I’ve only been to Asheville a few times – mainly with family on a trip to the Biltmore or for a short amount of time. Luckily, I was able to go for a weekend this month and found that this is hands-down one of the coolest and most interesting cities that’s just short of two hours from Charlotte. If you’re not convinced by this list of activities to try ASAP, then I give up.
Here’s what I did in a two-day span…
10 Broadway St.
This European-inspired hotel by Marriott is smack dab in the middle of downtown Asheville at Pack Square — a primetime location for walkable restaurants, bars and shopping. At the end of this year, their development group, McKibbon Hospitality, will also be building Hotel Arras, a boutique hotel with condominiums plus two independent restaurants right across the street.
Remember, the AC Hotel and Residence Inn will also open in Uptown at the EpiCentre in the next few months. Included will be a rooftop bar, meeting and retail space.
Capella on 9
10 Broadway St.
This rooftop restaurant and bar is located on the ninth floor of the AC Hotel. You can enjoy locally sourced, tapas-style and handcrafted cocktails while soaking up the views of the city on its cozy and sleek rooftop bar.
Pro Tip on Drinks: Sip on the Signature GinTonic (Hendricks gin, fever tree Mediterranean tonic, cucumber, star anise, lemon peel), $11; or the El Matador (del Maguey mezcal, luxardo, lime, maple, black walnut bitters), $11. Capella on 9 also offers cocktails on tap, beer and wine.
Pro Tip on Food: Although the restaurant says they offer small plates, sharing two to three plates with one other person will not have anyone leaving hungry. Order the Croquetas De Gambas (shrimp croquets, romesco sauce, fried garlic), $14; the life-changing Coles De Bruselas (fried brussel sprouts with a smoky pimento aioli and lemon), $10; and the Albondigas Con Fra Diavlo (freshly made Spanish meatballs in a spicy tomato herb sauce, chick peas, baked with cheese, served with freshly toasted bread), $14.
29 N Market St #105
This multilevel bar reminds me of a New York City speakeasy with minimal lighting at night and indie, hip hop and old school music playing in the background. The vintage-like bar serves lunch and dinner and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. If you’re looking to get a drink at night, get there at a reasonable time. Since the space is small, a line can form (and it did for us) as early as 8:30 p.m.
Pro Tip on Drinks: Sip on the Seasonal Gin & Tonic (actually one of the best I’ve ever had, with London dry gin, vanilla, winter spice, citrus, gentian, calamus, wormwood), $10; or the Dry & Mighty (rye whiskey, blood orange, Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters, Wicked Weed sour cider), $10. Possibly the most interesting part of the entire drink menu is that every drink was created and named by one of the staff members at the bar.
The Imperial Life
48 College St.
We walked into this intimate cocktail bar and upstairs lounge right around 10 p.m. as the DJ cranked out mainstream tunes. My relaxed mood from Sovereign Remedies quickly turned into party-time mode when I ran into a bachelorette party I knew. After requesting too many Rihanna songs, I decided it was time to call it a night.
Pro Tip on Drinks: Sip on the Apple Shrub (apples, champagne vinegar, rosemary, lemon, honey, soda, Zero Proof), $9; or the Barrel Aged Manhattan (Elijah Craig Bourbon, Cocchi di Torino, Dolin Rouge bitters), $14.
1 Lodge St.
Although I’ve been to America’s largest home a few times, it really never gets old. Somehow we were able to get tickets on the last weekend for season ticket holders to bring a guest for free while also being able to see the fashion and costumes from “Titanic” throughout the building.
Pro Tip: If you’ve been before, get out of your comfort zone and try other activities like horseback riding through the grounds, a river float trip through the French Broad River around the estate or even stand up paddle boarding.
Well-Bred Bakery & Cafe in Biltmore Village
6 Boston Way
After skipping breakfast to get tickets to The Biltmore, we were pretty ravenous and needed food desperately. We called the Corner Kitchen to put our names down for a reservation, which brought a 45-minute wait time. We headed to Well-Bred Bakery & Cafe for a snack while we waited for our main brunch meal (bathing suit season, here we come).
Pro Tip on Food: Split the chocolate croissant, $2.95; or one of their HUMONGOUS cookies like the oatmeal walnut raisin, $3.
Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village
3 Boston Way
If you’re looking for an American brunch meal with a Southern twist, here’s where you need to go. The server told us they were in the middle of their slow season (and we had to wait 45+ minutes for a party of two) so definitely plan on making reservations further in advance of your visit.
Pro Tip on Food: If you’re feeling breakfast, dine on the House-Made Corned Beef Hash (topped with two poached eggs, light horseradish sauce and served with your choice of toast or biscuit), $11.75. If you’re going for lunch, be prepared to enjoy the Beer Battered Cod sandwich (beer battered cod fried crisp on a potato roll served with Dixie slaw and jalapeno tartar), $13.50. Also, they serve their mimosas in a pint glass with 90% champagne and 10% orange juice. Can you say, winning?
