What’s new in food: Asheville City Market returns to downtown

TAKIN' IT TO THE STREET: Asheville City Market returns to its home on North Market Street for the first time since 2019. Photo courtesy ASAP

On April 2, farmers, makers and bakers unloaded their vehicles and set up their vendor booths on North Market Street, as Asheville City Market resumed operations at its popular open-air downtown location for the first time since mid-December 2019. Over the previous two years, amid COVID-19 restrictions and safety measures, Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project, the nonprofit that runs the Asheville City Market, relocated the weekly happening to the A-B Tech campus.

“Sustainable is part of our name,” says ASAP’s manager of communications Sarah Hart with a laugh. “We were all scrambling from home trying to figure it out. We knew farmers and vendors had things to sell and customers who wanted to buy, so we needed to continue operating in the safest way possible.”

As COVID protocols changed, the ASAP Farmers Market at A-B Tech did as well. Hart says ASAP is grateful for how A-B Tech partnered with and responded to the market’s needs. “There are so many things that have been amazing about A-B Tech through the pandemic and many things we will miss about it, but we are really excited to be back downtown,” she says. “The vibe of the City Market is embedded in the city.”

While the A-B Tech location was primarily supported by locals, the return to North Market Street will also bring back the tourist foot traffic that often stumbles upon the Saturday happening while strolling downtown. Though out-of-town visitors are unlikely to buy a pint of tomatoes or pound of summer squash, vendors who sell jarred food items, baked goods, body products and crafts expect to see an uptick in sales.

So will produce vendors such as ACM mainstay Lee’s One Fortune Farm of McDowell County. “We had more room to spread out at A-B Tech,” says Chue Lee. “But we see more customers, locals and tourists, when we are downtown in the middle of things.”

Hart explains that ASAP’s origin dates back over two decades. Originally, it worked to help farmers transition from growing tobacco to other products. “ASAP’s purpose is all about building sustainable farm businesses in the region, have farmers selling directly to customers and building relationships,” Hart says. “Farmers markets are the most visible place that happens and a massive part of that movement.”

Joe Evans, currently farm manager of Velvet Morning Farms, has been participating with various farms at ACM for more than five years. He says he is also happy about the move back to North Market Street. “After the past two years of things being in constant flux, we’re excited to regain a sense of normalcy with ACM’s return to downtown,” he says. “ACM has been instrumental for many local producers, providing an outlet to connect with customers in a unique way.  The ACM is a mainstay of Asheville’s agricultural and food-focused community, connecting consumers to local food in transparent and accessible ways.”

Hart says that easy access from Interstate 240 and free parking at HomeTrust Bank and the Family Justice Center — both within walking distance of the market — should appeal to locals who fret about traffic and parking fees downtown.

Though peak growing season is still a few months away, Hart says over 40 vendors are signed up for April, a number that will increase through the spring, summer and fall. “We’re still a way off from tomatoes and peaches, but we have the first of the spring alliums coming in. Every Saturday brings something new, and that’s something we’re all looking forward to.”

Asheville City Market takes place every Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon, on North Market St. between Woodfin and West Walnut Street. For more information on the market and ASAP, check here avl.mx/b0y.

Market report

Other markets are also back in swing.

  • No foolin’, the East Asheville Tailgate Market’s 2022 season relaunched April 1 with returning and new vendors. Be sure to check out the macarons from Beeswax and Butter making their EATM debut. 954 Tunnel Road, Fridays, 3-6 p.m. avl.mx/bek
  • Another weekly Saturday market, the North Asheville Tailgate Market — Asheville’s oldest, operating since 1980 — set up April 2 in its longtime home on the UNC Asheville campus, through Nov. 19. UNCA P28 parking lot, Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon. avl.mx/bei
  • The West Asheville Tailgate Market commenced its 2022 season April 5 in the parking lot of Grace Baptist Church. The neighborhood market includes over 50 approved vendors, live music and kids activities. 718 Haywood Road, Tuesdays 3:30-6:30 p.m. avl.mx/beh

Something fishy

After a trial run pop-up at Fonta Flora’s Brewery, The Pearl, a refurbished Airstream, has parked at Jettie Rae’s Oyster House. The Pearl will be the go-to bar, snacks and shucking station for the new outdoor patio. The al fresco expansion of the restaurant’s dining room and fully enclosed patio seats about 30 and will be open Tuesday through Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

No reservations are required for the casual, covered space, exclusively served by The Pearl’s walkup window.  The food menu will fluctuate, says brand manager Wilder Shaw, but “People can expect guacamole, ceviche, house-made chips and full oyster service, as well as some wine and beer selections and a few seasonal cocktails.”

