Our Asheville Favorites
The Unique Restaurants, Shops, Galleries and Outdoor Places That Are Our Asheville Favorites, the Ones We Come Back to Again and Again.
Asheville Favorites - Restaurants:
So Many Asheville Restaurants, So Little Time! There's nothing tougher than trying to choose the best restaurants in a city blessed with an abundance of great eateries. We love independent restaurants (no chains here) that serve creative hand-crafted dishes at affordable prices. Asheville restaurants are famous for using local, organic produce with farm-to-table freshness. Here are some of our favorites:
Doc Chey's Noodle House tops our Asheville Favorites list this year. This lively downtown eatery offers amazingly affordable large bowls of steaming soups and wonderfully savory noodles, as well as spicy rice dishes featuring super-fresh locally grown veggies. Favorites include the spicy vegetarian Szechuan Stir Fry and the richly flavored Japanese Udon noodles. Chicken, beef or shrimp can be added to any dish. The atmosphere is comfortably busy and social, perfect for anyday grab-a-bite satisfaction. For dinner, you need to come early (5:30) or be prepared to wait in line.
Papas and Beer When you are ready for a hearty, bring-on-the-cervezas, eat-till-you bust, Cali-Mexican feast, you can do no better than the warm, bustling, and very friendly Papas and Beer. Located a few miles south of downtown, it's no wonder that this mall-based restaurant has a line of hungry diners stretching out the door by 6:30 pm on most nights. The salsa is bright and full of garlic and cilantro, and everything that comes out of the kitchen has the rich flavor of home-made. The prices are family-friendly, the burritos are large and hearty, and the Fajitas Zacatecas Chipotle with chicken, steak and big gulf shrimp in a richly spicy sauce is memorable.
Sunny Point Cafe and Bakery This upbeat and scrumptiously creative eatery is West Asheville's champion of breakfasts. Their organic cornmeal hotcakes are light and richly flavorful and served with real maple syrup. You can build your own omelet with farm fresh eggs and fillings that include brie cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto. Of course the hardworking owners, April Moon Harper and Belinda Raab, stay open to serve first class lunches and dinners too.
The Market Place is where we reserve a table when we are really ready for top-of-the-line fine dining. Owner Mark Rosenstien and Chefs Justin Burdett and Michelle Bailey whip up masterful international cuisine created from the freshest local and organic ingredients. The restaurant depends on organic meats and veggies that come from farms and suppliers within 100 miles of Asheville, so the menus change daily. A typical menu might include Smoked Duck Breast with Herb Quinoa, Sauteed Summer Greens, and Strawberry-Ginger Compote or Wood-Grilled 'Bistro' Steak, Saffron with Cous Cous, Sweet and Sour Red Peppers, and Chermoula Vinaigrette.
Favorite Outdoor Experiences and Green Spaces
Put on your walking shoes! You don't have to go far from downtown to find great walks in the beautiful outdoors! While the city is known as a base from which to explore the surrounding mountain wilderness, there are also plenty of places within and near the city to stretch your legs and enjoy sunshine and fresh mountain air.
The North Carolina Arboretum is our Asheville favorite outdoor place for walking, biking, hiking and just plain enjoying. This city treasure features gravel roads and paths that follow streams, pass gardens and roll through 434 acres of mountainside woodlands. Bent Creek wanders for 1.8 miles through the property. Trails range from easy to strenuous, and some are hiking only while others allow bikes. The formal gardens are mostly concentrated around the Education Center where benches are placed to enjoy views of the gardens and the surrounding mountains.
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville, closer to downtown, also offer wooded trails in a pretty environment. The garden's ten acres flank stretches of a sparkling creek and feature over 700 varieties of native trees plants and flowers. A half mile long trail offers a pleasant stroll and connects to another trail that loops around the UNC campus.
Warren Wilson College lies a short drive east of downtown. Little wonder that this is an Asheville Favorite. We love walking here. The stunning campus of this agricultural college encompasses hundreds of acres of farm fields, woodland and pastures surrounded in all directions by beautiful mountains. The Riverside Trail flanks the lovely Swannanoa River for almost two miles. Another favorite walk is to follow the half mile or so of farm roads that surround the experimental grain fields adjacent to the campus.
Of course if you want to explore downtown, any of our Asheville Walks (coming soon) will get you out and about. Our Architecture and History Walk takes in some of the city's best architecture and fascinating historic sites, the city's own Urban Walk blends interesting stops with stories of the past with some great sculpture. If Asheville art is your passion then our Gallery Walk will take you to the finest galleries downtown has to offer.
Great Outdoors Nearby: When we want more serious nature hike without going too far afield we jump on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Twenty minutes to the southwest you'll find several excellent trails at Mount Pisgah and the ever-popular (but sometimes crowded on weekends) Graveyard Fields. Another of our Asheville Favorites trails is 1/2 hour north at Craggy Gardens. The road is closed at the picnic area until spring of 2009, but the Craggy Gardens Trail is open and leads from the picnic area to a spectacular bald with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Asheville Favorites - Art Galleries
Welcome to Art Town USA! With about 150 galleries and studios (estimates range from around 90 to over 200), you will never run short of places to shop for quality art in Asheville. Our Asheville favorites galleries are those that show a wide variety of talented local and regional artists, and that are high on innovation and low on pretense.
