It’s possible to enjoy the best of French culinary tradition without ever leaving Asheville. The area is home to an ever-increasing array of French bistro-style restaurants, including a lovely establishment on Battery Park Avenue: Isa’s French Bistro.
Once referred simply as Isa’s Bistro (named after co-owner Isa Fraga), the restaurant has since added ‘French’ to the name in hopes of shifting its focus to European cuisine. Longtime fans of the restaurant need not worry; it still retains much of its original charm, along with a few favorite recipes.
Chefs Duane Fernandes and Armen Vladimirovich bring both culinary skill and creativity to Isa’s, where classic French dishes dominate the menu. Picky eaters beware: dishes change regularly, making it difficult to plan your meal in advance. While a few select items consistently remain on the menu, others may disappear quickly, only to be replaced by a more seasonal option. The website isn’t always updated as quickly as the menu itself, so it behooves you to call ahead if you’re worried about available offerings.
The upside of all these changes? No two visits to Isa’s are exactly alike. There is always something new to sample — and due to the emphasis on seasonality, the ingredients are always fresh. Portion sizes aren’t exactly generous, but the flavors are so exquisite that you don’t need a lot of food to be satisfied. The plating is so beautiful that you might be reluctant to dig in.
Purists may take issue with Isa’s rebranding as a French bistro, in part because the open, modern space doesn’t exactly feel like a cozy bistro. That’s not to say it isn’t pleasant inside — the name simply evokes a different ambiance. The Cellar (Isa’s space for banquets and other special events) feels a bit cozier — especially the lounging area near the fireplace.
While the menu changes regularly, we’re happy to provide an idea of what you might find at Isa’s on any given day. The following are a few of our favorite menu items:
Seasonal Fruit and Brie Salad
Cheese lovers may be a bit disappointed by this salad, as it includes limited brie. Still, the seasonal fruits included in the salad are delicious. If you’re lucky, your salad will include fresh strawberries and blueberries. The salad is sometimes dressed with a unique smoked bacon vinaigrette.
Sometimes simple is the most satisfying. This is certainly true of Isa’s ratatouille, which consists of tomato sauce, seasonal vegetables, and gruyere cheese. Listed as an entree, this hearty dish is arguably Isa’s best option for vegetarian visitors.
Pan-Seared Mountain Trout
Acquired from Sunburst Farms in Waynesville, North Carolina, the trout for this favorite entree is seared to perfection and served with baby spinach and a French lentil stew. Ask your server for wine pairing recommendations.
North Carolina Chicken and French Toast
If you’ve spent any amount of time in North Carolina, you’ve come across chicken and waffles…but have you ever eaten chicken and French toast? If not, you’re in for a treat at Isa’s weekly brunch.
-Interested in reserving a table at Isa’s French Bistro? The restaurant makes it easy. Feel free to make your reservation via OpenTable on the restaurant’s website. Simply enter the date and approximate time you would like to arrive. You can also sign up to receive text reminders about your reservation. Keep in mind that if you show up on a weekend evening without a reservation, you could be in for a long wait.
-Worried about finding parking in busy downtown Asheville? Every trip to Isa’s French Bistro includes complimentary valet parking so you can focus on your meal.
-Like many restaurants in Asheville, Isa’s French Bistro features a pet-friendly patio. It’s a wonderful place to chill with your four-legged friend as you sip wine and sample French entrees.