#81 of 109 Asheville Restaurants

Tupelo Honey Cafe (Downtown Asheville)

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The Original Tupelo Honey Offers Generous Portions (and Crowds) of Southern Comfort Food
Written by: David Angotti
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Seasonal, scratch-made Southern dishes at the bustling flagship spot that launched a regional chain. While the wait can be a bit long, the true Southern dining experience is almost always worth the wait.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

Tupelo Honey has been THE place in Asheville, North Carolina for unique southern cooking since 2000. Rising from humble beginnings, this restaurant has quickly become not only a great place for a good bite to eat but a bit of a tourist destination in its own right. The Tupelo Honey Downtown location was actually the first to open its doors to the public.

A local spot deeply steeped in Southern-style cooking traditions, this restaurant eventually expanded in 2008, and now operates over a dozen locations as part of a regional chain serving 7 states. Today, the “mothership” still serves hungry crowds of tourists and locals alike, and while the wait time may be steep, the refreshing, creative cocktails and generous portion sizes make this meal worth spending a little time on.

While Tupelo Honey announced plans to expand their College Street location in early 2017, this spot is still on the small size. The ambiance is cozy, though a bit crowded–if you prefer a quiet, airy dining experience, this simply isn’t the place for you. But if a little hustle and bustle, paired with complimentary biscuits and jam, sounds like a decent way to pass a Sunday afternoon, you’ll enjoy digging into the dynamic menu of Southern-style classics peppered with more modern fare.

Classic dishes, like fried green tomatoes and cast iron macaroni and cheese, join lighter items like the fresh Kale and Quinoa salad and beloved Avocado Toast. It’s a seasonal approach that also doesn’t skimp on the good stuff that Southern cooking is mainly known for butter, gravy, and grits.

Some of the best-loved offerings on the menu include:

Sweet Tea Roasted Chicken
Instead of a typical marinade, you’ll find this bird braised in the “nectar of the gods,” good, old-fashioned southern sweet tea. A generous portion of the juicy meat is served with two side items.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
No southern eatery worth its salt fails to include this staple. You’ll find this to be a solid offering–since it’s served with two side items you can build a meal to your specifications.

Fried Okra
Served as an appetizer or a side item, this simple dish packs a lot of flavors in each bite. You’ll appreciate the simplicity and elegance of this crunchy delight.

Loaded Cracklins
Also served as an appetizer, this dish encompasses parmesan rosemary potato cracklins which are just deliciously fried potato chunks.  They are then tossed in pimento cheese, chopped apple cider bacon, scallions, and lime crema. 

The cocktail offerings at Tupelo Honey marry premium spirits with house-made simple syrups, fresh fruits, and herbs. Popular sips include the Lavender Flip, a warm weather cooler featuring Cathead Honeysuckle vodka, house-made lavender sour, fresh lemon & soda water. While the long wait times can turn off some, sipping on a Flip or a classically stirred Old Fashioned will put you in the right mindset to enjoy slowed-down Southern hospitality.

Some locals claim that Tupelo Honey isn’t the same since transforming into a chain, but a few bites will make clear why Tupelo Honey’s model has pollinated local communities across the Southeast. Despite the crowds, Tupelo Honey is worth a trip to sample the food that launched a mini-empire. Budget time in your schedule, and your stomach, and enjoy a lazy Southern afternoon of good eats and drinks you won’t soon forget.

You may want to visit because you’ve heard great things about the food, because the restaurant makes so many “best of” lists, or because you’re wowed by management’s dedication to responsible sourcing of all products served. No matter your reason, we are sure you’ll be glad you stopped in and tried a uniquely southern meal at Tupelo Honey Cafe.

Insider Tips:
-The “Shoo Mercy” Sweet Potato Pancakes are a pricey splurge, but the dish comes with fried chicken, bacon, eggs, plus candied nuts and fruit. It’s more than enough food to try a sample of what Tupelo Honey does so well. Order one to share, and split a few sides to sample the best of the best.
-Tupelo Honey does offer outside seating if you are looking to enjoy a beautiful day.
-This location is in downtown Asheville, so parking is very limited.