Blue Spiral is one of our all-time favorites. This gallery is spectacular! With over 15,000 square feet of space, the gallery is filled with the colorful work of over 100 local and national level artists. Glassworks, ceramics and walls of colorful canvases create a visual feast that flows from space to space.
16 Patton is another gem. The gallery highlights the work of serious local artists. Nature is a constant theme here, but the offerings also including more cutting-edge works. The radiant warm colors and nature-inspired shapes of artist Sterling Edwards and the luminous fruits by Denise Stewart-Senabria are regularly featured.
Jonas Gerard Gallery: If you like your paintings full-to-the-brim with lush, warm colors, this is the go-to gallery. Just one artist here, the smiling and outgoing Mr.Gerard, but his vibrant abstract and representational paintings carry echoes of his Moroccan roots and are so consistently compelling that we count him on our Asheville favorites list. Mr. Gerard's does painting demonstrations during festivals and special events and if you can catch one, by all means do, as his painting style is frenetic and captivating.
Ariel Gallery If you can wander through this fascinating gallery without smiling, you need a funny-bone tune up. Whimsy and delightfully playful humor are strong themes amid this collection of finely crafted works from a collective of top-notch regional artisans. You'll also find the graceful wood grained curves of masterfully crafted, and very comfortable, wood rockers and other furniture, the vibrant colors and feather-light textures of delicately woven textiles and the rich warm hues of hand blown glass and finely shaped ceramics.
Favorite Shops and Boutiques
Every time you turn a corner, there's another small gem of a shop you didn't know was there. Many of our Asheville favorites show the work of multiple local mountain artists and craftspeople.
Woolworth Walk, In 2001 this original 1930's Woolworth's 5-and-Dime Store was completely renovated and opened as a gallery featuring the work of over 150 regional artists and artisans. You could spend a whole day shopping here and not see everything, but you can refresh yourself from time to time at the period soda fountain with its red revolving stools and old-fashioned sundaes.
Kress Emporium was another of Asheville's big department store early in the twentieth century and it too has been lovingly restored and features the paintings, ceramics, jewelry and other works by eighty or more fine Carolina and Appalachian artists and craftspeople. No ice cream here, but a pretty good espresso bar up front.
The Art and Heritage Gallery at the Grove Arcade is a lovely and rambling non profit center that displays exceptional works by local artists and has regular themed shows to highlight emerging and established artists. The Shopping experienced is enhanced by the outside Portico Market that allows a dozen or more local craftspeople to display their wares
The Loft (Lost Objects, Found Treasures). Is one of our Asheville Favorites independent boutiques. The contents of this quirky shop defy description other than to say that whimsy, vibrant colors, humor and eccentricity all play a part. Furnishings, decor, trinkets, and, well, lots of interesting stuff.
The Mast Store can't beat for casual outdoor clothes (o.k., o.k., it's a chain, but it's a local chain with great comfort clothes and a delightful ambiance!). There's old fashioned penny-candy, camping gear, outdoor-oriented books, and fashions perfectly matched for the mountain environment.
More Asheville Favorites
Our Favorite Chocolate Shop: Hands-down, is the sinful French Broad Chocolate Lounge Fabulous artisan chocolates, rich flavorful coffees, fine wines, flaky desert pastries, the decadent offerings of Asheville's own Ultimate Ice Cream, as well as a cozy, inviting place to sit and while away an hour or two with friends as you enjoy them all. The handcrafted truffles include such wonders as Indian Kulfi with flavors of cardamom, rose and pistachio, and French Lavender, which pairs the flavor of real lavender with wildflower honey in a dark chocolate ganache.
Our Favorite Bakery: West Asheville's friendly and trendy West End Bakery. All their breads are made with organic flours and their big cinnamon rolls are the stuff of legend. No wonder its an Asheville Favorite!
Our Favorite Outdoor Shop and Outfitter: The excellent Black Dome Mountain Sports. The best selection of quality gear and a knowledgeable and helpful staff that have hiked and paddled every inch of WNC.
Our Favorite Ice Cream Parlor: Ultimate Ice Cream on Tunnel Road. With flavors like Black Mocha Stout (made with the locally brewed beer) and Organic Expresso, we all scream for ice cream!
Our Favorite Health Food and Organic Grocer: Its impossible to choose between the excellent, independent Greenlife and the friendly, efficient small southern chain, Earth Fare. Both are full size supermarkets and both offer the best organic fresh veggies, free range, grass fed, hormone-free meats, great coffees and teas and healthy everything.
Asheville Favorites - Ways to Discover the Essence of Asheville
- Take A walk in the North Carolina Arboretum
- Enjoy a summer evening of Downtown Art during Friday Gallery Walk
- Sway to the sweet, old-time country tunes at the Shindig on the Green
- Shop for cool old stuff at the Antique Tobacco Barn
- Walk along the river at Warren Wilson College
- Savor espresso and ideas at an Author's Talk at Malaprop's Book Store
- Stomping to the beat the Friday Night Drumming Circle
- Shopping for fresh-from-the-farm organic veggies at a Tailgate Market
- Dining and people-watching in a sidewalk cafe on Wall Street
- Watching a movie at the Fine Arts Theater
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