Sometimes Asheville can feel too crowded. When tourist season’s in full swing and the streets are choked with cars, trucks and buses, a place like Hot Springs can be just the ticket. Conversely, sometimes Asheville feels too small — especially when you’re trying to buy something embarrassing at the grocery store. When you want to get away — without submitting to the hassles of long-distance travel — here are some options to help you get the heck out of Dodge.
The Mountain Magnolia Inn in Hot Springs is just 33 miles away from Asheville, but feels like another world. The menu at the Inn features comfortable, Continental cuisine with a Southern flair and a focus on local ingredients. Dine by the fireplace in the winter, or on the porch when it’s warm — it’s quiet and gorgeous, if you don’t mind the occasional winged invader. Order a bottle of wine from the moderately priced list — heck, order two. The guest rooms are comfortable, and stumbling distance from the table. 204 Lawson St. Hot Springs 622-3543 mountainmagnoliainn.com
The Blackbird in Black Mountain is just a short drive from Asheville, but feels like a mountain escape. The views are as lovely as the staff, the food is topnotch and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. The farm-to-table menu in this new-American tavern has an old-school bent and leans on reliable flavors — think low-country shrimp and grits and roasted chicken. A sure hand in the kitchen is equally reliable, as is the use of local foods. The shrimp is served on stone-ground grits that were grown just over the ridge. The chicken comes glazed with local sorghum and served with farm-fresh vegetables. It’s a true taste of the South. 10 E. Market St. Black Mountain 669-5556 theblackbirdrestaurant.com.
Yes, everyone claims to be local and seasonal these day. But Season’s at Highland Lake Inn, located just a few minutes outside of Hendersonville, truly walks the walk. The inn boasts a large organic garden on site, from which Chile-born chef Peter Fassbender culls much of his produce. The menu is impressive and relies on a substantial amount of local meats, produce and trout, supplemented by coastal seafood, cured meats and cooking techniques that rely on an extensive knowledge of world and classical cuisine. With a number of Wine Spectator awards to its credit, you can be sure that Season’s wine list will stand up to the quality of the food. 86 Lily Pad Lane, Flat Rock. 693-6812 hlinn.com.
Stoney Knob Café in Weaverville is just minutes north of downtown Asheville and features a menu of Greek, European and American food (with a touch of Asian) that’s as eclectic as the decor. Don’t be surprised to find spring rolls sharing the table with souvlaki and chicken picatta. Brunch is just as interesting — Jamaican jerk omelet, anyone? Opa and bon appetit, mon! 337 Merrimon Ave. Weaverville 645-3309 stoneyknobcafe.com.
Waynesville-bound oenophiles, the Chef’s Table is for you. The restaurant adjoins a wine store — meaning that the servers have access to a rather impressive selection of vino. Chef Josh Monroe’s menu revolves around Continental fare that seems to be geared toward enjoying with wine. Pastas abound, for example, and Monroe makes it all fresh daily. Though the menu offers wine-pairing suggestions from the immense selection at the Chef’s Table’s disposal, the servers are knowledgeable enough to help, should you not feel like poring through the restaurant’s tome-sized list. 30 Church St. Waynesville 452-6000 classicwineseller.com.