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Tucked into the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is an outdoor lover’s paradise. From hiking and camping to ziplining and fishing, there’s no shortage of adventurous activities to try in the Land of the Sky. All of these outdoor activities are sure to make you work up an appetite, but thankfully you’re in luck: Asheville also has a plethora of restaurants you won’t want to miss out on. Here are nine of the best restaurants in Asheville, NC.
In 2022, chef Meherwan Irani’s Indian street food restaurant, Chai Pani, won a James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant. Try just about anything on the menu, and it’s easy to see why: there’s everything from crispy okra fries and spicy potato dumplings to Indian curries and sandwiches with spiced lamb, green chutney and sweet yogurt. It’s all so good, you just might want to move to Asheville permanently so you can pop in anytime. Menu items range from around $10 to $20, making it an ideal spot for a casual lunch or night out with friends.
Head to five-time James Beard Award finalist John Fleer’s farm-to-table restaurant Rhubarb, where you can sample his take on contemporary Appalachian food. Fleer works closely with farmers and foragers in North Carolina to source fresh ingredients for the menu, and he fosters community through hosting a weekly dinner series. Start out with an appetizer of pimento cheese hush puppies or goat cheese burrata, and then move on to standout entrees like succotash and scallop chowder or grilled pork loin. With most entrees in the $20-some range, it’s a great choice for a low-key birthday dinner or night out with friends.
Inspired by his great-grandmother (who worked as a cook at a lumber camp), chef Dan Silo opened a country diner called Sawhorse. Located in a renovated former diner, Sawhorse serves a variety of home-style menu options, from meat pies and poutine to burgers and sandwiches. Stop by on the weekend to order from the brunch menu, which includes biscuits and gravy, buttermilk pancakes, and chicken and waffles — all for under $20. It’s a great option if you’re in the mood for an old-fashioned dinner or down-to-earth brunch.
A trip to the south wouldn’t be complete without barbecue, and Buxton Hall Barbecue has some of the best in town. Barbecue professional Elliott Moss spends hours smoking the pulled pork, but visitors also go hog wild for the buttermilk fried chicken and brisket. The restaurant is located in a renovated 1930s roller-skating rink, which creates a cozy, nostalgic atmosphere. While there’s plenty of sides to choose from (such as baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad), you’ll want to save room for dessert because the chocolate hazelnut chess pie is simply divine. With all of the menu items costing less than $20, it’s a great place to stop for a quick, casual bite to eat.
If all-you-can-eat meat portions aren’t your thing, don’t despair: Asheville has plenty of vegetarian restaurants, too. One of the best joints in town is Rosetta’s Kitchen & the Buchi Bar, a vegan and vegetarian oasis helmed by chef Rosetta Buan. Originally opened in 2002, the cozy hole-in-the-wall joint serves vegetarian comfort food (aka Buddha bowls, veggie burgers, cornbread with greens, and more), with gluten-free options as well. There’s a bar downstairs, as well as a coffee shop, so it’s a great casual eatery if you’re looking for a laid-back spot to catch up with friends. With menu items listed at less than $20, it’s a delicious option that won’t break the bank.
There are moments when you want a casual place to grab a bite to eat, and there are moments when you want to go all out to celebrate life’s biggest moments. If you’re looking for the right spot to celebrate the latter, head to Bouchon, a French-influenced fine dining restaurant dreamed up by chef Michel Baudouin. From roast duck to steak frites, each elevated dish is designed to transport you to the bistros of Paris for the night. With a focus on upscale dining and an elevated experience, Bouchon is a great place to celebrate life’s most special moments — from engagement parties to anniversaries.
7. Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse
Inspired by Japanese street food with an American barbecue twist, James Beard-nominated chef Michael Lewis’s Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse offers ramen, raw sushi-grade fish, meat skewers, crispy squid and more. Since space is limited, make sure to call ahead for reservations. Once you’re there, see if you can snag a spot on the outdoor terrace, where you can sip cocktails by the stone fireplace. Many of the plates are designed to be shared, which makes Ukiah the perfect place to go for a date night or high-end dinner with friends.
If you’re in the mood for Spanish-style tapas, there’s no need to book a flight to Barcelona. Instead, you can make a reservation at Cúrate, the hip eatery run by chef Katie Button and owner Felix Meana. Housed in a renovated 1920s bus depot, Cúrate serves all the tapas you could ever want and then some. Start by ordering innovative tapas to share with the table (we’re partial to the gazpacho, housemade blood sausage and patatas bravas). Order plenty of wine for the table, and prepare to be wowed. But you don’t have to take our word for it: Gordon Ramsey and Anthony Bourdain both visited the establishment, and in 2021 Wine Enthusiast named it “One of America’s 50 Wine Restaurants That We Love.”
9. Benne on Eagle
After being tapped as the chef de cuisine at John Fleer’s Appalachian-inspired restaurant, Benne on Eagle, Cleophus Hethington decided to update the menu with foods that honored his heritage. With a lineage that can be traced back to Cameroon and Senegal, Cleophus makes food that tells the stories of the African diaspora. From fried green tomatoes to glazed duck breast, each dish is a flavorful celebration of Cleophus’ roots. It’s easy why he was recently nominated as an emerging chef at the James Beard Awards.
Looking for More Best Restaurants in Asheville, NC?
Visiting Asheville or planning a move? Check out our Ultimate City Guide to Asheville for more restaurants to explore as well as the best nearby activities, events, neighborhoods, storage facilities and more.