Dark wood floors, muted yellow walls, bistro tables topped with flowers and additional sidewalk seating give this eatery upscale appeal. The kitchen serves tantalizing breakfasts such as New Orleans-style French toast, sweet potato pancakes and omelets with complimentary hot biscuits all day. Dinner options include shrimp and grits, nutty fried chicken with mashed sweet potatoes, and a veggie plate that might include organic honey-glazed carrots, marinated grilled tofu or candied ginger cornbread with peanut butter. Asheville has a great Saturday and Sunday morning brunch scene, and this is definitely an area favorite thanks to the breakfast pies people will line down the street for. Tupelo has another location in Asheville's south side but it doesn't have the same vibe as the downtown locale.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Tupelo Honey Café, which opened in downtown Asheville in 2000, now has additional locations in Asheville, Raleigh, Charlotte and beyond. Obviously, they're doing something right.
Kristen's expert tip: Tupelo Honey Café is right across the street from Pritchard Park where hundreds gather every Friday night for the Asheville Drum Circle. If you can snag a patio table at Tupelo that evening, you're in for a heart-thumping, toe tapping musical treat you'll never forget.
While President Obama's multiple visits to this much-loved barbecue hotspot may have garnered 12 Bones some national attention, Asheville locals have been singing its praises for years. The restaurant, which has two Asheville area locations, is perhaps best known for its River Arts District locale where a line of hungry loyalists begins to form by 11am each weekday. Inside this no-frills, red-roofed quick-serve on Riverside Drive, a steady supply of pulled pork, beef brisket and slow-smoked baby back ribs are served with finger-licking sauces, including Blueberry Chipotle, which is available in bottles to take home. All of these savory delights are best enjoyed accompanied by 12 Bones' stellar sides, which include mashed sweet potato, collards and the legendary jalepeno cheese grits.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: If barbecue is king in the south, 12 Bones is definitely a prince.
Kristen's expert tip: 12 Bones' downtown location, shockingly, is only open weekdays for lunch from 11am – 4pm. It's closed on weekends. If you're really desperate for a 12 Bones fix for dinner, their South Asheville location (3578 Sweeten Creek Road, Arden) offers lunch but also a take-out only option Tuesday through Saturday from 4-6pm.
Intricate carpets play off an ivory-painted room with coffered ceilings, a dry-stacked stone fireplace, and luminous chandeliers in this elegant establishment. You'll dine Vanderbilt-style, graced by able servers, stunning views, estate wines, and all the appropriate accoutrements. The Biltmore restaurant plies diners with a bevy of fantastic dishes and ingredients. For example, start with a caviar service, and then shift to pastrami-crusted bison carpaccio. With such richness, you'll be hard-pressed to choose an entree, but let yourself be swayed by roasted breast of pheasant with thyme jus, wild Tasmanian steelhead salmon with tarragon aioli, or a Black Angus filet mignon. The entire memorable experience is certain to be second to none. Estate admission fees may apply.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The chance to drive through the sprawling 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate plus a culinary feast even George W. Vanderbilt would be proud of.
Kristen's expert tip: You need to be a daytime ticket guest or Biltmore pass holder to dine at the Inn or any of the Biltmore Estate restaurants. Guests can accompany pass holders after 5:30pm. While on property, be sure to visit the Biltmore's winery where you can receive a complimentary tour and tasting.
When the Omni Grove Park Inn embarked on a multi-million-dollar renovation in advance of its 100th Anniversary in 2013, the plan to open a restaurant with unparalleled mountain and sunset views took center stage. The result was Vue 1913, a European-style restaurant with American cuisine bolstered by local farm fare. With Chef James Lumley at the reigns, the kitchen cranks out an endless array of haughty plates that aim to vie for each diner's affection while they sit flabbergasted by the panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's a tough match-up, but judging by reviews from critics applauding the classic fare, Vue 1913 is holding its own alongside the epic vistas.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: You can't come to Asheville without seeing at least one mountain sunset. Vue 1913 marries that must-have experience with stellar dining.
Kristen's expert tip: The Chef's Tasting Menu, which comes paired with picks from the onsite Certified Sommelier, is definitely destined to be one of your most memorable meals in Asheville... maybe ever.
White Duck Taco Shop opened adjacent an artist studio in the River Arts District in 2011, and while the picnic-tabled, quick food spot joined a slew of fun and eclectic eateries in the district, it has certainly emerged as a standout. There's almost always a line out the door, especially during peak lunch and dinner times Monday through Saturday. Inside, a colorful chalkboard displays the kitchen's offerings, including a dozen varieties of tacos with a nod to a plethora of international cuisines. Jerk Chicken, Bangkok Shrimp and Lamb Gyro are just a few of the options, all of which are best enjoyed alongside a serving of mint watermelon and a glass of house made white or red sangria. Since this venture has been such a success, owners opened a second location downtown on Biltmore Avenue.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Quick serve cuisine made with creative gusto makes this the perfect complement to nearby galleries and artist hubs.
Kristen's expert tip: Kids love this funky spot thanks to the children's quesadillas offered and the regular interval of trains that chug along the nearby railroad tracks. Be sure to order a serving of chips and queso and don't' forget... White Duck is closed Sundays.
A lack of gluten shouldn't translate into a lack of flavor. That's the maxim underpinning Posana, the 100 percent gluten free eatery located in downtown Asheville. Inside the newly remodeled space, Chef Peter Pollay presents menus for dinner and brunch, each boasting tempting dishes filled with lots of local fare but zero gluten. As buskers hustle their musical skills for dollar bills on the street outside, diners gleefully look on as they enjoy their gourmet feast, which includes standouts like the Sunburst Farm Trout and Hickory Nut Gap Pork sourced from Asheville's most famed farm. With a bar set high from years working with Wolfgang Puck, Chef Peter shows that even gluten-free food can pack a tasty punch.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Any chef willing to devote his full culinary dexterity to gluten-free dining deserves applause.
Kristen's expert tip: A small but artful array of decadent sweets dot the dessert menu, including showstoppers like the Lemon Olive Oil Cake and house made ice creams. These provide the perfect culinary culmination at Posana, so be sure to save room.
Tables dot both floors of the quaint, historic home that is Corner Kitchen, one of several restaurants in the historic Biltmore Village but the only one visited by President Obama. Chefs take full advantage of local provisions when creating the ever-changing menu, which will often house crowd favorites like the pecan-crusted trout and the herb-roasted pork. Like a lot of Asheville chefs, the culinary team at Corner Kitchen keeps the cuisine pretty simple and lets the ingredients speak for themselves without overdoing the preparation but they're never afraid to kick their Pan-American fare up a notch with imaginative reductions and sauces. This is a very popular spot, especially during Biltmore Estate's high seasons in summer and over Christmas. Reservations are highly recommended.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Away from the bustling crowds of downtown, this homey spot feels cozy and inviting and wows diners with a culinary offering that's far from ordinary.
Kristen's expert tip: The best seats in the house are a handful of seats overlooking the kitchen where you can have an intimate chef's table experience while still ordering off the regular menu. Feel free to chat up the chefs; they love to talk about what they're up to.
This long-lived establishment has been an Asheville fixture for decades, and it still takes to heart its mission of serving superb cuisine using local ingredients and supplementing with the best foodstuffs from around the globe. Seasonal menus feature dishes like roasted pork tenderloin and braised bacon with collard greens and black-eyed pea risotto, roasted young chicken with brussels sprouts and walnuts, and wild striped bass with clams, bacon, and Meyer lemon. Wine pairings are suggested, and the restaurant also presents a casual dining option: Bar 100.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Started by Mark Rosenstein, who many consider a pioneer in western North Carolina's farm-to-table food movement, this restaurant continues to set the bar in the area.
Kristen's expert tip: Besides great food, The Market Place offers some seriously fantastic craft cocktails, including the Benton's Old Fashion, which marries bacon infused bourbon with maple and orange flavors for an unbelievable combination. Grab a drink and enjoy the live musicians that visit on select nights each week.
A few years ago, Chef Katie Button, along with her husband and parents, went on a road trip across North Carolina with the singular purpose of finding the perfect town to roll out a restaurant. They picked Asheville. Three years and two James Beard nominations later, her restaurant, Cúrate, has become one of the most celebrated culinary achievements in Asheville and it's clear they made a smart choice. Cúrate's cuisine is Spanish tapas and the menu is packed with dozens of simple, small plates with bold flavors that not only stand as testament to Button's culinary training at both El Bulli in Spain and Jean-Georges in New York, but to her staunch support of local agriculture.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Chef Katie Button has managed to forge her own, unique culinary trail even amidst so many other great local chefs in this small Blue Ridge town.
Kristen's expert tip: Cúrate's 22-seat marble bar, which overlooks the exhibition kitchen, offers the best seats in the house. Understandably, they fill up fast during lunch and dinner hours. Don't be afraid to visit Cúrate for a late lunch, say around 3pm, when you'll be more likely to snag these coveted seats.
You might drive by The Admiral a few times before you realize that the unassuming cinderblock building with its hole-in-the-wall veneer is actually the place you're looking for. Don't let the scruffy exterior and dive-bar aesthetic fool you into thinking that everyone's fervent recommendations have somehow steered you wrong; rest assured that the unbelievably small kitchen is cranking out culinary magic and this West Asheville gem is absolutely as great as everyone says it is. Inside, a dark wood finish is set aglow by neon beer signs and guests nosh a selection of audacious dishes sporting haughty ingredients like imported oysters and foie gras. Still, chefs keep it real with lots of foundational indigenous fare. This gatro-dive, as perfectly titled by the New York Times, is undeniably a diamond in the rough.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The Admiral typifies everything that makes Asheville great: unapologetic individuality, genuine hospitality and an unshakable passion for outstanding food.
Kristen's expert tip: An unexpected perk of this quirky spot is that by 10pm on Friday and Saturday nights a DJ with a vast vinyl collection takes center stage. Chairs and tables are moved outside and a mix of old timers and hipsters boogies on the dance floor well into the night.