiral and Seven Sows may be a bit similar. I would choose The Admiral above Seven Sows, and maybe recommend Zambra in place of Seven Sows.

      1. Thank you! Using your feedback so far, here’s v.2. I think v.1 had too many big meals - this one still might, but it’s a step closer...

        Up to 4 breakfasts:
        -Tod’s Tasties - This is right near where we’re staying, and I think grabbing a couple of lighter breakfasts is more likely than having all full ones.
        -Sunny Point
        -HomeGrown (or could be an alternate for a lunch)

        5 lunches:
        -12 Bones
        -Biscuit head - newly added. Thoughts?
        -The Junction’s Sunday brunch
        -Corner Kitchen on the day we go to the Biltmore
        -Red Bridges BBQ Lodge on our way back to Charlotte airport

        4 dinners:
        -The Admiral - We liked miss piggy’s idea of shifting places we’d considered for breakfast & lunch to dinner. Between that and ickymettle’s agreement that the two nicer dinner places we’d picked are similar, we’re thinking just one higher-end dinner. Any more opinions on The Admiral after the chefs left vs. Seven Sows? (ickymettle, is your pro-Admiral vote from after the chefs left?)
        -Nine Mile (closest restaurant to where we'll be staying)
        -Tupelo Honey
        -White Duck

        7 Replies
        1. re: fleenshop

          On a recent weekend trip to AVL, we ate well. Our top meal was at Chai Pani. Great bindi. It was also highly reasonable. We ate brunch at Curate where the potato wrapped sausage dish blew my mind. Excellent bloody Mary's, too. Seven Sows was really good, too.

          1. re: fleenshop

            My pro-Admiral vote stands regardless of the changes in chefs. I don't think the quality has dropped at The Admiral at all. While a I like Seven Sows very much, I like the food at The Admiral a little better and I like dining experience at The Admiral much more. For what it's worth, my wife loves The Admiral but is not sold on Seven Sows.

            While I don't think you can go wrong at either, I think
            The Admiral should be tried first. Trying Seven Sows first would be like watching The Godfather, Part II before ever watching The Godfather.

            1. re: fleenshop

              Good call on Sunny Point. I also like Over Easy, i think Tupelo Honey and Early Girl are both way over rated.

              I really like Biscuit Head, in particular the fried chicken biscuit w/ sriracha (sp?) slaw. The jam/butter bar is the bomb, i've been known to order an extra biscuit just for additional dessert experimentation after my "lunch" biscuit.

              12 Bones is a good call, don't forget they aren't open on the weekend at the in-town location. Junction could possibly be a wait if the weather is too bad for outside tables, you might want a reservation there. I disliked Corner Kitchen on my one visit there so that's what I would skip if since you've decided to do a lunch inside Biltmore.

              I would not waste a dinner on nine mile, tupelo or white duck (do white duck for a casual , quick lunch and be sure to get the Bangkok shrimp taco). Yes, the Admiral is still great post-drew and post-elliott. I'd vote Zambra for dinner, Seven Sows, Bull & Beggar, Junction, Rhubarb. (surprised no one else mentioned Rhubarb) If you want a more casual dinner, what about the El Kimchee food truck parked in front of the Wedge on a Saturday evening? Now THAT's a local experience!

              1. re: danna

                Agree with most of what Ms. Danna says. Chef Ivan is still kicking it at Admiral, but let me add that advanced table reservations are more important than ever as the newer bartenders are surly, forgetful, and dress like homeless people. In other words, do NOT eat at the bar if you want the full Addie experience. Brief thoughts on the others:
                Seven Sows--yes
                Sunny Point--yes, breakfast
                Early Girl--yes, breakfast
                Over Easy--yes, breakfast
                12 Bones--yes, lunch
                White Duck--yes, lunch
                Bull & Beggar--yes
                Curate--yes, for quality ingredients and purity of flavors
                Zambra--solid small plates but not very imaginative
                Rhubarb--yes, but order carefully (stay away from beef dishes)
                Junction--wildly uneven the three times we've been

                1. re: Jeff C.

                  I can't figure out how to start a new discussion from my mobile - I apologize for posting here, but I need a dinner reco for tonight and the Asheville posters seemed to all be tied to this thread! We come here often, have been to Seven Sows and Curate - can't get into The Admiral tonight - instead looking for a good, laid back spot for dinner. Have been to Wicked Weed, may go there but wouldn't mind trying somewhere new. Good beer list, open to anything from pizza to bbq to southern. Ideally downtown or not too far from Grove Park. Thoughts??

