Eating and Drinking Asheville-Style
“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
Note: Maximum restaurant and brewery occupancy is currently 75% and late night restrictions on alcohol sales have been lifted. Bars are allowed to serve customers indoors, as long as they meet 50% occupancy limits.
If you like to eat and drink, you’re in for a treat in Asheville.
The Asheville Independent Restaurants or AIR (www.airasheville.org) organization has more than 40 members dedicated to keeping the Asheville food scene “eclectic and individual, just like Asheville.” Altogether, the Asheville area has some 300 sit-down local restaurants, plus hundreds of fast food and chain eateries.
Probably the most important trend in Asheville dining in the past decade has been what has been called the New Southern cuisine movement. This is a little difficult to define, but basically means that restaurants start with classic Southern dishes and add their own sophisticated twists and turns, combining tastes and experimenting with unusual combinations of dishes. Closely related to this is the farm-to-table movement, which is strong in Asheville. Restaurants source ingredients locally, emphasizing organic and naturally grown items from area farms.
This doesn’t mean you’re stuck with eating grass-fed organic beef with collards and pureed turnips (though we love that!) You can get almost any kind of food in Asheville: Cuban, Jamaican, Caribbean, various styles of Italian, French and Mexican, Spanish, German, Greek, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Southern and Northern Indian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Nepalese, seafood, burgers, brunch and more. Vegetarians and vegans will have an easy time in Asheville. Not only are there some excellent exclusively vegetarian and vegan restaurants here, but most restaurants offer a number of meatless and vegan dishes.
We think the weak link in Asheville dining is Chinese. In general, the Asian dining scene in Asheville is far less developed than in areas with larger Asian populations. Only about 1% of the Asheville/Buncombe population is Asian. The area could do with more Thai, Korean, Japanese and other Asian restaurants. The biggest hole, though, is in Chinese dining. While there are a few decent Chinese restaurants here, the area has no truly top-ranked Chinese restaurant, nor does the range of Chinese food here even begin to reflect the breadth and depth and complexity of one of the great cuisines of the world.
(If you’re a Chinese restaurant owner or chef, please come to Asheville.)
Restaurants are listed alphabetically within each neighborhood. Price categories are per person for dinner with appetizer or salad, entree, vegetable or other side, glass of wine or a cocktail, tax and tip. If the restaurant doesn’t serve dinner, then the price category is for a full meal at breakfast or lunch without alcohol but with tax and tip.
Check out restaurants in Downtown and those in the neighborhoods around Asheville. And don't overlook drink -- after all, Asheville is Beer City USA, and it has an active club scene, too. If you overdo it, wake up with a cup of java at one of Asheville's many local coffeehouses.
Very Expensive $65+ per person
Expensive $35-$64 per person
Moderate $20-$34 per person
Inexpensive $10-$19 per person
Very Inexpensive Under $10 per person
The restaurant name tagged in RED indicates that in our opinion this is one of the best restaurants in Asheville, worthy if necessary of a special occasion or a splurge, although not all top restaurants are expensive.
Remember, the opinions on dining, and everything thing, in this guide are our own. We do NOT accept comped meals, free lodging or other gratuities, so that even if you don’t agree with us you can be sure it’s our honest opinion, unswayed by any monetary consideration.
With hundreds of restaurants in the Asheville area, and with openings and closings all the time, we can’t possibly include every dining option in Asheville, nor do we claim to be 100% up-to-date on the latest changes at every restaurant. If we’ve left out your favorites, or made a mistake, please let us know. Note that some brewpubs, bars and clubs, and coffee houses are covered in separate sections of this guide.
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All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.
We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.