Asheville is a food lover’s paradise. Some of the city’s restaurants are nestled in cool art deco buildings that never faced the wrecking ball due to the Great Depression. The downtown looks like a movie set.
Still, all the establishments are graced with talented chefs who show off creativity and vision. Asheville, NC restaurants feature various world cuisines, vegetarian, Appalachian, or down-home southern cooking. You’ll find some kitchens embracing a culinary movement to grow or forage for the food served on their tables, making it a “find dining” scene in the restaurants. And some of the bars use edible flowers to garnish their drinks.
The city is only a few miles from Pisgah National Forest or The Appalachian Trail, so getting out into the woods is easy for collecting fresh ingredients. Chefs and foragers alike scout for mushrooms, greens, and edible flowers starring in their entrees or cocktails.
Appalachian dining is part of the identity of Asheville, and it’s not a fad. It’s called Mountain South cuisine. This is homestyle food which consists of cornbread, beans, country ham, and wild ramps.
The shortened growing season in the area called for preserving food by canning, pickling, drying, and curing what the farmers cultivated. The fish, hogs, or birds and produce all had to be harvested and kept to sustain life over the winter.
The various settlers, starting with the Cherokee people and later, enslaved Africans and European immigrants, blending their diverse cultures to form a cuisine out of the land’s bounty. Combine that local bounty with today’s talented chefs, and you have some fantastic dining experiences.
My husband and I, along with our friends, another foodie couple, ate our way around town. Here are nine terrific places to try, but there are so many more.
The 9 Best Asheville NC Restaurants
626 Haywood Road // +1 (828) 252-0055
Sunny Point Café is family-owned and serves upscale comfort food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everything is made from scratch and is “spade to spoon,” with some items coming directly from the garden that grows steps away from the shaded patio.
Diners enjoy meals on the deck, inside the small café, or on one or two small tables inside the verdant garden. The staff picks fresh veggies and produce daily for specials, and even if you aren’t dining among the vegetables, you are welcome to survey what’s growing while you wait for your table.
The patio has colorful murals painted on the café walls. The murals are of iconic chefs alongside their direct quotes. This is meant to inspire your appetite. The menu of southern comfort foods such as shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, biscuits, eggs, and fried green tomatoes are created with a different spin, making them a little bit unique.
Our party of four was hungry and ready for lunch. We went straight to the “Specialties of the House” and ordered different entrees, starting with shrimp and grits. My husband’s dish had North Carolina blackened shrimp, tomatoes, and a Dijon cream sauce over cheesy chipotle grits topped with crisp bacon.
I picked the pecan-crusted fried green tomatoes with goat cheese, bacon, and red pepper aioli served on a croissant with a side of fresh fruit.
My girlfriend leans vegetarian. She ordered the Hoppin’ John veggie burger with oats, pumpkin seeds, nuts, kale, sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, lettuce, tomato, onion, and roasted red pepper aioli with a small side salad.
Her husband ordered the chicken and waffle sandwich. His sandwich was a stack of goodness that was quite impressive. Fried chicken thighs, pimento cheese, jalapeño jam, and bacon were piled within a thick sour cream waffle.
The table went quiet as we dove into the food, which was hot, fresh, and delicious. It was no surprise but, we ate it all. I was surprised at the Dijon mustard in the shrimp and grits preparation, but my husband loved it.
We gave all four meals a huge thumbs up. The service, the patio, and the garden were lovely. It’s a great spot and hugely popular, so be prepared to wait. Dogs are welcome.
48 Biltmore Avenue // +1 (828) 575-2667
Chestnut is a special place. The building is circa 1924, and the space is stunning.
The management team’s philosophy is to treat their staff like family. Management wants to make sure they love their jobs and treat customers well in turn.
The kitchen and bar make sure they have the best ingredients, sourced locally, and handcraft those ingredients into fantastic food and cocktails, so visitors feel like treasured guests. Head Chef Joe Scully and his staff make everything from scratch, from curing the meats on the charcuterie to the sorbets for dessert.
The menu changes monthly (except for a few dishes). The staff is offered tastings to describe the flavors to patrons and really understand how the food is put together.
The cocktails are crafted with homemade elixirs, shrubs, and syrups with fresh-squeezed juices and top-shelf liquors. Every detail is top-notch.
As soon as you walk in, you are greeted and treated with care. We were seated, and our server explained the menu. There are starters, medium plates, entrées, and charcuterie and cheeses. The list has enough choices to keep you interested but not overwhelmed.
