Asheville’s creative vibe and collaborative spirit have fueled the rapid growth of a thriving, eclectic restaurant scene. The small mountain city has a remarkably large pool of talented chefs who source inspiration — as well as market-fresh ingredients — from Western North Carolina’s tight-knit network of innovative farmers, foragers, and food artisans. Appalachian fare, Southern comfort food, and whole-hog barbecue mingle with flavors from Asia, Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and beyond, making for a riot of restaurant choices at meal time.Read More
18 Essential Restaurants in Asheville, North Carolina
From Spanish tapas to crispy kale pakoras
It’s well worth venturing north of the downtown dining scene to seek out the inconspicuous excellence of Avenue M. Long known as a neighborhood haunt, current owners Ralph Lonow and Tony Creed have thoroughly zhuzhed up the space, service, and menu, bringing onboard executive chef Andrew McLeod, an Asheville native with a star-studded culinary resume. McLeod’s obsession with preserving meats makes the charcuterie board a winning choice. Or choose a hand-made pasta, such as rigatoni with all’amatriciana or triangoli with green garlic, pecorino, and preserved lemon. Lonow’s award-winning wine list provides plenty of pairing options.
Jettie Rae's Oyster House
Simple, artful preparation from Charleston native chef Will Cisa lets the innate flavors of super-fresh Carolinas and East Coast seafood shine at Jettie Rae’s, just north of downtown. The menu kicks off with an extensive raw bar, daily ceviche selections, and caviar service, and from there moves into entrees with influences ranging from Spain to Maine to the Carolina Lowcountry. Customers should try octopus a la planxa, oysters Bienville or Gullah-inspired crab rice, or skip the seafood altogether and go for a steak or the legit double cheeseburger. While waiting for a table, diners can indulge in an oyster shooter or cocktail and a few snacks at the Pearl, a tiny vintage Airstream trailer-turned-bar that serves the restaurant’s covered outdoor patio area.
Rosetta's Kitchen & The Buchi Bar
Recently moved a few doors south of the funky Lexington Avenue space it inhabited since opening in 2002, Rosetta’s still maintains its mellow, hippie vibe and serves the same menu of simple, fresh, affordably priced vegan and vegetarian soul food. The veggie burger and peanut butter-baked tofu are legendary, or try the Buddha Bowl, which manages to feel both healthy and indulgent with its tumble of rice, smoky tofu, avocado, greens, and more (add the house-cultured kimchi for kick). The new location has a spacious patio area and offers the on-tap, locally made Buchi kombucha, cocktails, mocktails, and house-made sodas previously served at the old spot’s downstairs Buchi Bar .
With its stately arched windows, refined hodgepodge of vintage furnishings, and pleasant tangle of potted plants, Sovereign Remedies feels simultaneously posh and convivial. The imaginative, seasonal cocktails often leverage local fruit and herbs, and the food menus wander playfully around the globe, showcasing whatever’s currently being harvested at nearby farms or brought in fresh from the North Carolina coast. Try a local grass-fed beef tartare, white anchovy Caesar, hand-cut pasta with local mushrooms or the popular Make Space Frites topped either with duck poutine or guajillo ketchup, fermented peppers and chive aioli.
Winner of the 2022 James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant, chef Meherwan Irani’s lighthearted homage to Indian street food has long been beloved by locals, but it also draws steady crowds of tourists with its vivid, addictive flavors. On the chaat menu, the crispy kale pakoras and lime-kissed matchstick okra fries have deservedly earned wide acclaim as have the curries. But visitors should consider checking out the selection of Indian wraps and sandwiches, such as the Sloppy Jai with spiced lamb, green chutney, and sweet yogurt served on a griddled bun.
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Strong ties with Western North Carolina’s farmers, foragers, and food artisans are the cornerstone for the simple yet elegant Southern fare five-time James Beard Award finalist John Fleer crafts at Rhubarb. Count on the pimento cheese hush puppies as a fool-proof starter for the ever-changing menu of small plates and entrees. Current choices include sumac-cured South Carolina king mackerel, roasted acorn squash with farro and black-eyed peas, and cider-braised pork osso buco.
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High-end Italian fare meets Southern Appalachian ingredients in chef Brian Canipelli’s gorgeous, Instagram-worthy offerings at Cucina 24. Featuring meats, cheeses, vegetables, edible flowers, fungi, and herbs sourced fresh from local farmers and foragers, the antipasti, house-made pasta, and wood-fired pizzas are consistently impressive. But for a truly memorable Asheville culinary adventure, opt for the chef’s tasting menu, which changes daily based on Canipelli’s market finds and inspiration.
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When chef Katie Button opened Cúrate in 2011, she set a high bar for Asheville’s then-nascent restaurant scene. More than a decade later and with a 2022 James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality under its belt, the Spanish tapas concept still charms adoring crowds in its friendly, yet refined, historic downtown space with shareable classics like jamon iberico, Galician-style octopus, and crispy fried eggplant drizzled with honey. The bar stocks an impressive list of Spanish and Basque vermouths, sherries, and wines.
Since it opened in the early 2000s, Limones has steadfastly remained a darling of Asheville locals with chef and owner Hugo Ramirez’s bright, inventive takes on the cuisine of his native Mexico City. The menu, including a selection of ceviches and generous vegetarian options, shifts weekly depending on what’s available at local farms and tailgate markets. Recent entree choices include a lamb ragout chile relleno and butternut squash ravioli with fava beans and fried capers. There are usually about a dozen margarita variations on the bar menu, with the dreamy Patron Reposado peach-chipotle standing out as an enduring local favorite.
