The Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants

The Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants

The first time we visited the city back in 2012, we were blown away by the Asheville food scene.

For a 45-square-mile mountain town with a population of around 84,000, the sheer number of critically acclaimed downtown Asheville restaurants was staggering even then.

As it turns out, the city is also the greenest dining destination in America. Around 20% of all members in the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association are certified as green restaurants by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), the nation’s leading authority on the subject.

When we returned in 2014 to write a story on the city for Southbound magazine, we got a chance to sample quite a few of the best Asheville restaurants, including Posana, Bouchon, and more.

We had our best lunch in Asheville at the 12 Bones Smokehouse, a delicious brunch at the Green Sage Cafe, and a lovely romantic dinner at Plant (which was voted Asheville’s best vegetarian restaurant).

Now, every time we visit our favorite Blue Ridge mountain town, we add to our growing list of the best restaurants in Asheville, NC.

Please visit our Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Facebook page and let us know which places you think we should check out during our next trip to Asheville!

READ MORE: Downtown Asheville, NC History: From Biltmore to 21st Century Boom

Downtown Asheville Restaurants Guide

  1. ALL SOULS PIZZA
  2. BOUCHON
  3. CHAI PANI
  4. GREEN SAGE COFFEEHOUSE & CAFE
  5. PLANT
  6. POSANA
  7. TUPELO HONEY CAFE
  8. 12 BONES SMOKEHOUSE
  9. WICKED WEED BREWING
Photo courtesy All Souls Pizza

ALL SOULS PIZZA

175 Clingman Ave • 828-254-0169 • allsoulspizza.com

HOURS: Lunch Fri-Sun 11:30am to 5pm; Dinner Tue-Sun 5pm to 10pm

As someone who put myself through college by managing, cooking, and delivering at various pizza places, I’m very particular about my pies. So it is with some authority that I can say that All Souls boasts the best pizza in Asheville.

Pizza lives or dies on the strength of its crust, upon which every great pie is built. All Souls co-owner David Bauer also founded the acclaimed Farm & Sparrow Bakery, so the man (who specializes in ancient/heirloom organic grains) really knows his stuff.

On top of that foundation, All Souls chef Brendan Reusing piles an array of fresh seasonal ingredients. As is common with many Asheville restaurants, most of their meats and veggies are locally sourced.

In other words, this ain’t Dominos or Papa John’s. Expect upscale toppings like soppressata, pecorino, garlic sausage, smoked NC shrimp, fontina, and salted turnips.

The restaurant is a perfect fit for Asheville’s River Arts district, with an open field for private events and large parties. For something truly unique, try one of their Polenta pizzas.

Bouchon, Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene

 BOUCHON

62 N Lexington Ave • 828-350-1140 • ashevillebouchon.com

HOURS: Sun–Thu 5pm to 9:30pm • Fri & Sat 5pm to 10:30pm

Opened on hip N Lexington Ave by owner/chef Michel Baudouin in 2005, Bouchon is one of the older restaurants in downtown Asheville, NC.

The upscale but casual bistro serves up French comfort food with a healthy dose of Southern hospitality.

Baudouin practices the farm-to-table philosophy, sourcing everything he can from local farmers and vendors. The dishes that result are wonderfully fresh and flavorful.

From the Pique-nique Français (a homemade country-style paté served with locally made cheeses and chutney) and Escargots Bourguignon to Steak au Poivre, everything we’ve tried there was a delight.

If you dine at Bouchon, go early (or on a weeknight) if you want to have any sort of audible conversation and avoid waiting for a table.

Dinner at Chai Pani in Asheville NC
Photo courtesy Chai Pani

CHAI PANI

22 Battery Park Ave • 828-254-4003 • chaipaniasheville.com

HOURS: Mon-Thu 11:30am to 3:30pm / 5 to 9:30pm
Fri-Sat 11:30am to 3:30pm / 5:30 to 10pm
Sun 12 to 3:30pm / 5 to 9:30pm

Opened in 2009, Chai Pani has gone on to become one of the top restaurants in Asheville, with loads of critical acclaim.

Owner/chef Meherwan Irani has actually earned four James Beard Award nominations for his unique take on chaat– Indian street snacks that run the gamut from sweet to savory to spicy– and traditional homestyle thali.