Let me say we were dazzled by our choices. We ordered a few starters of mushroom soup drizzled with thyme oil and split the roasted beet salad with a trio of beets, fancy greens, candied walnuts, topped with a warm goat cheese croquette. Beet chips are all tossed with a citrus vinaigrette.
I chose an entrée of a medium plate of pasta, which was the right choice. The dish was delicious but rich. The handmade pappardelle topped with braised beef short ribs also had roasted cremini mushrooms, caramelized cipollini onions, and Boursin cream. The pine nut gremolata topping was luscious and peppery.
We were impressed by Crow’s own shrimp and grits, Crow meaning Brian Crow, the Executive Chef. His version included North Carolina shrimp, with Benton’s bacon, cherry tomatoes, arugula, and serrano peppers in a peppercorn cream sauce. It was the star dish of the table, and we all dove in for a tasting.
Even though all the pastry and sorbets are made in-house, we were stuffed. We enjoyed the ambiance and the food at Chestnut. An excellent place to dine.
1 Battery Park Avenue // + 1(828) 575-9636
Isa’s French Bistro has a beautiful dining room and lively outdoor patio in the heart of downtown. The brasserie combines delicious French food and incredible wine selections with seasonal local produce and products that Executive Chef Peter Crockett sources from farms around Asheville.
The restaurant is open for breakfast through dinner. The lunch menu offers classic French favorites, including steak frites and French onion soup, with lighter options of salads and mussels. There are daily specials as well, and desserts that might make you skip the mains altogether.
We had hiked for miles and waited too long to eat. When you are starving and faced with a tempting menu like we were, you order several starters for four hungry diners. It was a Wednesday, and wine was half-priced, so we also ordered a bottle of prosecco. We had heard the French onion soup was authentic, so three of us chose that first. The soup came in a traditional crock with melted gruyere over a slice of French bread. The soup was flavorful, and even though it was warm outside, the savory broth and melted cheese were the perfect comfort food. It was excellent.
Our starters of beer-battered stuffed mushrooms, crispy sunchoke, and potato latkes with cashew crème Fraiche, truffle Mac & Cheese, and Parmesan Frites, came out all at once. My husband ordered a croissant madame as well. This open-faced sandwich included pit-smoked ham, a gruyere mornay sauce, and topped with a sunny-side-up egg. He offered to share, but we were focused on all the tasty fried items we ordered. Everything was incredible, and sharing was the key.
The standouts were the fries and the Mac and Cheese, which were so delicious with the toska truffle cheese sauce, we found it addictive.
Lastly, we ordered the peach cake with whipped cream topped with slivered almonds and fresh whipped cream. We didn’t need any more to eat, but the cake, fruit, and cream were worth making room for. It was all so good.
125 South Lexington Unit 103 A // +1 (828) 505-8560
Asheville Chef Jay Medford started his culinary training and early career in New York City but returned to his roots. After returning home, he opened a unique doughnut spot and re-opened the eclectic Storm Rhum Bar in 2019. Storm’s menu has multi-cultural influences as well as classic southern favorites.
The bar stocks one of the largest rum collections in North Carolina. The bartender can make one of their signature craft cocktails, a prohibition favorite, or you could select a rum and create a drink of your own. The local beers or high-end wines pair beautifully with the creative menu that’s served well into the wee hours of the morning.
We loved the feeling at Storm Rhum Bar. It was relaxed, chic, and low-key, like you were visiting a well-traveled friend. The walls are adorned with travel photos and collected objects from far-flung places.
The drink list sports a ruby red hardcover, made to look like a fine leatherbound book. There were so many cocktails it was hard to pick one. I ordered a Mai Tai, and my friend selected a Rum Runner. The guys chose local beers.
We started with carnitas tacos and a watermelon salad that was packed with incredible flavors. The colors and vibrancy of the ingredients were off the charts. The radicchio salad, pickled apple, roasted beets, squash, angostura vinaigrette, graham cracker crumbles, and herbed goat cheese packed a considerable punch. And the portion was large enough for sharing.
For entrees, we split dishes with our spouses and ordered the specials. Again, we picked a shrimp and grits made Jay’s way, with a Caribbean flair using coconut and spicy peppers, and our friends split a vegetarian curry.
Both bowls were huge, and since we broke the portions, we found we ordered the right amount of food that evening.
The tender North Carolina shrimp in our dish was served over jasmine rice and had the right amount of heat. The curry vegetable dish was packed with beans, squash, and peppers, all local and fresh.