                  1. re: IOPfoodie

                    King James Public House

                    https://www.facebook.com/kingjames.pu...

                2. re: danna

                  I just got back from a weekend in Asheville, and had a fantastic dinner at Cucina24 downtown. We did the Chef's tasting menu, and they just kept brining out courses - had great food and wonderful service. We also did dinner at Admiral, after seeing all of the props on Chowhound, and was underwhelmed. It wasn't bad, but just so-so. Maybe my expectations were too high. Did Sunday breakfast at Biscuit Head, and I agree - do the second plain biscuit just so you can try some of the butters. Also did a lunch at All Souls Pizza in RDA - it was quite good too.

              2. agree with most of what's already been said.

                I would actually recommend staying on Biltmore property for lunch that day. Cedric's is good near the winery. To me, it just takes too long to come and go off the property to do lunch outside. Of course, that also depends on how much you are trying to fit in at Bitlmore. If not too much, then going to Corner Kitchen would be fine and we have had great meals there.

                White Duck is super casual, so unless you are looking for a very casual very cheap dinner (which is fun too!), I'd probably do it for lunch instead (we love the Duck!).

                I liked Biscuit Head but I only went once. I just don't get over that way too often.

                The biggest problem with Asheville is there are too many great places to get to! We live here and we still can't seem to get to them all. It's a good problem to have. :-)

                1. Just wanted to address the Biltmore day. Between the leisurely driving pace, the distance to the parking area and the amount of walking the estate involves you may find that eating on the property is much simpler and a better use of your limited time.

                  When I lived in Asheville I maintained a years pass for the Biltmore property and often brought a picnic. I don't know if they allow it now but I found it a perfect solution. I ate well and it was a great way to break away from the busy areas for a little quiet break.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: meatn3

                    Yes, you can still picnic there. By the lagoon, along the river or on the Antler Village "green" would all be good choices.

                  2. My wife and I had our honeymoon in AVL this past October.

                    Breakfast: We loved Sunny Point and Early Girl, but to be honest we were perfectly happy with Bojangle's for breakfast on the go more than one day. We can't get it at home and their biscuit sandwiches are cheap and really good.

                    Lunch:
                    - Definitely hit White Duck.
                    -Luella's BBQ if you don't mind a second BBQ day aside from 12 Bones.
                    -Chai Pani, inspired by Indian street food and really good.
                    -Not to push the fast food, but Cook-Out. It's a regional chain in NC and Southern VA and everything is cheap and fresh.

                    Dinners:
                    -We liked Admiral, didn't love it.
                    -Seriously let down by Seven Sows.
                    -Curate is so worth it, even with it being fairly traditional Spanish, which is pretty accessible elsewhere. The execution of the food is great, the wines and sherry selection are great, and the service is some of the best we've had in any restaurant.

                    Cocktails:
                    -MG Road. Behind and below Chai Pani. Delicious small bites and bar snacks and an outstanding cocktail menu. Well-stocked bar with great service. This is the first place we stopped into on Sunday night after arriving in AVL and went back every night except Monday (they were closed).

                    Edited to Add: The Wedge Brewing Company in the River Arts District. As you mentioned you're not beer drinkers, this may have less appeal for you, but they serve several local brews in glasses and growlers and have an outdoor picnic area with tables and benches, lawn games and a food truck. When we were there, the truck was El Kimchi- great Korean BBQ tacos, rice bowls, home-made kimchi.

                    1. Thank you! These responses are super-helpful. We’re dropping the idea of leaving the property on our Biltmore day, and adjusting our list for many of the other meals. So many tempting options! It’s a good problem to have. Except where we need to reserve, I think with this evolving list in hand, we’ll feel good deciding based on mood. I made a reservation for The Admiral for Sunday night. Are reservations important for other contenders or meal times, or are we generally okay leaving ourselves the flexibility to decide last-minute?

                      1. Laurey's on Biltmore Ave is great for gourmet comfort food open for breakfast 'til 8:00 PM.
                        Bull & Beggar in the River Arts District is excellent,
                        Ben's Tune Up has an interesting Asian influenced menu and is very Asheville
                        Chestnut also on Biltmore Ave is excellent (same ownership as Corner Kitchen)
                        French Broad Chocolate Lounge is a must!

