Patrick and I recently took a trip to Asheville, North Carolina to celebrate our third anniversary. It was everything a great vacation should be – relaxation, adventure, perfect weather, great beer and wine, and delicious food. A LOT of delicious food! Here’s a list of our favorite restaurants, breweries, and wineries in and around Asheville.
Sierra Nevada Brewery – Mills River
Outside of the views we saw while hiking the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains, Sierra Nevada’s brewery and taproom was by far the most stunning place we visited. From the minute you drive through their grand entrance gate decked out with the Sierra Nevada logo and waves of barley, you know you’re in for something special. Everything (literally everything, down to the door knobs and faucets) in this place is made with such spectacular quality. It’s rustic and sparkly all at the same time. Their taproom menu is one of the most impressive aspects of the whole experience. They specialize in Southern cuisine made using primarily locally sourced ingredients. Most of their menu is served small plate style and is easy for sharing. Always on the quest for an excellent slice of pizza, I couldn’t resist the wood fired House Pizza. It came topped with soppresata, Italian sausage, and mozzarella. It definitely tops my list with its perfect crispy, thin crust and unbeatable flavor and spice from the sausages. Patrick and I split the pizza along with a a fontina topped burger that was equally delicious. My sister and her husband met us here with their dog, Gabby. We spent time on the back porch and in the beer garden sharing flights of beer and playing corn-hole. All of their beers are excellent, but my personal top Sierra Nevada choices are: Pale Ale, Hop Hunter IPA, and Celebration. If you’re not a fan of hops, try Patrick’s favorite the Nooner Pilsner.
Louise’s Kitchen – Black Mountain
On our first morning of vacation, we woke up to shocking 34° temperatures outside of our cabin. We put on nearly every layer of clothing that we brought, hopped in our bright red Fiat rental, and drove to Black Mountain to find something warm for breakfast. I remembered a restaurant that my Dad and I went to for brunch a few years back that was in a charming old house right off the main street downtown. Patrick and I were able to find it quickly and were not disappointed. I ate the most amazing grit cakes with black beans and corn and Patrick had Louise’s Cakes – pancakes served with homemade vanilla bean syrup. They were both seriously scrumptious! I am now a firm believer that all syrup should be the vanilla bean kind. Oh! And we both had a Mega-Mosa, an oversized mimosa served in a mason jar. Highly recommended!
Burntshirt Vineyards & Winery – Hendersonville
My family and I have been visiting Burntshirt Vineyards ever since their opening day about 3 1/2 years ago. I even had my wedding portraits done here, so it has an extra soft spot in my heart. If it’s your first time, I highly recommend the wine tasting. For $7 you can taste seven of their wines and keep the wine glass as a souvenir. They also do a free guided tour of the winery every day at 2pm. We had the best tour guide who was full of humor, quirkiness, and had an impressive knowledge of vino. We ended our day there with a bottle of their O Cellars Reserve Cabernet Franc on the terrace, a cheeseboard, and a highly competitive game of corn-hole. The final verdict: Wine does not help my athleticism.
Tupelo Honey Cafe – Downtown Asheville
Tupelo is an Asheville staple and for a good reason. They are known for specializing in Southern comfort food, and wow.. do they know how to do it right. Everyone’s meal starts with a buttermilk biscuit served with tupelo honey and homemade blueberry jam, which is satisfying enough to be a meal in itself. But, it definitely doesn’t end there. Patrick built his dream omelet that came came jam-packed with sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, avocado, and goat cheese. I was a little overwhelmed with the menu and very indecisive, so I finally settled on the veggie plate. I know this doesn’t immediately make your mouth water, but when you see all of the veggies/sides they have to choose from you’ll understand why. My 4 choices were goat cheese grits, cheesy smashed cauliflower, shaved brussels sprouts salad with honey vinaigrette, and blueberry lemon quinoa with arugula and feta. It was a delicious and generous assortment of food, with my favorite being the cauliflower. You will not leave here hungry! Did I mention that they also serve Mega-Mosas?
Pisgah Brewery – Black Mountain
Pisgah is a laid back, organic microbrewery with a very impressive offering. When you first pull up to the industrial warehouse that houses the brewery, you’ll think you’re in the wrong place. But, once you walk in and pull a stool up to the bar, you’ll immediately feel like you belong. They have a gravel courtyard area out back with a few long tables where you can sit in the sun and enjoy a flight or pint of beer. A few nights a week they also offer live music and food trucks. Our favorite part was sitting at a table, sharing a flight of beer and playing Trivial Pursuit. We loved the feel of Pisgah Brewery so much that we went back a second time. My favorite picks for our flights were their Pale Ale and Chocolate Pumpkin Ale. (Bonus: They also serve Roots Hummus. If you know what’s good for you, you will pick up a pack of their black bean hummus either here or at a grocery store in the area. It is hands down the best hummus I’ve EVER had.)
Native Kitchen & Social Pub – Swannanoa
One of the neatest parts of our week was randomly running into one of my oldest, best friends and her husband at a Josh Garrels’ concert at The Orange Peel. We had such a fun night singing and swaying together and to top it all of off, they gave us an incredible restaurant recommendation that served up one of our favorite meals of the week. Patrick and I went to the Native Kitchen & Social Pub on our very last night of vacation and had the most perfect farewell dinner. We started with Popcorn Brussels Sprouts that were served with a grilled lemon aioli – and oh my gosh, y’all. I’ve never in my life had brussels sprouts this incredible. They were lightly fried to a perfect crispness and then we dipped them into an aioli that had actual pieces of grilled lemon in it. I highly doubt any sprouts will ever come close again. We also split their Macaroni & Cheese of the day that reminded me of a gourmet version of the Hamburger Helper I grew up on.. in the best way possible. Creamy cheddar over spiral noodles and ground beef. We ate every bite and then rolled ourselves out to our little red Fiat. A truly perfect last night.
Our Cabin – Fairview
When we weren’t tromping around Asheville, we holed ourselves up in a little mountain-side bungalow in the tiny town of Fairview. Some of my favorite moments of the whole week were spent here reading A Homemade Life, playing UNO, and making tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Patrick and I are convinced that we have discovered the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Extra sharp white cheddar, crumbled feta, and a good nutty whole wheat bread are all you need. Well, that and a little chill in the air. Grilled cheese sandwiches taste so much better in the mountains than they do in south Florida.
In A Homemade Life, Molly Wizenberg quotes one of her friends who ever so wisely said, “The only reason I travel is for an excuse to eat more than usual.” I couldn’t agree more. Not that we always need an excuse to indulge a little here and there, but when traveling, I never miss a chance to taste all that a place has to offer. I even primarily packed only leggings and loose fitting dresses in preparation! I’d say that Patrick and I did a pretty great job of experiencing all of the different tastes the Asheville area has to offer.
What are some of your favorite Asheville area restaurants, breweries, and wineries?
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.. one of my favorite days of the year that is yet another great excuse to indulge a little!