This evening was beautiful for the food, ambiance, and the bar. We thoroughly enjoyed everything.
165 Merrimon Avenue //+ 1(828) 258-7500
Plant is one of the kindest places to eat in Asheville. It’s vegan, and ninety percent organic, often local, and mostly gluten-free. No animal products are served in the restaurant. It opened in 2011 and since then was voted the best vegetarian restaurant, the healthiest bite, the greenest restaurant, best service, and one of the most romantic dining experiences in Asheville. It’s made fine dining lists from Zagat’s to Food and Wine.
At Plant, the food is chef-driven. Jason Sellers, Leslie Armstrong, and Alan Berger take vegetarian cuisine seriously, and it shows. These partners have thirteen tables and a seasonal outdoor patio, and they are packed nightly. Each table is reserved only by phone, and the menu is seasonal, small, and very creative.
We were thrilled to dine and deferred to our mostly vegetarian friend by selecting this restaurant. Still, honestly, we’re all excited to eat here.
Always ready to share, we picked several starter plates. The first to arrive was the seared turnip toast with edamame butter radish and pomegranate molasses on sweet potato brioche. It came as two hearty slices with the toppings, which we split into four pieces.
The flavors were spectacular together, and we all agreed that we loved this starter. It all begins with the chewy bread and rich, sweet, earthy turnips.
The cauliflower was next topped with tahini sauce, grilled lemon, and Za’atar bread crumbs and parsley. It was fried first and crunchy. This was addictive, and the portion was so very generous that we could not stop eating it.
Then the grilled beets arrived on a slate topped with fried onions, dill pollen, and swirled on the platter was mixtures of horseradish, mayo balsamic, and herbs. This was otherworldly, and we really enjoyed the texture of the beets as they were grilled to still have bite but yield. The sauces complemented the sweetness and added punch and toppings added crunch.
Lastly, we had the ravioli, which we topped with freshly foraged cremini mushrooms. The ravioli, filled with cremini & ricotta (vegan) filling, had a kabocha squash alfredo and macadamia Parma with Italian olive oil and sherry vinegar. Hands down, we could not stop eating this gluten-free ravioli with such a rich flavor of mushrooms and sauce that did not have an ounce of milk or cheese. We didn’t miss it at all.
We each ordered the main dishes, but several of us copied each other ordering the Masala Uttapam. This big bowl consisted of chickpeas with Indian spices or channa masala, kale, cucumber, onion, and avocado, topped with sour cream.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their entree. I ordered the Total Summer Ramen, a bowl of smoked tamari broth brimming with grilled farm vegetables, pickled vegetables, and shitake mushrooms. Of course, there were rice noodles and the addition of chile-peanut craq’ins and cinnamon cashews with a slab of grilled tofu. It was all so good and so fresh we had the best time eating our way through a beautiful plant-based meal.
The service is excellent and very warm at Plant as well. It was an extraordinary evening.
22 Battery Park Avenue // + 1 (828) 254-4003
Chai Pani means “tea and water,” which is slang in India for going out for a cup of tea and a snack. According to the restaurant, it can also mean a small bribe, enough to afford a bite to eat. No one had to bribe me to eat at Chai Pani. In fact, we tried to go a few times, and we never got there on time or found them closed for a team outing. Finally, we did get there and were so glad to dine at this Indian street food establishment.
Everything is made from scratch and by hand. The food is affordable and features chaat or street food that’s crunchy, spicy, sweet, and tangy. Or, home-cooked, family-style dishes that show the diversity of culinary styles from the country. They call it mind blasting. We agreed.
We started with matchstick Okra Fries, and wow. Julienned okra tossed with salt and seasoning and a lime wedge. They name it one of their signature dishes, and since I never tried anything like it before, I would agree.
We also sampled the Aloo Tiki Chaat, which came with two crisp potato patties on top of a spicy chickpea stew. Then that’s topped with tamarind and green chutney, sweetened yogurt, and crunchy chickpea noodles. Finally, we shared crispy Chicken Pakoras, spicy nuggets of chicken seasoned with Kashmiri spices in a curried chickpea batter. Everything was mind-blowing. The appetizers were bursting with flavor, crisp and fresh.
The food was outstanding. We all shared some sandwiches for mains, a Chicken Tikka Roll, lamb burgers, and a Crispy Masala Fish Roll. These sandwiches were large enough to split for two and topped with slaws, chutneys and wrapped in hot buttered naan. The burgers, topped with slaw, were slider-sized and flavorful.
