Every time I visit a new city, food is my #1 priority. Tim is always in charge of planning our actual activities (we lean towards hiking and general on-foot exploring, which is ridiculous because at home we love a good couch day), and I devote my research time to where we should eat. When we decided to go to Asheville, NC for a couple of days before friends' wedding in Highlands, NC, I about lost my mind trying to pick from all of the amazing restaurant choices. With the help of recommendations from my friends Elise Hartley and Tom Sietsema (okay, Elise is my friend; Tom is my idol), Tim and I managed to eat like kings. If you're heading to Asheville any time soon, check out these amazing restaurants - you'll need those hikes to make it home the same weight!
Buxton Hall Barbeque - Buxton Hall was our first stop in Asheville and set an incredible tone for the rest of the trip. In a former ice skating rink, this BBQ spot was rated #9 on Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants 2016. I got the best fried chicken sandwich of my life, covered in pimento cheese and pickles and "white BBQ sauce", which reminded me of a better version of Chick-fil-A sauce. Actually, if you take into account the waffle fries that came with my meal, the whole thing was really a much much better Chick-fil-A. The chicken was super tender and just fried enough to still feel light and crispy, and the pimento cheese was a fantastic throwback to my Durham days. Meanwhile, Tim got a BBQ chicken platter that was gone in 5 minutes flat, and it was some of the juiciest chicken I've ever tasted. I jumped in and picked macaroni salad as one of his sides, and I ended up eating the whole thing - not because he didn't like it, but because I stole the entire thing. If you want some good Southern BBQ, this is your place.
Wicked Weed Brewery - Elise, my Asheville expert, recommended this brewery to us, and we were so excited to see that it was right across the street from our Airbnb. The vibe is casual and fun, and their beer selection is local and delicious. I loved that they rated the strength of various flavors in each of their beers (hoppy, fruity, etc.), allowing me to pick the best beer for my taste. We did a pint each and a flight, and my hands-down favorite was the Coolcumber beer. With just the slightest hint of cucumber, this was so refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day.
Table - This was our fancy date night restaurant, and it didn't disappoint. Recommended by both Elise AND Tom Sietsema, I knew it had to be good. We started with the bone marrow, and it was easily the best I've ever had. Tim had never had it before and was an immediate convert. We followed it up with an heirloom tomato and burrata salad, which I could have eaten as my whole meal and left happy. The only miss of the night (maybe the whole weekend) was a porcini mushroom, bacon, gnocchi, and blueberry dish - while each ingredient was delicious individually, there was just too much going on as a whole. We finished up with roasted potatoes to share (A+), and Tim got the fried catfish while I got a pork chop. Tim's catfish dish was delicious, and though my pork chop came out undercooked, they were very gracious about it and brought me out a whole new fresh meal, and it ended up being the best pork chop I've ever had. The herb butter on top definitely didn't hurt. We left full and happy - but not too full to stop at Wicked Weed again on our way home. Also, the gin rickey at Table is amazing.
Corner Kitchen - Located in Biltmore Village near the Biltmore Mansion, Corner Kitchen was the perfect Friday lunch spot. The food was simply prepared, but you could tell they used quality ingredients. I don't usually like gazpacho that's not perfectly smooth, and this proved to be the exception. The dollop of cilantro sour cream definitely added to the effect. I had a basic tuna croissant for my main course, and, though it was nothing to write home about (although I guess that's kind of what I'm doing now....), it was perfect for what it was. The potato salad on the side might have been the star of the meal, though. Tim got a tomato/grilled chicken/fried mozzarella salad to start, which was good but I think would have been better with fresh mozzarella, and finished with the fish and chips special. Judging by how little food was left at the end of a pretty big lunch, I'd say he enjoyed it. Also, this place had t-shirts that read "Your body is a temple. Worship gravy." So, obviously I loved it even more.
The Market Place - This was also on the list of possibilities for our nicer date night dinner, so I was super excited when we stumbled across it while searching for a place to eat on Friday night. We sat at a cute table outside on a side street, so we got to people (and dog) watch without shouting over the band inside. The mac and cheese with pesto bread crumbs was so good, and the heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad was delicious. Asheville must have a thing for heirloom tomatoes, and I don't hate it. Tim got quail for his dinner, and while I'm not a quail fan in general, he declared it better than my dinner. I wholeheartedly disagree, and think my pork shoulder over corn salad was the meal to beat. Regardless, you really couldn't go wrong.
Chestnut - Our final meal of the grand food tour of Asheville, Chestnut was our perfect brunch spot. We got a seat right at the window so we could check out the Saturday morning scene in town and had a quick but delicious brunch before heading out of town. The fresh squeezed orange juice was a lifesaver after a glass too many of wine the night before, although when I asked for iced coffee the very accommodating waitress said, "I guess I could pour some coffee over ice for you..." I should have remembered hearing the same thing at Corner Kitchen the day before, as the two restaurants share the same ownership. Tim only had good things to say about his chorizo breakfast burrito, and it was made even better by the selection of local hot sauces we were offered. I enjoyed my Lyonaisse omelet, though the flavor was a little too reminiscent of French onion soup - I could have done with a couple fewer caramelized onions. The much-needed fruit salad had a little bit of mint in it, which I loved and may start doing with my own fruit salad at home.
Have you been to Asheville and have any other recommendations? Tell us in the comments!