Chef Dan Silo’s menu at Sawhorse channels the family lore of his great-grandmother, who was a lumber-camp cook, as well as his own memories of the country diner food of his youth in the Adirondack Mountains. With a focus on whole-animal butchery and in-house preservation, the kitchen cranks out masterful takes on stick-to-your-ribs French-Canadian classics. Go savory with the meat pie, poutine, or buckwheat pancake with cheddar, duck confit, and fingerling potato. Or try the plate-sized buttermilk pancake with maple syrup or a maple doughnut or eclair for something sweet. The fact that the space is a lovingly renovated old diner (the Leicester Family Restaurant sign now hangs in the dining room) adds to the comforting, homey experience.
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Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse
Located just a few steps from the Orange Peel music venue downtown, Ukiah’s bright, warm space and Japanese-izakaya-meets-American-barbecue theme makes it the perfect spot for a pre-concert dinner with friends. Diners can opt for beautifully crafted bao, gyoza, ramen, sashimi and tempura — including the show-stopping crispy beech mushroom — or go for meatier items, like baby back ribs or prime ribeye with shiso chimichurri. Ukiah’s outside-the-omelet weekend brunch menu features dishes like savory shishito pepper-cheddar biscuit with Japanese sausage gravy and breakfast ramen with tonkotsu-egg broth and maple shichimi bacon.
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Keeping things simple — and incredibly delicious — is the name of the game at Baby Bull, a small, speedy, no-nonsense River Arts District burger concept from the owners of the nearby Bull & Beggar. Order at the counter from the handful of items on the exceedingly streamlined but well-conceived menu, then savor your basket of food under an umbrella at one of the outdoor picnic tables. Depending on the mood, try the locally beloved double cheeseburger, beer-battered fried cod sandwich with mushy peas or vegetarian Bombay-style vada pav on a King’s Hawaiian roll. Do not miss the habit-forming tallow-cooked french fries with aioli dipping sauce.
Leo's House of Thirst
The latest Haywood Road cinderblock building glow-up from the Admiral owner Drew Wallace, Leo’s House of Thirst has quickly gained traction as a favorite neighborhood gathering place with its outstanding wine selection and a bright, well-crafted food menu that leans toward shareable, snack-ish bites. Popular starters include deviled eggs seasoned with smoked honey and bacon and chicken liver mousse with blackberry jam and fennel pollen. Dishes like the mussel and peach tartine, shrimp roll on brioche with poblano and red onion, or Austin Inselmann’s housemade pastas — the sunny torchio with cherry tomatoes, shishito peppers, and nasturtium butter never disappoints.
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Vivian was born as a humble tabletop pop-up inside Burial Beer in 2015. But with its move four years ago to a River Arts District brick-and-mortar, it has matured into a celebrated anchor of Asheville’s restaurant scene. Owners Shannon and Josiah McGaughey offer an agile cross-pollination of European food traditions with Appalachian ingredients and flavors. Lyonnaise scallop quenelle and Nordic deviled eggs with smoked fish and caviar are signature dishes, but other options rotate with the seasons. Sunday brunch is a special treat, with recent offerings ranging from lobster parfait to a deep-fried chicken biscuit with sausage gravy and eggs.
Easily overlooked in its unassuming strip mall space on Patton Avenue, Taqueria Muñoz has become an obsessed-over local culinary treasure for its lush and flavorful sopes, tortas, tacos, burritos, tamales, and quesadillas as well as specialties like birria, pupusas, pollo con mole, and caldo de res. The dominant language is Spanish, the dining experience is no-frills, the portions are hearty, and the prices are pleasantly affordable. Most dishes feature choices of pork pastor, carnitas, steak asada, chicharron, cabeza and tongue, but vegetarians can ask for an off-menu mushroom (and occasionally huitlacoche) version of some offerings. A satellite location at Zillicoah Beer Co. in Woodfin provides a pared-down menu with outdoor dining options.
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Asheville is blessed with a number of excellent bakeries, but Old World Levain (OWL) is in a class by itself. Founder Susannah Gebhart learned the art and science of crafting her naturally leavened Old World breads and European pastries from a fourth-generation Spanish-Italian baker, and for several years her little yellow bakeshop in West Asheville has been the place to go for perfect, airy baguettes and Instagramable sourdough loaves, as well as shatter-in-your-mouth croissants, jewel-like tarts sparkling with crystallized herbs, sugared Scandinavian cardamom buns, and other pastry delights. This fall, OWL will open a spacious second location in North Asheville with more seating.
Since it first started delivering its boundary-pushing American fare in a homely cinderblock building on the then-scruffy west side of town in 2007, the Admiral has remained one of Asheville’s flagship upscale dining experiences. Innovative, skillfully executed dishes and the dining room’s rough, eclectic charm make it a go-to spot for a memorable date night. The hearty charcuterie boards loaded with house-made sausages, terrines, and ferments are a must for meat lovers. Full-service dining is available indoors or on the heated patio by reservation only.
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12 Bones Smokehouse
A favorite stop for Barack and Michelle Obama during their Asheville visits, 12 Bones has long been a local go-to for barbecue. The hardwood-smoked ribs, with the popular blueberry-chipotle, spicy pineapple habanero, or more traditional brown-sugar sauce, are a top attraction. And many go for the pulled pork, smoked turkey, or epic Hogzilla (bacon, bratwurst, pulled pork, and pepper jack on a hoagie) sandwiches. But house-made sides, like the corn pudding, jalapeno cheese grits, collard greens, and smoked potato salad are the sleeper hits.