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Marilynne Herbert

                          Was a bit let down last time I went to Ben's. Service was good, but the presentation was perfunctory and the flavors less punchy than before. Off night?

                          1. re: Jeff C.

                            Chef Elliot Moss is no longer there.

                          2. re: Marilynne Herbert

                            Huh, I'd missed French Broad Chocolate Lounge in my research! I see they have a tour - anyone done that? Any thoughts on the tour and the quality of the chocolate?

                            1. re: fleenshop

                              Although I haven't taken the tour yet, it's definitely on my list! I'm told it's very interesting and the tasting room is amazing. The chocolates are outstanding. The owners just announced recently that they're moving their retail store to Pack Square in downtown Asheville. It's not uncommon to find lines out the door at their present location on Lexington Ave.

                              https://frenchbroadchocolates.com/bea...

                              1. re: fleenshop

                                chocolates are very good. Desserts are so-so.

                            2. We have not spent much in Ashville. It is an overnight stop on our way to Georgia. But, don't miss the N.C. State Farmer's Market and get some Sourwood Honey. You may want to get several jars. It is spicy and tangy. I use it when I make Baklava. I use blanched and toasted pecans in it. A definitely a southern twist on Baklava. The farmer's market is large and you might want to go one morning and get lunch there too. The markets are all across the state. http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm... We had a great lunch in the one near Wilmington, they had a lot of impeccably fresh fish and seafood in the restaurant. That link will tell you where the markets are. Oh, don't buy Biltmore Wine. Someone bought me a bottle. After a couple of sips it went down the drain.

                              The market in Ashville is The Western NC Farmer's Mkt.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Candy

                                Here's a better link to the Western NC Farmers Market in Asheville:

                                http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/faciliti...

                                There are several other "local" farmers markets in Asheville.

                                When you say you visited the farmers market near Wilmington, can you be more specific? The Riverfront Market in downtown Wilmington? The state farmers market in Lumberton closed a couple of years ago.

                                1. re: carolinadawg

                                  I cannot remember. We were on our way home with a new Puppy from Burgaw and were heading to Ashville. It was a state Farmer's Mkt. It got to be lunch time and saw that market and stopped to get something for lunch. We were quite pleased. We got carry out because we would not leave the puppy in the car. It was a fairly warm day. That was over 12 years ago.

                                  1. re: Candy

                                    12 years?!!

                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                      Sadly yes. We intend to correct that soon.

                              2. Trip report part 1:
                                Off to a delicious start with Biscuit Head lunch upon our arrival yesterday. Mimosa chicken for me and a fried oyster special for my husband. I'd wondered if it might be a little gimmicky, but we loved the unusual, flavorful combinations and the quality of each component. Sampled a couple of toppings and wished I had enough room to try lots more.

                                Explored a bit of the RAD and then downtown until dinner. Wanting something inexpensive and convenient, decided on Tupelo Honey. Should have listened to danna - didn't much like anything either of us ordered, except my husband enjoyed his peach rosemary lemonade. Part of the problem was bad ordering on my part, and nothing was terrible, just not worth using up an Asheville meal.

                                We planned on brunch at The Junction this morning, but if my husband gets up soon, I'm hoping to switch to something earlier and lighter so we can head out for our day. We'll see...

                                1. Trip report part 2:

                                  We did swap out our brunch plans at The Junction yesterday, because the forecast said it would be the last sunny day we get here, and we wanted to get going. So, with regrets at missing a menu that had hooked both of us, we got a quick, earlier breakfast at Tod's Tasties, right around the corner from where we're staying. My husband's breakfast bowl was a great combination, with perfect greens, tater tots, and eggs, and sausage that was too salty for us. My homemade granola, yogurt, and (almost all dried) fruit hit the spot after yesterday's heavier fare. We took a bagel with hummus and a chocolate cheesecake-filled blood orange muffin on the road for lunch later. We didn't get to it until it had spent hours in the car while we hiked in DuPont (wow!!), but we found them pretty delicious as we munched them while gazing at Looking Glass Falls (also wow!!).

