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Asheville is Serving Up Mind-Blowing Food

Asheville is Serving Up Mind-Blowing Food

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Getaway Staff
Updated: Nov 23, 2022

We don't know what's in the air in Asheville, but some of the best chefs doing the most exciting things in the kitchen have sniffed it out, and boy, have they arrived in droves.

The chef-to-pleb ratio in this Blue Ridge Mountains town is mind-bogglingly high—there are less than 100,000 residents, but Asheville's been dubbed as a top food destination in the country. New restaurants are popping up all the time with cosmopolitan fare that can stand tall against the nosh in much bigger cities.

From chef dining experiences at Applewood Manor and digging in at one of the many joints at Grove Park Inn resort to the elevation of humble Indian street food, Foodotopia awaits.

You need to loosen your belt and flex your digital nomad muscles to try it all, or book a weekend getaway amidst nature and dig in like there's no tomorrow.

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01Chai Pani

Chef Meherwan Irani is bringing the spice to Asheville's foodie scene.

The James Beard Foundation recently proclaimed that Chai Pani, Asheville's Indian street food place, was the nation's most outstanding restaurant. If you've never tried South Asian food before, we reckon the pinnacle's a great place to start exploring a beloved cuisine.

Light snacks incorporate various textures and combine heat with sweetness, sourness, and deliciousness. From the tamarind-topped bhel puri and the Sloppy Jais to tried and tested favs like butter chicken and paneer, you'll find something addictive.

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02Gan Shan West

Gan Shan Station's menu often changes depending on the fresh produce at the market or the kinds of fish most recently hauled out of the water. Co-chefs Patrick O'Cain and Chris Hathcock have an impressive collective résumé and focus their skills on creating innovative East Asian food.

You'll get all the flavorsome noodles and ramen you crave here, along with homages to Appalachian ingredients that will have vegetarians returning for more.

Try the brisket steam buns or the best-selling rice bowl.

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03Early Girl Eatery

All-day breakfast—the three most beautiful words ever to be uttered in succession.

Though the name might suggest otherwise, Early Girl Eatery is a crowd-pleaser that proves every kind of bird can catch a worm—all it has to do is show up.

Open since 2002; there's a cheerful ambiance with friendly staff, natural light, and quick turnaround times. You can order grits, french toast, and Yam Scram eggs; if you like chicken and waffles, you have to try the Bow to the King. The house benny and grilled pimiento-cheese sandwiches are also fab.

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04Plant

This super popular vegan restaurant is perfect for a romantic evening, and we guarantee you will leave feeling satisfied and likely plotting a return. The organic, dairy, and meat-free dishes here are a sight to behold and live up to the visual expectations with exquisite flavor profiles.

Plant serves up many gluten-free options if you have dietary restrictions, and the cheese plates and desserts are to die for. North Asheville is quieter than downtown, and you won't struggle for parking, but it'd be wise to make a reservation.

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05Cúrate

It's tapas time! Cúrate is acclaimed chef Katie Button's brainchild, a queue-attracting taste of Spain in a former bus depot in the South. She recommends the gilda with its anchovies, olives, and piparra, the pan de cristal con tomate, a bread to rule all breads, and the cockles with Bonilla potato chips.

This restaurant garners so much buzz, Bourdain ate here, and Button worked at the legendary elBulli, so you know you're in excellent hands.

Go expecting a fiesta in your mouth, and don't look at the price tag.

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06Tupelo Honey

Is it touristy? Yes. Is it delightful? Also yes. You can't go wrong at Tupelo Honey Cafe if you're in the mood for brunch. It's been around way longer than many of the new and trendy spots, but the locals still love this eatery headed by chef Eric Gabrynowicz, a James Beard semifinalist, many times over.

The fried green tomatoes and the finger-licking fried chicken are the stuff of dreams.

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07Cucina24

Chef Brian Canipelli knows what he's doing at Cucina24, an Italian restaurant with more than a hint of the South. Head here for date night or treat yourself to the mouthwatering "Classics" or the experimental tasting menu "What We're Cooking" with prices that won't make your eyes water.

There's antipasti, pasta, surf and turf, and dessert. The food will have your nonna exclaiming, 'deliziosa!'

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08All Souls Pizza

Sometimes, all you want to do is stuff your face with pizza. All Souls, Asheville's best pizzeria, will hit the spot and then some.

We're talking wood-fired ovens, seasonal pies, local ingredients, including pullet eggs and high-quality grains, and toppings that are oh-so-fancy. Get the cremini, kale, and mozzarella polenta pizza in your belly, pronto.

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09Rhubarb

Known for the cuisine at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, Rhubarb is chef John Fleer's beautiful Asheville establishment, where you can follow up divine burrata with fresh spins on Southern dishes.

North Carolina cheeses get their due, and vegetarians and carnivores both can have a ball. This is farm-to-table food done well, and you'll be ruminating about the duck confit, gnocchi, trout, and epic Sunday suppers here for days to come.

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10Honorable mentions

There are as many amazing eateries in the Paris of the South as there are nicknames for Asheville. With dozens of outstanding restaurants, the list above isn't a best of the best so much as an invitation.

You can feast at Ukiah if you love Japanese, grab truffles at French Broad Chocolate Lounge, or pig out at 12 Bones Smokehouse for lunch. Ashleigh Shanti of Top Chef fame has a seafood place called Good Hot Fish that you should dine at, too.

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