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 mealtime.Read More
18 Essential Restaurants in Asheville, North Carolina
From charcuterie boards to vegan menus
Asheville, NC 28801
Operating from a modest standalone building on busy Merrimon Avenue just north of downtown, Plant regularly tops lists as one of the nation’s best vegan restaurants. It’s also 90% organic and mostly gluten-free. But the bold and artful flavor profiles executive chef Jason Sellers coaxes from his ingredients lack nothing. The succinct menu changes daily, with recent choices ranging from togarashi tofu curry to applewood smoked mushroom steak. The selection of house-made aged vegan cheeses and ice creams are a particularly notable triumph. Currently open for limited indoor dining and takeout.
2. Nine Mile
Laid-back vibes, bountiful portions, and zesty, veggie-forward dishes define the Caribbean-inspired Nine Mile, named after the place in Jamaica where Bob Marley was born. Chicken, locally raised trout, and wild-caught tuna, mahi mahi and other seafood ground the rambling menu of massive salads and pasta- and rice-based offerings. But fresh vegetables and flavor-packed dressings and sauces are the real stars. Almost everything on the menu can be made vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and/or dairy-free. For some gingery heat, try the signature Nine Mile with a rainbow of vegetables and either jerk chicken or tofu over linguini or basmati rice. The original location in Asheville’s Montford neighborhood is loaded with wonky charm, but the West Asheville and South Asheville restaurants share the same menu and have more ample seating. All three restaurants are open for dine-in and takeout.
3. Sovereign Remedies
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. Recently featured offerings include charred carrots with fermented pecans and garlic honey, brown-butter spaetzle, and turmeric and dill pickled shrimp with house-made lavash. Always popular are the addictive house frites seasoned with nori, sumac, black pepper, truffle, and green onion aioli. Open for dine-in and takeout.
4. Chai Pani
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 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. Currently open for takeout and delivery only.
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 and pastry chef Kaley Laird craft 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. Order for carry-out on the website or reserve a table in the dining room or on the covered patio.
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6. Cucina 24
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. Open for takeout and dine-in by reservation only.
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When chef Katie Button opened Cúrate in 2011, she set a high bar for Asheville’s then nascent restaurant scene. A decade later, the Spanish tapas concept still charms adoring crowds in its friendly yet refined historic downtown space with shareable classics like jamón ibérico, Galician-style octopus, and crispy fried eggplant drizzled with honey. The bar curates an impressive list of Spanish and Basque vermouths, sherries, and wines. The dining room is open; takeout and delivery are also available.
8. Benne On Eagle
At Benne on Eagle, chef de cuisine Malcolm McMillian and pastry chef Kaley Laird, work under the advisement of renowned Asheville soul food chef Hanan Shabazz to pay culinary tribute to the city’s historic Black business district, the Block, with a blend of Southern, Appalachian, and West African flavors. Chicken confit with creamed collard greens and piri piri sauce shares the menu with xawaash-spiced wings and shrimp purloo. Pecan pie and hummingbird cake are often found on the dessert menu. Open for takeout and limited indoor or patio dining.
9. Limones Restaurant
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. Currently open for takeout only.
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. Currently open for takeout only.
11. Buxton Hall Barbecue
This labor of love from pitmaster Elliott Moss and Chai Pani founder Meherwan Irani deftly conjures the Eastern Carolina ‘cue of Moss’s childhood in Florence, South Carolina. In the high-ceilinged historic South Slope space (an artfully renovated 1930’s-era roller-skating rink), Moss wood-smokes locally sourced whole hogs for hours, seasoning with vinegar mop, so the pulled pork plates and sandwiches are an obvious draw. But the smoky fried catfish and buttermilk fried chicken sandwiches have deservedly developed their own cult followings, as have the sides, many of which are cooked in the coals under the pig where they soak up intense smoke flavor and decadent drippings. On Sundays and Mondays, Buxton hosts Moss’s current pop-up effort Little Louie’s, offering wood-smoked wings, snacks, and hefty sandwiches. Open for takeout and delivery.
Open just three years, Vivian is a relatively new kid on the block in the River Arts District, but it’s already cemented an ardent following with its agile cross-pollination of European food traditions and 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. Open for takeout and dine-in by reservation only.
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13. Biscuit Head
At its three Asheville locations (and one in Greenville, S.C.), this breakfast and lunch spot invites diners to “put some South in your mouth” with its huge, fluffy biscuits. Choose from the selection of house-made jams or gravies ranging from classic red-eye to vegan sweet potato-coconut, or pile the biscuits high with toppings like eggs, country ham, fried chicken, pulled pork, jalapeño pimento cheese, sriracha slaw, and fried green tomatoes. Biscuits are available vegan and gluten-free as well. The three Asheville restaurants are open only for takeout and delivery.
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14. Taqueria Muñoz
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. Open for limited dine-in, takeout, and delivery.
15. Sunny Point Café
A West Asheville comfort food institution, Sunny Point serves breakfast all day along with lunch and dinner options, sourcing seasonal ingredients from its on-site production garden. It’s worth waiting in the omnipresent long line on weekend mornings for a crack at the sausage and cheese-stuffed French toast, carrot hotcakes, or locally lauded shrimp and grits. Dishes can be paired with anything from espresso to sweet tea to cocktails. Currently open for delivery, takeout, and counter service only before 4 p.m. with patio seating near the garden; table seating available after 4 p.m.
16. The Admiral
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. Order online for takeout.
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Pastry maven Melissa Gray’s partnership with long-time Asheville chef Cookie Hadley has introduced a refreshing new concept to the mountain restaurant scene. Tucked away on Foundy Street in the River Arts District, RosaBees specializes in well conceived, gorgeously plated interpretations of Hawaiian classics, including saimin noodle soup, poke, musubi with house-made Spam, and tako su. But it’s crucial at RosaBees to save room for dessert. Gray’s playful, inventive sweets — current offerings include cinnamon-sugar banana lumpia and a soursop Japanese cotton cheesecake with black sesame shortbread — are reason enough to visit. Open for dine-in, takeout, and delivery.
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18. Forestry Camp
Hidden just outside Biltmore Village in Burial Beer Co.’s two-acre production complex, Forestry Camp’s carefully preserved 1930s-era wooden building housed members of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Experience the range of executive chef J.T. DeBrie’s locally sourced, whole-animal, in-house butchering program with the rotating butcher board, or cover all your bases with the five-course tasting menu, which offers plenty of dishes highlighting veggies and mushrooms grown in the surrounding mountains. The bar offers thoughtfully constructed cocktails and an extensive list of wines and beers, including Burial brews and Visual wines and vermouths made on site. Open for indoor, rooftop, and patio dining by reservation; takeout available.