Wicked Weed Brewing
91 Biltmore Ave.
This craft brewery is known for their West Coast hoppy ales, barrel aged sours and Belgian beers. Make sure to sit outside by their fire pits and soak in the sights and sounds of the city of Asheville…along with some tourists (including ourselves) that come through.
Pro Tip on Drinks: Choose one of their beers that give back to one of the local nonprofits they support. You’ll see which beers are available to do just that on their menu boards.
121 Biltmore Ave.
A really awesome atmosphere serving up Mexican street food including mojo pork carnitas, pork belly, tuna tatako tacos and some killer margaritas.
Top of the Monk
92 Patton Ave.
This low-key bar is located on top of the pub called The Thirsty Monk. When you get up to the space, which includes a rooftop patio, you’ll be given a small key with your drink of choice. You can use that key to unlock delicate snacks including spicy peanuts, cured meat and cheese, bownie bites and ranch popcorn in a locker-like storage.
Pro Tip on Drinks:
It was fun to watch the two main mixologists go to work as they meticulously crafted their works of cocktail art. Try the Tequila Moon Rise (Blanco Tequila, Luxardo Maraschino, Crème de violette, citrus melange, cane sugar, served up), $11.
13 Biltmore Ave.
This Spanish tapas place was the most talked about and most recommended spot by the locals and some of my friends. We decided to try it for brunch since they were booked for dinner on Saturday night.
Pro Tip on Food/Drinks: Start with the Dine on the Pisto Manchego Con Huevo (fried egg served with olive oil potato puree, roasted tomato, onion, eggplant, red and green pepper), $8 or the Huevos Estrellados (baked eggs with chorizo over a piperrada of peppers, onions and tomatoes), $8. Pair these brunch items with the grapefruit mimosa, $7.
32 Banks Ave, #106
Because we’re disgusting, we decided to find a treat after our delicious brunch at Curate. We found Vortex Doughnuts, a doughnut and gourmet coffee shop serving up salted caramel, vanilla, chocolate and vegan doughnuts.
Pro Tip on Food: Try the chocolate and cinnamon sugar doughnuts and enjoy them in the shop versus in your car for the full experience.
Here are some of the other infamous Asheville spots I want to try next time I visit…
Double D’s Coffee and Dessert
41 Biltmore Ave.
A double-decker bus next to an outside patio that serves gourmet organic coffee, smoothies, milkshakes, locally made muffins, brownies and more.
733 Haywood Ave.
I’ve been to this place in Nashville – which had a 2-hour wait right when it opened. People are obsessed with their biscuits including the mimosa fried chicken biscuit, the country ham biscuit and more.
Early Girl Eatery
8 Wall St.
The farm-to-table restaurant serves all-day breakfast including shrimp and grits, multigrain pancakes, house granola and more.
Over Easy Cafe
32 Broadway St.
Another Southern breakfast spot that uses local ingredients is the Over Easy Cafe. You can find veggie omelets, hash bowls, French toast, fresh-squeezed juices and more on the menu.
White Duck Taco Shop
12 Biltmore Ave.
We’re still waiting on the word when this taco shop is expected or even will open in Charlotte (!!). Choose from their Banh mi tofu, jerk chicken, spicy buffalo chicken and so much more.
Buxton Hall Barbecue
32 Banks Ave.
Headed by Chef Elliott Moss
The Lobster Trap
35 Patton Ave.
Known as ‘Asheville’s premier seafood restaurant,’ enjoy everything from grilled Maine lobster, baked oysters, trap corn bread and more. It’s a seafood lover’s heaven.
400 Haywood Rd.
Their menu changes daily, which is exciting. But as of last month, they had items including seared duck breast, pei mussels, shaved NC country ham and more.
99 S Lexington Ave.
This is a FOR SURE spot for me next time. I drooled over their handcrafted ice cream sandwiches while I was scrolling through Instagram on the way back. Desserts include cookie dough ice cream, a build-your-own cookie sandwich, chocolate chip cookie cakes and more.
Check out these spots for a brew, cocktail or just to hang out in a dope atmosphere.
Sierra Nevada (100 Sierra Nevada Way)
The Brew Pump (760 Haywood Rd)
Ben’s Tune Up (195 Hilliard Ave.)
Burial Beer Co. (40 Collier Ave.)
The Funkatorium (147 Coxe Ave.)
Bhramari Brewing Co. (101 S Lexington Ave.)
Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar (inside Grove Arcade at 1 Page Ave, #101)
The Social Lounge (29 Broadway St.)
The Omni Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Ave.
The resort boasts 513 guest rooms, a 43,000-sq.-ft. subterranean spa, a 50,000-sq.-ft. sports complex and stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains
1 Page Ave.
This is a historic commercial building that has been transformed into one of Asheville’s top boutique shopping and dining destinations in the downtown area.
Hike, bike and explore the beautiful views on ‘America’s Favorite Drive’