To say we feasted would be an understatement. We ordered traditional drinks like Mango Lassi’s, a chilled yogurt drink with sweet mango pulp and cardamom, and Lime Ricky’s with house-made raspberry syrup, and, to wash all the food down, lime and soda water. Don’t miss Chai Pani if you like Indian cuisine. It’s amazing.
10 Shady Oak Drive // + 1 (828) 505-4452
Forestry Camp consists of six buildings on two acres of property. It was constructed by the United States government as a camp for workers. These workers were a part of the CCC, or the Civilian Conservation Corps, a project created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to put men back to work. This helped combat high unemployment during the Great Depression. The men stationed here from 1933-1942 helped build the Blue Ridge Parkway, among other public works in the area.
Burial Beer Company purchased the vacant property in 2015 and revitalized five of the six buildings for the brewery, offices, and barrel aging facilities. The last building became a restaurant called Forestry Camp. The restaurant tells the story of Appalachia and works with local farmers and purveyors, using whole animal butchery, food preservation, and seasonal ingredients to tell the story of Western North Carolina.
The upstairs dining room is rustic and elegant. It feels like summer camp turned into a five-star restaurant. The low lighting sets a romantic mood, and the service is efficient and attentive.
We were taking in the menu and trying to figure out how it worked, as there were only a few options to choose from. The server explained that there were small plates of salads, seasonal vegetables, or charcuterie and cheeses. Then a few choices of larger entrees, and even larger entrees to share with sides for the table. We ate a lot, so we opted for glasses of wine and a bread course to start while looking over the menu.
The OWL country loaf was dark and had a crisp outer crust. The bread was warm and hearty. The house-made butter was sweet and melted quickly on the heated slices. It was a fantastic starter, which we snacked on as we perused the menu.
In contrast to our vegetarian meal, we decided on beef and pork for our mains. Our non-meat-eating diner opted for the ricotta gnudi with oyster mushroom Bolognese and Howards Gap Cheese Winter Squash Cream. Her entrée was delicious, and she enjoyed the earthy mushroom flavor with the seared gnudi pasta.
My friend and I tried the Apple Brandy Farm’s beef NY Strip with Chinese Broccoli, shrimp butter, and Fish Caramel. It came topped with fried onions and gravy with shrimp, and the fish caramel over the sliced beef, and served medium-rare. The rich beef and fish pairing were incredible.
I wasn’t sure about the fish caramel, but it was not overpowering and gave it a rich Asian flavor. I paired my meal with a French Malbec, and it was superb.
My husband tried the Carolina Heritage Pork Chop with cornbread pudding, bourbon-glazed peach, grilled shishito peppers, and bacon jam. It came in a pottery crock also made by a local artisan. That dish was genuinely reflective of Appalachia and seasonal produce in the area. The bacon jam added that sweet and savory note that made the dish.
It was really an unforgettable meal and one that stood out from the many we tried all week. An extraordinary place with such history combined with culinary artistry. A visit here should be on the must list.
12 College Street // +1 (828) 255-4863
Tupelo Honey is a restaurant that prides itself on serving traditional Southern Food rooted in the Carolina Mountains. They’ve been crafting authentic recipes in all their locations for the past twenty years. They focus on simple, scratch recipes with responsibly sourced ingredients that attract diners for breakfast, lunch, brunch, supper, and nibbles.
In Asheville, a brunch is an event, so we went to Tupelo Honey, named “Best of the Best” Brunch Spots by Traveler’s Choice in 2021. Even though there are multiple locations, this doesn’t feel like a chain restaurant at all. The food here is legitimate.
We started with two cathead buttermilk biscuits with blueberry jam and whipped butter. The proceeds of this starter go to the Tupelo Honey Relief and Development Funds that aid Tupelo employees in need. I love that they give help to their employees. And I loved these giant biscuits that were so good, especially with that sweet blueberry jam and butter.
My friend took one for the team and ordered the Shoo Mercy. It had everything: pancakes, honey-dusted fried chicken, two fried eggs, apple cider bacon, and spiced pecans. It looked huge, but someone had to tackle it. He absolutely loved it and basically ate everything on the platter. It looked terrific, and he highly recommended it for a day’s worth of food.
We all wanted Eggs Benedict, which they serve over a buttermilk biscuit with parmesan and rosemary potato cracklins with a side of pickled red onions. The rest of us ordered the All I “Avo” Wanted with two medium poached eggs alongside smashed avocado, paprika, and goat cheese, topped with hollandaise. It was all so good with multiple cups of fresh hot coffee. They also serve Mimosas and other alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks to pair with your meal, but we were fueling up with coffee. It was our last day, and we had a long drive home.
