For some inexplicable reason, the Asheville Airport has flights that depart before 7 a.m. I know this because my mom caught one this morning, and I was designated to shuttle her to the airport. So, bleary-eyed and un-caffeinated, I found myself driving around town before sunrise.
“We’ll make a morning of it,” my husband suggested. “We can go out for breakfast!”
So, airport run completed, we set out in search of a diner. How hard could that be, right? Diners are an American institution, feeding the hungry workers who have to report to their job sites long before the rest of us are tuning in to Good Morning America and soldiering through our sit ups.
It turned out that finding such a place (chains like Waffle House and Denny’s not withstanding) was a bit tricky. I’m guessing it’s because Asheville is more touristy, less blue collar (read: not so many people wake up early). Whatever the case, a home-cookin’ cafe open before 7 a.m. is a bit of a novelty. We finally rolled into the near-empty parking lot of Athenian Bistro (224 Biltmore Ave., 254-0477) and were served freshly brewed coffee, fluffy hot cakes and perfectly browned potatoes. Despite the gaggle of men lined up across the street at Labor Finders, I think we were the first customers.
In case you find yourself in a similar predicament, here’s my list of early-morning diners (nothing fancy, just straight forward Alice-style service and hot coffee in brown mugs):
• Hot Shot Cafe (7 Lodge St., Biltmore Village, 274-2170). Open for more than 40 years, this place is an Asheville tradition. And despite what the link says, the cafe opens at 7 a.m.
• Five Points Restaurant (258 Broadway St., Asheville, 252-8030). Greek-run, with an excellent spinach-feta omelette. Opens at 5:30 a.m.
• Moose Cafe (570 Brevard Rd., Asheville, 255-0920). Located at the Farmer’s Market, the Moose features country cooking and yummy apple butter. Opens at 7 a.m.
• Stoney Knob Cafe (337 Merrimon Ave., Weaverville, 645-3309). This eatery used to be a diner, now it’s more trendy, more eclectic, and only opens early (8 a.m. Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. Sundays) for weekend brunch. Still, with veggie omelettes, breakfast burritos and sweet potato pancakes, their breakfast can’t be beat.
• Cornerstone Restaurant (102 Tunnel Rd., Asheville, 236-0201). Open at 6:30 a.m., this restaurant serves breakfast all day.
• Home Folks Diner (1459 Merrimon Ave., Asheville, 281-3613). Located just past Beaver Lake, this diner opens at 6:30 a.m.
• Mediterranean Restaurant (57 College St., Asheville, 258-0476). A downtown Asheville institution, breakfast begins at 6 a.m.
Know of another not-to-be-missed diner? Let us know.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter