Bacon and sausage may be breakfast royalty, but don’t tell the owners of Early Girl Eatery. John and Julie Stehling operate Early Girl with their own food loves in mind—he’s all about meat, she’s all about vegetables. Together they have made a happy place where carnivores and vegans can dine together in mutual delight. The menu items have designations identifying whether a selection is vegan or gluten free, taking the guess-work from choosing.
Early Girl Eatery is right at home on downtown Asheville’s Wall Street, a narrow lane known for its original beaux arts architecture. Boutiques, salons, and other cultural attractions line the street, along with several other restaurants and cafes. A blackboard greets guests upon entry with names of local purveyors from where produce and meats are obtained. Sunny colors spread across dining area walls trimmed in elegant country décor, while wooden farmhouse tables and chairs complement the cozy atmosphere.
Since its beginning in 2001, Early Girl Eatery has been on the front wave of farm to fork dining. They have longtime relationships with local farms, dairies, creameries, breweries and even a meadery. Freshness does come with a price, though. A typical southern breakfast of eggs, grits and biscuits will put you back $8.50; add bacon, sausage, or country ham for $2 more. The value is in the flavor and the nutritious kick-back you get from fresh, hearty food.
Locals love Early Girl Eatery and have their favorites. The “Porky Breakfast Bowl” gets the most chatter from the meat lovers—especially those who like to dig into rich, cheesy bites. This big breakfast features a base of home fries, topped with barbeque pork, scrambled eggs, cheese and smoked bacon gravy. You can’t go wrong with the shrimp and grits, or the biscuit and gravy either. Chef Stehling offers a different “Early Girl Benny” that varies by day—if you’re lucky you’ll visit on a day when the option is grit cakes topped with country ham, poached eggs, fried green tomatoes and doused with Hollandaise sauce.
Healthful options include multigrain pancakes; a black-bean and cheddar omelette topped with salsa; and house-made granola. Vegan guests have several options, including the Tofu Scramble. Chef starts with organic tofu, marinates it in secret spices, and scrambles it with peas, red onions, mushrooms, tomato and spinach and serves it with toast or a homemade biscuit. The Spinach Potato Cakes are another heavenly vegetarian dish, and if you’ve never tried tomato gravy, this is a must. All protein items can be substituted with tempeh.
Early Girl is open breakfast and lunch on Monday through Wednesday, and open late for dinner on Thursday through Sunday. You’ll find a wide selection of soups, salads and sandwiches. Vegan eaters can try the Tempeh Reuben while their partners enjoy a BBQ pork sandwich or catfish sandwich. A popular dinner-time option is the “Meat and Two” menu. With this you begin with a plentiful selection of meat and vegan proteins, then select two sides from a list that include such unusual tasties as Cucumber Onion Salad and Ginger Coleslaw, along with a list of other tempting southern sides.
Desserts are made from scratch and are worth saving room for. You’ll find at least three cakes, pies or specialty puddings each day. Frequently featured in the dessert rotation are such guest favorites as triple layer coconut cake, red velvet cake, buttermilk cake with chocolate sour cream frosting, pecan pie, apple pie, million dollar poundcake, caramel cake, chocolate pudding, bread pudding with caramel sauce, carrot cake, golden cake with buttercream frosting, and chocolate Italian cream cake.
Early Girl doesn’t have a full bar, but it does serve sparkling wine cocktails, along with several varieties of wine and a good selection of local brews.
- Try the broccoli hush puppies for a spin on the ordinary. Coffee lovers rave about the house blend from Counter Culture coffee.
- Limited parking along Wall Street, with a parking structure on the corner.
- Meal times often have waiting lines, so browse in the shops along Wall Street while waiting for your table.