Like many cities below the Mason Dixon, Southern food is central to Asheville. There are, however, many other options in the trend-forward town. Chefs in the city are continuously pushing boundaries in all the right ways, as is evidenced by the many James Beard awards Asheville restaurants have recently been nominated for and won. From decadent vegan Southern restaurants and gluten-free specialists to multicultural food hubs and the best breakfast in the South, there’s a little something for everyone in Asheville.
Rhubarb $$ — With owner and head chef John Fleer at the helm, Rhubarb and its accompanying cafe, The Rhu, serves up inventive Southern fare. The former chef of Blackberry Farms, Fleer has a way with flavors and textures that simply can’t be replicated. It’s like eating in a modernized version of your grandma’s kitchen. Don’t leave without ordering dessert. You can’t go wrong with a slice of chocolate olive oil torte or berry and goat cheese pie.
Rosetta’s Kitchen $ — This casual eatery is a haven for those with dietary needs. Vegetarians, vegans, and people on a gluten-free diet are all welcome here. Rosetta’s Kitchen stands out with its bright purple awning and flower boxes. The restaurant offers a sliding scale meal for $2 to $6, and anything over that is paid forward so that those in need can eat. Earn some good karma while eating here, and try the cornbread and greens for a hearty helping of Southern soul food among other international comfort foods on the menu.
White Duck Taco Shop Downtown $ — An Asheville staple, White Duck Taco Shop has multiple locations between downtown and the riverfront. The straightforward menu will please and accommodate carnivores and herbivores alike. Apart from typical taco combinations, White Duck tacos have internationally influenced flavors like the Banh Mi Tofu or Korean Beef Bulgogi and house kimchi. Take your time with the chalkboard menu. Everything will sound tempting.
Jargon $$ — Set inside a historic home, Jargon has a varied menu of globally inspired dishes. Behind the unassuming red brick exterior, the restaurant is home to an eccentric interior that takes itself seriously yet keeps things fun with lava lamps and a gallery wall of mirrors. Try the elk meatballs or oven-roasted octopus.
Biscuit Head $ — Biscuit Head is a fun, casual spin on a Southern classic: biscuits. The jam bar is the diner’s speciality, and there’s a wide range of options to top those warm, flakey biscuit layers. Vegans and vegetarians will appreciate tailored options like soy chorizo for heartier, filling dishes. Join the line that will likely stretch on longer than you’d like. Just know the wait is worth it.
BimBeriBon $$ — In a light and airy space filled with greenery, BimBeriBon serves a completely gluten-free menu. International dishes are fortified with superfoods and come at a reasonable price. While vegetable lovers will favor fare like the oat fava bean gnocchi bowl, others should try the jian bing, a typical Chinese street food similar to a braised-pork-filled crepe topped with an egg.
South French Broad, River Arts District, and South Slope
Vivian $$$ — An American restaurant with a European flair, the menu at Vivian is seasonally inspired and brings an old-world spark to the minimalist, modern digs. Though the sign is easy to miss, the blue and pink wall next to the entrance of this special occasion haunt for elegant dining isn’t. Order the bacon-wrapped steak cooked in foie gras.
All Souls Pizza $$ — All Souls Pizza is popular for its wood-fired pies, locally sourced sandwiches, and local beers. The casual pizzeria is cozy and extends outdoors with a terrace lit with Edison bulbs overhead. You can keep it simple with a tomato and mozzarella pizza or try something new like a pie topped with shrimp.
Little Bee Thai $ — Little Bee Thai doesn’t hold back on the spicy kick. The fresh and authentic fare will please all those looking for heat — and lots of it. In a small, simple, and straightforward space, the atmosphere is somewhat lacking, but the flavor isn’t. Order any of the curries.
The Cantina $$ — The Cantina at Historic Biltmore Village is a nice contrast to the city’s many options for Southern, European, and vegetarian fare. Filled with rich colors and textures, The Cantina serves beautifully plated classics from tacos and fajitas to quesadillas and enchiladas. Vegan and vegetarian options are available, but whatever your order, get a side of calabacitas cornbread to go along with your main.
Wayside Village Bar & Grille $$ — Located in an old train depot, Wayside Village Bar & Grille is one of the city’s best casual eateries with the most inventive cuisine combinations. The owners come from both Tex-Mex and Greek backgrounds, and their interpretation of the two cuisines combined is nothing short of delicious. The Bloody Marys are well balanced, and the Asian chicken salad is an ideal choice. Start with the cold-hot dip and order a side of macaroni salad. This is a restaurant to save room for before you arrive and then eat your way through the menu — because no choice is bad here.
Ichiban $$ — For sushi, sashimi, and hibachi-grilled entrees, visit Ichiban. A typical Japanese steakhouse, this casual restaurant prepares meals on a tableside grill. Give the Mamacita roll (made with spicy crab, peppered tuna, avocado, and crunchy chili paste) a try.
Montford Area Historic District
Nine Mile $$ — A Caribbean restaurant with vegetarian-friendly options, Nine Mile is a favorite among Asheville residents for a reason. Though the interior is a little bland, the dishes are far from it. The fresh and flavorful cuisine always pleases crowds. Deciding what to order can be difficult, but Marley’s Magic, a Carolina jerk-cooked trout with ginger curry and much more, is exactly what the name suggests: magic.
Chiesa $$ — Set in a former community church, Chiesa, which translates to “church” in Italian, lives up to its name. Known for its pasta and sweet Italian sausage, the renovated space is simple and rustic, and the restaurant offers patio seating during nice weather. For a healthier option, order spiralized zucchini.
Five Points Restaurant $ — A local favorite for a large portion of breakfast comfort foods, this classic diner is as down-home as they come. Five Points has dishes like biscuits and gravy, grits, french toast, and other staples, and the prices can’t be beat.
Black Bear BBQ $ — Don’t take this strip mall find for granted. Black Bear BBQ offers dining in or carry-out for those on the go. Regulars love the tender ribs and moist brisket. Order a side of mac and cheese before you take a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables. Vegans and vegetarians will rejoice at the option of jackfruit or soy barbecue here as well.
Fairview Tavern $ — Complete with a stage, pool, and darts for entertainment, this old-school tavern and sports bar serves American classics and favorites. From fried chicken salads and beef stew to hot dogs and potato skins, Fairview Tavern‘s fare is always filling.
Local Buggy Café Food Truck $ — The bright red trail is easy to spot with “Hamburgers Tacos Pupusas” written across the top. Local Buggy Café’s mission is to serve healthy fast food that customers will love enough to come back for more. Utilizing local ingredients, the joint is known for its tacos and tamales.