                                  We made our way back via the Blue Ridge Pkwy in time for my husband to nap while I walked around Montford before our reservation at The Admiral. Loved that meal! We shared the mascarpone-filled dates, Vietnamese coconut crepes, sweetbreads on grits, and steak tartare. We thought the food was creative and unusual without trying too hard, and all perfectly prepared and delicious. My husband also enjoyed their homemade, cloudy ginger ale once he added lots of lime to cut the clove, but I thought it was like trying to drink a Christmas ornament.

                                  We had taken note of the chocolate and cherries dessert on their website's menu as that's a favorite combination of both of ours, so we were disappointed to see the current dessert choices. We were going to skip it, but our waitress, who had been great all evening, said she loved the chocolate one even though she wasn't usually one for all-chocolate desserts. Neither are we, but we decided to try it. It was even better than our other dishes, and in the ranks of our favorite-ever desserts. Little crunchy bits of two kinds of homemade cereal, milk chocolate gelato, a little glass with a layer of each of two pot de creme-consistency ganaches. Other than a smear of marmalade (I think) and one bite where I thought I tasted a little cardamom, the flavor was all chocolate, but still had great range of flavor and texture. The gelato and cereal part did seem like it was from a different songbook than the glass of ganaches, but oh well. The ganaches are the part that blew us away. We were scraping to get every bit out of the little, ridged glass.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: fleenshop

                                    Great review, thanks. You had me at "chocolate cheesecake-filled blood orange muffin "

                                    I saw that chocolate dessert a couple of weeks ago at the Admiral, it must be quite popular to hang around. Apparently I made a mistake in getting the Chai creme brulee instead, although it was very good!

                                    Fingers crossed that the weather holds for you today. Tuesday may be a good day for the Blue Spiral gallery (i want to type museum it's so great) and the fine arts cinema next door. And cafe sitting. City Bakery next door to the aforementioned has good people watching at the window counter. If you're a serious coffee hound, you might prefer http://highfivecoffee.com

                                    1. re: danna

                                      Danna, I know, how could we NOT buy that muffin? I'd have to add that we thought it wasn't QUITE as good as it sounds, but only because it sounds so, so, so good.

                                      The chai creme brûlée is still on The Admiral's menu, too, and looked like the best choice to me based on the description. It was the server's recommendation that swayed us.

                                      Thanks for the activity recommendations, too!

                                  2. Trip report part 3:

                                    Another great day, food-wise and otherwise. With two rainy days in the forecast, we decided to pay the extra $10 to be able to split our Biltmore visit across two days. So, we had plenty of time to enjoy a delicious breakfast at Sunny Point before heading over. Between us, we had an omelet, grits, bacon, and biscuits. All delicious - loved the grits and ok I'm a Yankee so what do I know, but that was my favorite biscuit ever. The server explained that the yeast is what makes it different from the classic, but so good.

                                    At the Biltmore, we prioritized outdoor things when it wasn't raining much, saving the house itself for if we got driven inside. By late afternoon when we'd seen everything else we wanted to, we still hadn't been, so the house is what we have left for today. We finally started getting hungry then, too, and headed to White Duck. It was empty between meals, and the 5 tacos we tried between us all hit the spot, with fish and shrimp options at the top, duck next best, and buffalo chicken and lamb gyro as runners up. (We also noticed when we were downtown that another White Duck is opening there, the day after we leave.)

                                    1. Trip report part 4:

                                      Homegrown was our yummy breakfast yesterday - thanks miss piggy for the great suggestion. We enjoyed fried chicken biscuits and grits.

                                      We toured the Biltmore house, then went to 12 Bones for a late lunch. Ribs outstanding enough to spoil me for anything we can get around here. We had to order a few more for dessert, and we ended up full enough that we didn't get around to dinner.

                                      This morning, we grabbed some more of those good hummus bagels and a donut from Tod's on our way out, stopped in Hendersonville for a bit, and later stopped at Red Bridges BBQ before heading home from CLT. We very much enjoyed the chopped pork and hush puppies, but should have skipped the tea, lemonade, and banana pudding.

                                      Thanks so much to everyone who helped make this an outstanding trip in terms of food. I know I'll especially crave that Sunny Point biscuit and 12 Bones ribs, and I envy you locals' access to the other great meals we enjoyed.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: fleenshop

                                        Thanks for all the great reports - glad you enjoyed Asheville!