What are now ubiquitous buzzwords – farm-to-table, local and sustainable – were ingrained into Asheville’s culinary vocabulary long before they hit the gastronomic mainstream. A burgeoning food scene draws tourists, renowned chefs and even the President of the United States to this mountain town. “There are two things that keep bringing me back here,” President Obama once said about Asheville. “Number one is I really like the people. And number two is 12 Bones.” The President, who sent his Secret Service agents to get takeout on a recent visit, is reported to be a big fan of the succulent fare at this little barbecue joint.
Foodies know to head to Haywood Road in the hipster haven of West Asheville. Two of the town’s top spots for breakfast, Sunny Point Cafe and Biscuit Head, are located here. And don’t be fooled by The Admiral’s nondescript cinder-block exterior. The menu, which changes daily, is well-known in culinary circles as an adventurous palate pleaser. Buffalo Nickel has local chefs and food lovers lauding its craft cocktails and kicked-up comfort food, while King Daddy’s (from the owners of Early Girl on Wall Street downtown) does chicken and waffles any way you like them.
Since TV celebrity chef Rachel Ray put Tupelo Honey Cafe on the culinary map, the restaurant has opened seven satellites in the Southeast, but you can experience the original location in downtown Asheville. The city’s best chefs will tell you that Cucina 24 is a don’t-miss dining experience where the pizza and tasting menu boast equal wow factors. At Rhubarb, acclaimed chef John Fleer has introduced a Sunday Supper, a communal table where diners and farmers come together for a convivial way to sample the area’s culinary landscape.
The Eating Asheville walking tour offers a backstage pass to downtown’s finest restaurants and local favorites from the popular French Broad Chocolate Lounge to Cúrate, where James Beard Award finalist Katie Button heads the kitchen. Channel your inner Oompa Loompa with a tour of the French Broad Chocolate Factory, just minutes away from downtown in Asheville’s up-and-coming South Slope neighborhood.
In the fall, experience the “farm” in farm-to-table when Western North Carolina farms open their barn doors to the public for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Family Farm Tour. And if you feel like a drive in the mountains, follow the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail to sample local hand-crafted cow and goat cheeses in the Asheville area.
Boasting more than 20 craft breweries, the area’s thriving beer scene has enough going for it to bring the East Coast hubs of New Belgium, Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues into Asheville’s backyard. By bus, van or foot, brewery-tour options abound.
Festivals year-round celebrate the small mountain town’s vibrant epicurean scene, including the Asheville Wine & Food Festival in August and Asheville Beer Week in May. Those lucky enough to score tickets to a Blind Pig event, Asheville’s underground supper club started by Chef Mike Moore, are in for a real treat. For a more hands-on experience, try a cooking class at DOUGH. Classes cater to all skill levels and tastes, and the popular Thai Cooking class fills up fast.