The Pearl at Jettie Rae’s Oyster House is at 143 Charlotte St. For more information, visit avl.mx/bef.

Brunch bunch

Oysters are always an option at Holeman and Finch Public House, but weekend brunch has commenced (Mother’s Day is around the corner, kids) with a menu that includes adventurous options like brain and eggs and livermush and eggs, as well as eggs Benedict, frittatas, griddle cakes, French toast, waffles, shrimp and grits, and the signature H&F cheeseburger. Wash it all down with a Brandy Smash, Horse’s Neck or boozy shake.

Holeman and Finch is at 77 Biltmore AveBrunch is served Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For more, visit avl.mx/beg.

Fired up

Asheville Proper steakhouse, where everything from meat to dessert is cooked over live fire, has introduced an eight-course chef’s tasting menu. Owner/chef Owen McGlynn will personally guide partakers through a selection of special, off-menu dishes with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients prepared by him and his culinary team. Available nightly by reservation, the entire table must participate. The prix fixe dinner is $95 per person.

Asheville Proper is at 1 Page Ave. Suite 151. Learn more at avl.mx/87f.

Into the woods

Cultura restaurant continues its monthly Cultivated Community Dinner Series with guest chef Graham House on Thursday, April 21. The series was created by executive chef Eric Morris and donates a percentage of the proceeds from each dinner to a nonprofit of the guest chef’s choice. Past chefs include Luis Martinez,  J Chong and Ashleigh Shanti. Graham’s Goods from the Woods forage-focused modern Appalachian five-course dinner with beverage pairings begins at 6 p.m.; Food Connection is the beneficiary.

Cultura is at 147 Coxe AveTickets at $100 per person and include taxes and gratuity. Reservations are required through email at culturareservation@gmail.com. For more information, visit avl.mx/ap2.

The write stuff

Asheville writer Jasmin Morrell recently won the 2022 Rose Post Creative Nonfiction Competition for her essay “All That Might Come.” In a press release the contest’s judge, Josina Guess, stated, “Traveling through time, the writing stays firmly rooted in place, giving names and faces of past, present, and often overlooked, African American contributors to Appalachian cooking.” Morell is a writer and editor whose work has been published in The Bitter Southerner and The Porch.

The Rose Post competition is sponsored by the N.C. Writers Network.


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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4 thoughts on “What’s new in food: Asheville City Market returns to downtown

  1. Voirdire

    The Asheville City Market -the ASAP farmer’s market- should have remained over at AB Tech. There’s a dearth of parking downtown (shocking to hear I know) …and who wants to buy their local produce et al while attempting to navigate the hordes of gawking tourists. Oh well …we all know where the other summer farmers markets are located.

    • Kay West

      Thanks for reading and your comments. I hope your concerns about parking and crowds won’t keep you away. As the story notes, there are two free lots within easy walking distance from the City Market, the one at Home Trust right across the street. I went to the Market’s downtown return April 2 at 9 am and parked right on the street, for free! I have also found that between 9 and 10, it’s almost all regulars, locals and chefs. It’s such a convivial environment, like shopping on a courthouse square. I spoke to nearly a dozen vendors and other than not having as much room to spread out, the vast majority were glad to be back downtown. The body products and non-perishable vendors actually welcome the tourist traffic in particular. I love and appreciate all the weekly markets here and in season, sometimes shop 3 a week. Each has their charm and personality and we are indeed lucky to have a live in a thriving agricultural , creative and entrepreneurial region that is so enthusiastically supported by locals and visitors.

    • SpareChange

      I understand that some would prefer to drive to ABT than to downtown, but that’s one of the reasons there are several markets scattered around different parts of Asheville. The RAD market is only 1.5 miles from ABT. If one is already driving, that is a pretty insignificant difference. However, given that this is billed as the “City Market,” it does seem appropriate that it would actually be located downtown. Afterall, there are approximately 15,000 residents downtown (and as one, I can attest that most of us are not “gawking”), plus there are thousands of other people who work there, who might find this location very convenient.

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