Over the river and into the restaurant

Here’s a sign of the times: An Xpress staffer is currently searching for a roommate, but she’s having a hard time finding one. It’s nothing personal — she’s easygoing, fun and responsible. It’s just that she lives in east Asheville, and a lot of prospective roomies gently decline, saying they’re trying to find digs in the west end of town.

Maybe it’s the retro feel of Haywood Road, with all its small-town charm and walkability. Or it could be as simple as the call of the belly — more and more establishments are offering creative, quality cuisine on the other bank of the Brown Broad. This might come as a surprise to those who eschew West Asheville, put off by the tawdry corridor of fast-food joints and cruisers known as Patton Avenue. And yeah, it can be a little annoying to get caught in all the stop-and-go traffic created by the motorists pulling in and out of drive-thrus.

But more and more folks are waking up to the fact that there are also some quality sit-down joints on Patton Avenue and Haywood Road. Leading the charge is the Westville Pub. Under the culinary leadership of Chef Oso (as he prefers to be known), the pub is establishing a loyal following of foodies who rave about his monthly African dinners. Held the third Sunday of every month, Oso rolls out a specialized menu that highlights the tastes of West Africa. Snaring a table can be tough, but there’s always that old pub favorite, served up crisp and frosty at the bar, to help you pass the time.

Farther down Haywood Road, you’ll find Burgermeister’s — home of the two-fisted chin-dripper, an awe-inducing burger (as if you couldn’t figure that out from their Teutonic moniker). The owners first made a name for themselves back in the ’90s with a small takeout operation on Pack Square. They shut it down to focus on their wildly popular veggie burgers, hoping to peddle a frozen version to supermarkets. That plan didn’t pan out, but Ingles’ loss proved to be Haywood Road’s gain, ‘cuz the uber-veggie-burgers are back, served hot with a side of homemade, kettle-fried potato chips and fried pickle wedges (mmm, salty and sour — order me another beer!).

Also not to be ignored is that all-important first meal of the day. And while the sun may set in the west, it rises in all its glory at the Sunny Point Cafe and Bakery on Haywood Road. Forget Cheerios; this place is all about such decadent a.m. chow as frittatas, Grand Marnier French toast and gourmet omelets. It’s the polar opposite of the many diner breakfasts also to be found in the vicinity, but Sunny Point’s prices don’t reflect that.

And if you can manage the traffic, Patton Avenue boasts a few gems of its own. A colleague of mine reports that Tomato Italian Cuisine (whose prior incarnation was Tia Chefy) does an admirable job of dishing out scrumptious Italian specials. The eatery, which sits across the street from the venerable Rock Haven Terrace Motel, walks the line between a fine-dining establishment — complete with wine list and fancy salads — and a neighborhood haven that embraces walk-in customers (and doesn’t totally empty their wallets). Along with deeply delicious pasta dishes sporting authentic-sounding Italian names, this place has a wicked tiramisu.

Westward, yum.

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