His extensive menu has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, GQ, and even Fox News, while the Huffington Post named Chai Pani one of the “Top 10 Cheap Eats in the US.”

Meat eaters will love the Sloppy Jai (a.k.a. Kheema Pav, a spicy lamb twist on the sloppy Joe), the Crispy Masala Fish Roll (wrapped in hot, buttery naan bread), and the signature Butter Chicken Thali (a north Indian classic).

But there’s also a ton of options for vegans and vegetarians, including Matchstick Okra Fries, intensely flavorful Sweet Potato Chaat, and Saag Paneer (Spinach & Farmer’s Cheese) Thali.

The Green Sage Cafe, Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene

GREEN SAGE COFFEEHOUSE & CAFE

5 Broadway Street • 828-252-4450 • greensagecafe.com

With two locations (one in downtown Asheville, one in the southern suburbs), the Green Sage Coffeehouse & Café is a 4-star rated green restaurant.

All waste is composted, to-go containers and straws are compostable, bikes are used for delivery, and interior elements were made locally from reclaimed wood and metals.

Our pick for the best Asheville brunch spot, the café feels fresh, with sage green and sienna orange walls lined with nature/wildlife photos, plank wooden tables, and big comfy easy chairs by a big bay window.

Everything on the menu is made fresh from scratch, using locally sourced organic ingredients whenever possible, with excellent coffee from Fair Trade companies.

Try their Banana Pancakes, Mediterranean Omelet, Sweet Potato Fries, Avocado Wild Lox Round, and homemade muffins. Everything we ate there was bursting with flavor.

Vegan Cheese Plate at Plant Restaurant in Asheville NC

PLANT

165 Merrimon Ave  • 828-258-7500 • plantisfood.com

HOURS: Sun, Tue, Wed & Thu 5pm to 9pm; Fri-Sat 5pm to 10pm; Closed Mondays

Born and raised in a carniverous North Georgia family, I would have never imagined loving vegan food.

Opened in 2011 by Leslie Armstrong, Alan Berger, and chef Jason Sellers, Plant was the restaurant that changed my mind, emerging as one of our favorite places to eat in Asheville.

Sellers went to culinary school in NYC before making a name for himself at the Laughing Seed Cafe, downtown Asheville’s first vegetarian restaurant. But it’s at Plant that he earned national acclaim, earning accolades from Zagat, Food and Wine, and even PETA.

The tiny open kitchen has just 13 tables and 47 seats, though there is also a seasonal patio. But the intimate setting and sleek decor makes it a great place for a romantic dinner in Asheville.

Their menu, which changes daily, is around 90% organic, largely locally sourced, and mostly gluten free. But from the [Plant] Cheese plate and Smoked Portabello steak to the CBD Ravioli, Sellers’ inventive dishes are never short on flavor.

Posana Cafe, Asheville's Green Restaurants

POSANA

1 Biltmore Ave  • 828-505-3969 • posanarestaurant.com

HOURS: Sun, Tue, Wed & Thu 5pm to 9pm; Fri-Sat 5pm to 10pm; Brunch Sat-Sun 10am to 3pm; Closed Mondays

Located in the heart of the Historic Pack Square area, the casually elegant Posana ranks among the best Asheville, NC restaurants in terms of fine dining.

Executive Chef/co-owner Peter Pollay is an honors graduate from the Culinary Institute of America who once worked under Wolfgang Puck.

Formerly the President of the Asheville Independent Restaurants Association, his eco-conscious Contemporary American Cuisine attracts an older, more mature crowd.

His menu is a model of creative simplicity. No words can adequately describe the delicate balance of flavors in appetizers such as the Sourwood Honey Smoked Pork Belly or the Smoked Trout Tartine on brioche with horseradish-dill crème fraîche.

Pollay’s farm-to-table entrees– which include Sunburst Farms Trout served with spaghetti squash risotto and a fork-tender Creekstone Farms Short Rib with parsnips and red wine jus– are equally divine.

