For years, I've heard all kinds of people rave about Asheville: beer lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, epicurean aficionados - the list goes on. I strive to be at least 2 out of those 3 (wine will forever be my first love) so I decided it was time I finally experience Asheville for myself. From the moment I arrived, I fell in love with everything about this quaint little mountain town, and was blown away by how much there was to do there. I basically ate and drank non-stop for 72 hours (it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it) and put together this guide of my favorite places to help you plan a trip of your own.
When you travel as much as I do, hotel rooms can start to feel stuffy and cold, (not complaining- I'd still sign up for it any day) but I loved what a breath of fresh air The Windsor was. It had the beauty of a luxury hotel, but felt warm and homey like an apartment would. Asheville has come to be known for its art scene (living up to it's title of "Paris of the South") and The Windsor certainly has no shortage of it. Whether the artwork has been shipped in from Parisian antique markets, or sourced locally from the artists (which are also available for purchase) it's all hand selected and curated by the hotel's Art Director. In fact, just about every detail of the hotel has been carefully thought out (from chocolates on the pillows, to local coffee and soaps) so that you're sure to experience as much from local Asheville artisans before you even leave your room.
Overall, the staff was incredibly hospitable, the location is ideal for exploring the best of Asheville by foot, and the experience is unique from most everything else .
Just a couple blocks over from The Windsor, you'll find the Renaissance. This is another great lodging option if you prefer to forgo the intimate boutique setting for a more traditional hotel experience that most of us are used to. The staff was great, the interior was pristine and waking up looking over the Blue Ridge mountains made it nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning (so I didn't for a while... #vacation).
Rhubarb was our first stop when we pulled into Asheville, and it set the bar for the weekend high. Their executive chef John Fleer was named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the James Beard Foundation and is a three-time finalist for the James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast” award. The atmosphere was beautiful and the entire menu was enticing (I went with the Wood Roasted Whole Sunburst Trout with farro, shallots, charred sunchokes and lemon sherry vinaigrette -and loved it).
We met Charlie, the owner of Sovereign Remedies, for some drinks before dinner and it was easily one of my favorite places we visited in Asheville. The ambiance was a perfect balance of elegant and relaxed, and their pimento cheese puffs rocked my world. But the real star was their delicious cocktails (my favorites were The Viva Rhu and the Wet Hot American Winter). They even have a pre-hangover tonic to keep you going strong all night (milk thistle, tumeric, alfalfa, evening primrose, prickly pear, shatavari and coconut water). Worked like a charm.
Nightbell is a contemporary American small plate restaurant with a craft cocktail bar and lounge. The menu is a blend of comfort food and inventive twists on the classics (all with a serious commitment to local farmers and sustainable products). Bartenders create ever-changing concoctions using seasonal ingredients and hand-carved ice. The atmosphere is dim and romantic with eclectic vintage-inspired decor, reminiscent of Asheville’s Art Deco heritage. I loved everything we ate, but don't leave without trying their Deviled Egg (served in the shell), Grilled Maitake Mushroom or Hamachi Crudo.
Cúrate transported me back to my time in Spain last summer with their lively tapas bar traditions. The name Cúrate literally means ‘cure yourself’ in Spanish. They believe in the curative effects of sharing good food and wine with family and friends (can I get an Amen?) I let our server surprise us by placing our order, and he did an incredible job because I loved everything I tried. My favorite dish was the combination of cerdo ibérico a las finas hierbas (100% pure ibérico pork, “skirt steak” with fresh rosemary and thyme) paired with setas al jerez ( mushrooms sautéed in olive oil with a splash of sherry).
Top of the Monk prides themselves in presenting you with nothing but the best quality cocktails, so you won't find a food menu here. They put their focus into freshly squeezed juices and create their own bitters, tinctures, infusions, drams, flavored syrups and shrubs. They're also a members only club (North Carolina state law requires it if you only serve alcohol without food). The good news is that a lifetime membership is only $1. And the "no food" part is only half true, because with each cocktail, you're given a key to unlock a treat from an old PO Box- genius. The location is prime and the patio has sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Biltmore is one of the most iconic landmarks in Asheville, and for good reason. The Vanderbilt family’s 250-room French Renaissance chateau is a true marvel, the largest undertaking in residential architecture. The property has more history than I could even begin to touch on, and you could spend the entire day soaking it all in. If the history is what fascinates you, there are a variety of tours to choose from. If you're like me, there's wine tasting. Regardless of your reason for visiting, you're sure to be impressed.
WICKED WEED (killer patio, food, and a wide variety of beers to taste).
BATTERY PARK BOOK EXCHANGE (bookstore meets champagne bar- aka heaven).
KAREN DONATELLI (stop in for an Americano and croissant for breakfast or a mid-day pick-me-up).
ASHEVILLE MARKET BASKET (European Dry Goods Store that'll make your traveller's heart pitter-patter).
Asheville is an awesome town with tons to see, eat and do. No matter what the occasion for visiting or what you're in the mood for, you're bound to be satisfied with what they have to offer. I'm already looking forward to my next visit.