Downtown Asheville lays claim to a fantastic and diverse dining scene: one of the Southeast’s all-out foodie heavens, whether you’re hunting for some traditional Southern favorites, international fare, or cutting-edge, hodgepodge-style cuisine of indefinable style. Here are seven downtown eateries that beautifully embody Asheville’s food culture!
Spanish tapas has made Curate—which occupies the city’s former 1930s-era bus depot—one fo Asheville’s hottest and hippest foodie destinations. Given the intrinsic share-ability of these small plates, it’s a great place to go with a group of friends. The tasting menu, which includes many of Curate’s culinary highlights, is a savvy choice if you’d like as broad a survey as possible, but for standalone tapas we definitely recommend the Carabinero (“head-on” prawn cooked simply and presented with a dash of sea salt), the Tabla de Jamones (a quartet of different hams), and the Sardines Curadas (salt-cured sardines served with toasted pistachio and pickled raspberries). As you’d hope, Curate pours a very respectable sangria.
Creative cuisine and artisan cocktails define Chestnut, which serves lunch Monday through Friday, brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, and dinner every night. The menu varies with the seasons and Executive Chef Brian Crow’s inspirations, but some representative highlights include the Scratch Made Lobster Bisque, the Pretzel-crusted Pork Schnitzel, Crow’s Own Shrimp N’ Grits, the Tempura Maitake Mushroom, and the Bacon-wrapped Scallops, plus charcuterie platters of locally made cheeses and meats (some cured and smoked in-house). Brunch here takes the form of such delectables as French beignets, biscuits and gravy, Boozy French Toast, Duck Confit Omelet, Fried Green Tomato Benedict, bagel and lox, and huevos rancheros.
Besides the cocktails, meanwhile, you’ll find a great selection of craft beer on tap—much of it hailing from Asheville breweries—as well as a formidably extensive wine list.
Posana serves up thoughtful and creative farm-to-fork cuisine via a menu composed primarily of gluten-free items. Brunch at Posana might take the shape of the Tostada Breakfast Bowl (featuring chorizo direct from Hickory Nut Farm in Fairview), Brioche French Toast, Sorghum Pancakes, a pulled pork sandwich—maybe the Posana Doughnut Holes! Some of the dinner highlights, meanwhile, include Joyce Farms Chicken (served with cherry-smoked ham, Parmesan-roasted broccolini, and stone-ground lemon grits), Smoked Trout Tartine, Pan-fried Tofu, and Spaetzl, plus a hits-the-spot dessert of Lemon Cheesecake Tart.
To go along with these eats, choose from seasonal cocktails or a glass from the extensive wine list (along with non-alcoholic options, of course).
Carmel’s Kitchen & Bar
When the weather’s conducive, there aren’t many better places to kick back and enjoy a meal than the expansive patio at Carmel’s Kitchen & Bar—the biggest one in downtown Asheville, in fact. Indoors or out, though, you’ll always get to tuck into awesome food here courtesy of a Southern-inspired menu: awesome food such as the BBQ Pulled Pork Pizza, the Grilled Cheese on Sourdough, the Sweet Tea Glazed Ribs, and the Fried Chicken & Grit Cakes—which, mind you, incorporates among its ingredients something called bourbon butter, and we simply can’t argue with that. We also have to give a nod to the well-stocked Carmel’s Kitchen & Bar dessert list, on which the Banana Pudding Creme Brulee is, arguably, numero uno.
From local and international craft beers on draft to fine wine, there’s also plenty of good stuff to drink. The inventive cocktails are another specialty; we especially recommend the Goombay Smash and the Green Thumb, but honestly, it’s hard to go wrong.
Table Asheville’s farm-to-table cookery has earned it national recognition and such major accolades as a James Beard Award Best Chef Southeast semifinalist finish. Taste what’s on offer here and you’ll know the reputation has been well earned. Traditional Southern cuisine is both celebrated and creatively rejiggered here, and while you’ll find lots of succulent carnivorous options the menu also proves well-sourced vegetables can more than hold their own with red meat. Lunch at Table Asheville could be the Oxtail & Gruyere Grilled Cheese, Barbecued Shrimp & Grits, or Green Lentil Fritters; for dinner, you might opt for the Grains & Beans, the Heritage Pork Cutlet “Katsu” Korean BBQ, or perhaps the Roasted Bone Marrow dish with its sweet onions, radicchio, soft herbs, and grilled sourdough. Brunch highlights include the House Bacon & Caramelized Onion Tart and the Brisket Hash.
As at Carmel’s, the mixologists at Table Asheville whip up some great craft cocktails, and there are extensive wine and beer choices, to boot.
This fantastic Indian restaurant draws rich inspiration from traditional dishes but also employs no small amount of outside-the-box culinary imagination: Chef Meherwan Irani’s been nominated for a James Beard Award for good reason. Indian street food provides a foundation for the Chai Pani (“tea and water”) menu, which includes such standouts as Sev Potato Dahi Puri, Green Mango Chaat, Lamb Burgers, and the slightly whimsical Sloppy Jai: spiced lamb with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, chutney, and yogurt. The drinks are equally creative, including the Bold Fashioned (centered on house masala bourbon) and the Jal Jeera, a minty tequila masterpiece.
Zambra Tapas & Wine Bar embodies the meaning of its name—” gypsy dance of celebration”—in its dynamic, colorful dishes, which include not only share-ready tapas but also larger-size entrees. There’s a lot to explore here, which makes the tapas approach all the more appealing. Among many winners at Zambra is the Char-grilled Octopus, presented with blackberries and arugula; the Pomegranate Braised Pork Spring Rolls waiting to be doused with mango dipping sauce; the Chicken Mole Chimichanga (which gets its poultry from the local Springer Mountain Farms); and a homerun Spanish Style Omelet. As you’d hope at a tapas place, the wine list is downright expansive, and there are also some must-try cocktails, including the Pomegranate Cosmo and the Zambarito (a chipotle blackberry margaritatini primed with fresh lime).
Eating Well Comes Easy in Downtown Asheville
Brunch or lunch, dinner or just drinks and starters, Downtown Asheville is a very, very fine place to find yourself with an appetite. Give one of the above establishments a try—or, better yet, hit them all up!