Hanger Steak at Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville NC

TUPELO HONEY CAFE

12 College St • 828-255-4863 • tupelohoneycafe.com

HOURS: Sun-Thu 9am to 9pm; Fri-Sat 9am to 10pm; Brunch Sat-Sun 9am to 4pm

Long before Asheville became the hottest mountain town in the Blue Ridge region, long before the franchise expansion (see: 18 restaurants in 10 states), Tupelo Honey Cafe was leading the traditional Southern food revival.

Their original downtown Asheville location, which opened in 2000, remains as popular as ever today, despite a dramatic increase in local competition.

As a Georgia boy, the restaurant’s down-home, made-from-scratch fare reminds me of the Southern comfort food my beloved grandmother (who was raised in the northern Tennessee hills) used to make.

Led by Chef Eric Gabrynowicz, a four-time James Beard Award semifinalist, Tupelo Honey’s food doesn’t stray far from regional traditions. But that doesn’t make starters like their Famous Fried Green Tomatoes, Pimento Cheese Dip, or Crispy Brussels any less delicious.

In terms of entrees, the Cast Iron Pork, Honey Dusted “Forever Free” Fried Chicken, and Chimichurri Hanger Steak are our personal favorites. But you also can’t go wrong with their “Breakast All Day” menu.
Rack of ribs at 12 Bones Smokehouse in Asheville NC

12 BONES SMOKEHOUSE

5 Foundry St, Suite 10 • 828-253-4499 • 12bones.com

HOURS: Mon-Fri 11am to 4pm; Closed Saturday & Sunday

12 Bones Smokehouse started back in 2005 in a cinder block shack alongside the French Broad River in what is now known as Asheville’s River Arts District.

The previous occupants shuttered their greasy spoon after chest-high waters flooded the place. But 12 Bones founders Tom Montgomery and Sabra Kelley cleaned it up, fired up the smokers, and came up with one hell of a promotional catchphrase: “Tender Butts and Sweet Racks.”

This unassuming BBQ joint has blown up considerably (and changed owners) in the last 15 years, thanks in part to several high-profile visits by the Obamas. Open just 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, the quirky little restaurant now attracts up to 1,000 people a day.

Travel Channel featured their famously decadent Hogzilla sandwich (with bacon, bratwurst, pulled pork, and pepper jack cheese) on Food Paradise. But most folks wisely go for their Half- and Full-rack Ribs plates, which are available in four (or more) flavors that rotate regularly.

Get ’em with southern-style sides like “Damn Good Corn Puddin’,” Collard Greens, or Jalapeño Cheese Grits, and you will find yourself in the closest thing Asheville has to hog heaven.

Patio at Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville NC

WICKED WEED BREWING

91 Biltmore Ave • 828-575-9599 • wickedweedbrewing.com

HOURS: Sun-Thu 11:30am to 11pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am to 1am

Based on a quote from Henry VIII– “Hops are a wicked and pernicious weed”– this popular brewpub in downtown Asheville underlines the connection between outdoor recreation and beer culture.

The company was co-founded in 2012 by two Asheville families who moved to Delaware for a few years, then came back to witness a boom in progressive thought and craft beer culture.

Wicked Weed initially offered 25 unique draft beers, but became known for their thick, hoppy, sour beers. They soon opened the Blue Ridge region’s first sour beer-dedicated taproom, the Funkatorium, and began to distribute beer throughout the Southeast.

Today their original location features a full restaurant, downstairs beer bar, bottle shop, and the original 15-barrel brewery. There’s also a dog-friendly patio and two cocktail areas.

The menu is upscale brewpub fare, including small plates such as Deep Fried Quail with  Buttermilk Biscuit and Smoked Trout Dip with Pita Chips. For entrees we recommend the Carolina Bison Burger, Shrimp & Lobster Gumbo, or Fried NC Catfish sandwich.

READ MORE: Highland Brewing: Visiting the First Asheville Brewery

–Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted; lead photo courtesy Explore Asheville

 

 

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Bret grew up camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia and North Carolina with his parents, and the couple both spent childhood summers on the water with their grandparents. After becoming empty nesters, they yearned for a pristine place where they could escape the hustle and bustle of the city, commune with nature and family, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle that leaves time to appreciate the simpler things in life. Join them and their team as they explore the region, offering expert insights on Blue Ridge travel as they search for the perfect mountain home.