I wish we had room for dessert. Tupelo has Heavenly Banana Pudding, a famous twenty-year-old recipe that is supposed to be the creamiest banana pudding you’ve ever had. They also offer a brown butter pecan pie with a dark chocolate sauce drizzle. If you have trouble deciding, there’s a mini dessert duo to combine the two favorites in smaller portions. That sounds like heaven to me. If you have Tupelo Honey near you or in Asheville, where it all started, you should head there for a meal. It’s worth every calorie.
57 College Street // +1 (828) 258-0476
The Med is a cozy diner in the heart of downtown Asheville. They’ve been around since 1969, serving breakfast and lunch with local ingredients in a casual, laid-back environment. Think sixties diner with booths and the window with a bell that dings when your order is up.
There’s nothing fancy about the Med, but the food is exceptional. It’s all sourced locally, and scratch-made. It’s served up quickly, just like a local diner would, but you could get a southern biscuit with fried chicken (hot or sweet) or a breakfast taco with Pico de Gallo and cotija cheese. The southern Mexican fusion vibe is solid and delicious.
We were getting ready to hike in the Pisgah National Forest, so we opted to keep our breakfast simple with Med Breakfast Plates. The plate comes with two eggs any style, grits or potatoes, toast or a biscuit, and you can add bacon or house-made sausage. We all customized our dishes, but everyone added a biscuit.
You can’t get enough biscuits down south, and the Med’s were massive and really good. The potatoes here are baked then deep-fried, so they are crispy. The bacon that I added to my plate was thick cut and crisp. My husband ordered the creamy grits, and he ordered a biscuit too. I am not here to judge, but he wanted to fill up on carbs for the hike.
The breakfast was cooked to order, and we were all perfectly satisfied with our individual choices. The coffee was hot and free-flowing, the service was swift, and the meals came out quickly. I loved the busy diner atmosphere, and if I had more time, I would return to enjoy some of the lunch specials that the restaurant is known for. It’s a solid choice for either meal.
We ate ourselves silly in this funky town known for great hiking, lively art, craft beer, and a terrific music scene. The bars serve inventive cocktails and have some excellent nibbles to pair while you imbibe. There’s a lot more territory to cover, but there just wasn’t enough time to visit every single place in town. It’s just going to take another trip. If you take a visit there, you must drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As I mentioned in the Forestry Camp paragraph, the road is 469 miles and is beautiful. It runs through Virginia and North Carolina, but it’s named for the Blue Ridge Mountains found in North Carolina.
Visiting other destinations in North Carolina? Check out our other delicious guides:
- The 8 Best Downtown Chapel Hill Restaurants
- 12 Must-Try Spots for the Best Breakfast in Chapel Hill
- The 6 Best Chapel Hill Mexican Restaurants
- The 8 Best Chinese Restaurants in Chapel Hill
- Where to Find the Best Pizza in Chapel Hill
- 8 Must-Try Brunch Restaurants in Chapel Hill
- 11 Best Restaurants on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill
- 13 Must-Try Restaurants in Mooresville, NC
- 11 Must-Try Restaurants in Manteo, North Carolina
- 13 Best Restaurants in Lexington, North Carolina
- 8 Must-Try Boone NC Restaurants
- 9 Best Blowing Rock Restaurants
- The Best Chapel Hill Restaurants NC & 11 Best Things To Do In Chapel Hill
- 10 Best Restaurants In Raleigh NC
- 10 Must-Try Greensboro Restaurants
- 10 Must-Try Restaurants In Cary NC
- 8 Must-Try Outer Banks NC Restaurants
- 7 Must-Try West Jefferson NC Restaurants
- 5 Must-Try Greer SC Restaurants
- 10 Must-Try Pizza Places In Raleigh, North Carolina
- The 7 Best Downtown Cary NC Restaurants & The 7 Best Bars in Cary NC
- The 8 Best Italian Restaurants In Cary NC
Which of these Asheville NC restaurants do you want to try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
Jeanine Consoli is a freelance travel writer, photographer, and foodie based in Washington Crossing, PA. A retired elementary school teacher used her summers to feed her passion for travel and kept journals of all the destinations she explored. Today, Jeanine is working as a writer full-time. She loves uncovering the history and understanding the culture of each location, including the local flavors of each place. She has traveled extensively in the United States and Europe and is excited to keep adding to the list, finding special places that are off the beaten path both at home and abroad.