Welcome to Asheville. You’re visiting from Ithaca. You want trout, or maybe a locally brewed beer — or simply to do what the locals do.
While some of what the locals do can be colorful, you don’t have to don tie-dye, find a djembe and hit the Pritchard Park drum circle to get a feel for the city.
If you want the word on where to find a juicy burger with all the fixins’, you better believe we’ll steer you away from McDonald’s and toward a restaurant that uses locally sourced meat. If you want a beer, we’re going to gently remove that Budweiser from your hand, and replace it with a pint from one of the many breweries in Western North Carolina. But give up our favorite secret swimming hole? Never.
Where can we find great vegetarian food?
Asheville has long been a mecca for people pursuing a healthy lifestyle. So, when the climbing group or the couple on a yoga retreat come searching for a wholesome, fulfilling experience, it’s a safe bet they’re wondering where to have something meat-free. And for many years, that answer has been Laughing Seed Café. The Laughing Seed is not only one of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in the area, it’s one of our most popular restaurants, period. Why? The answer is simple: consistently good quality food, made with some of the freshest local ingredients around. And the fact that everything is meat-free is secondary to the flavor. 40 Wall St. 232-3445 laughingseed.com.
Where do we get a great steak?
Sometimes it seems like a good tempeh reuben is easier to find than a hearty piece of meat. Where’s a carnivore to turn? We suggest the Grove Park Inn, where everything is huge: the fireplaces, the expansive views, the steak on your plate. Sunset Terrace is one of the Grove Park Inn’s three restaurants, and boasts a familiar and beloved chophouse menu. Looking for aged filet mignon, rib-eye, New York strip in old-school guises like Diane (mustard and mushroom sauce) or Oscar (crab hollandaise)? This is your place. Want to get extra fancy and throw a lobster tail on that plate? Indeed. Enjoy your surf and turf with all-natural choice meats, aged a minimum of 21 days. 290 Macon Ave. 800-438-5800 groveparkinn.com.
Where’s a good spot for a burger?
Want a creative burger with all of the bells and whistles? Burgermeister’s in West Asheville takes pride in putting far-out toppings on their burgers. Case in point: The Macho, with its pico de gallo, guacamole, cheddar and jalapeños. Highly recommended is the burger house’s crowning achievement, The Meister. With 9 ounces of smoked Guinness burger, the Meister is not for the faint of belly. 697 Haywood Road, 225-2920 burgermeisters.com.
Looking for a simple cheeseburger that’s expertly cooked? Head to Tingles Cafe in downtown Asheville. The restaurant has been restored to reflect its historic character, with some updates. For example, even though the soda counter looks old-fashioned, the housemade sodas contain herbs, spices and flavorings with a modern twist. Try the locally harvested wildberry cream, if it’s available. Then, order the Tingles burger. It’s made daily from house-ground tenderloin and beef short ribs. 27 Broadway St. 255-4000 tinglescafe.com. [Editors Note: Tingles Cafe closed shortly after the publication of Eats & Drinks 2011-2012]
Where should we go to drink like the locals?
This is a tough one, with our many craft breweries. Most of them have quirky tasting rooms, but there’s something especially Asheville about the scene at Wedge Brewing Company in the funky, gritty, repurposed-industrial River Arts District.
The Wedge sits right off of the tracks near the French Broad River. Everyone from politicians to marathon runners, green builders to potters drinks here. Awash in the setting sun and surrounded by locally made ironwork, the Wedge hosts the occasional gourmet food truck and old-time movie shown in the open air. Simply put, the Wedge is a must-do. 125-B Roberts St. 505-2792 wedgebrewing.com.
Where can we find mountain trout?
If you want a taste of Appalachian authenticity, mountain trout — a delicious freshwater treat — can be a great place to start.
But where can you find it fresh and genuinely local? Try Corner Kitchen, a Biltmore Village eatery that specializes in regional cuisine and upscale comfort food. Expect to find the mild-fleshed fish served with a bourbon sauce, green beans and sweet-potato mash, for example. 3 Boston Way 274-2439 thecornerkitchen.com.
Try HomeGrown, a restaurant that sticks to the motto “slow food right quick.” Aside from burgers with local beef and salads with local greens, you can find local Sunburst trout on a sandwich or plated with your choice of down-home sides. 371 Merrimon Ave. slowfoodrightquick.com.
Though the Lobster Trap is best known for its fresh coastal seafood (flown in from Maine), the restaurant offers local trout on a regular basis. The trout ribs are a unique specialty — so much so that they were featured on an episode of The Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. 5 Patton Ave. 350-0505 thelobstertrap.biz.