September is here, school is starting and summer is nearly gone. Time for a change of season. For many, this annual change includes plans for a long weekend or midweek two-three day getaway to Asheville, NC.
Aside from cooler climes, the impetus for travel for many is Fall color. “Leaf Peepers,” as they are known, flock to the mountains to take in the change of seasons, but man and woman cannot live by a change of color alone. There must be food and drink, great places to stay and other things to do.
This “Asheville What I Eight” is a list of eight-plus places to eat, places to stay and things to do while you are up in Asheville this fall to look at the leaves. If you are reading this the morning of Thursday Sept 6 be sure to tune in to WCNC’s Charlotte Today where I will highlight the six spots mentioned here.
Stay Tuned for more: After Thursday’s show, I’ll embed the video here and will repost this piece with the addition of a couple more restaurants for your must-try-it list; as well as more Asheville travel tips and things to do. In the mix look for the scoop on places to take in a great yoga class, pair wine and cheese at a vineyard and sip perfectly steeped tea for two. Enjoy the list here and then come back for more, all to inspire you as you plan your Autumnal Asheville Adventure.
Prep for Asheville’s Leaf Peeping Season
North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains enjoy one of the longest seasons in the country to enjoy the fall color. Those who love this last quarter change of seasons can thank the high peaks and varying micro climates for the range found in the 5 week span known as “Peak Season.” Its the perfect time of year for “Leaf Peepers” or those who come to drive around and enjoy the color.
No doubt, Asheville, NC and surrounds are the perfect spot to take in the season, offering views from the tallest mountains and the foothills below.
Don’t panic. You have plenty of time to enjoy, so plan a trip or two or three to take it all in…Its already started on some of the highest mountain peaks as we end this first week in September: but move down from the mountains to lower elevations and the change of color generally continues through the last week in October/first of November.
The “What to Eat” in Asheville
There are, of course, lots of eating and drinking opportunities in Asheville – and we all love the tried and true Curate, Rhubarb, Posana, Limones and more; but in this post, I offer a couple of new spots for food and drink you won’t want to miss.
So, while you set out to enjoy Asheville’s leaf peeping opportunities – here is a short list of where you should eat, where you should stay and some other fun activities to take in while you are there. #TellThemHeidiSentYou
Start Your Asheville Stay with a Place to Call Home-Base
Lucky for all of us, the best place to stay in Asheville is also one of the best places for breakfast. And even luckier for us all there are 13 different locations!
Check out any of the 13 member inns of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association. Not only can you plan your stay in your choice of inns – from real log cabins to historic homes – but you’ll get concierge service that, to my mind, no hotel can match; plus a fabulous 2 to 3-course breakfast each morning. Amenities vary from inn to inn but there is often wine and snacks to enjoy in the afternoon before you make plans for dinner; and fresh baked cookies to enjoy anytime, day or night.
Breakfast service at any of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association Inns also varies, but is always a wonderful way to start the day. Some inns offer seasonal specialties, while others keep detailed records and won’t serve the same guest the same thing twice.
I recommend staying at a new place each visit until you work your way through all thirteen options – availability and reservations links for each inn are on the website here. Enjoy them all. Each inn in the association serves 2 or 3-courses breakfasts. Many start with a view, for example this stunning view of the mountains at Wildberry Lodge or this charming view of the gardens at Beaufort House Inn, both pictured here.
Sit at a table for two or with a group to discuss plans for the day. Some courses are prepared tableside so that guests can watch innkeepers make preparations. This is the case at Sweet Biscuit Inn (breakfast table pictured below) where innkeepers Christian and Claudia Hickl end the meal with the preparation of French crepes to order for each and every guest. Each innkeeper in the Association offers a different spin on the start to your day and you will love them all!
Asheville’s Little Spots for Big Flavor: Hole Doughnuts and Taco Billy’s
Hole Doughnuts – 168 Haywood Road. Open 7:30-2Pm, every day. Closed Tuesdays. If you’re not spending the night and need a quick bite before the leaf peeping begins; or are in search of a mid morning or early afternoon snack, visit Hole Doughnuts. Who doesn’t love a just-made doughnut and coffee. At Hole you will find made-to-order doughnuts crafted from organic stone ground Lindley Mills flour, unrefined organic cane sugar, sea salt, cage-free eggs and whole butter. All Hole doughnuts are fried in GMO-free rice bran oil. deliciously sweet and good for you too!
Taco Billy’s – 201 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC. Open 7am – 3 pm, every day but Monday. The place is small and there is a chance, if it weren’t for all the cars parked out front and the people happily eating on the porch, you might even think it closed and abandoned, but don’t pass this one up! If you are in need of something more savory than sweet, this fun and quirky little taco shop will fit the bill. Breakfast tacos (served all day) are the jam here, but there is plenty more on the menu for more of a lunchtime meal. Order two or three – they are small – you’ll want a variety of tastes, as it’s too hard to just land on one menu item. These tacos are stuffed with big flavor of braised meats, chicken and veggies with several vegan and vegetarian options, as well. I love that they source local produce and product and feature non- commodity meats for most everything on the menu. To drink, don’t miss the serve yourself aqua frescas always in a variety of homemade fruity flavors – watermelon and mango are my current favorites!
Before Dinner in Asheville, let’s start with a beverage or two…
Lets face it, Asheville is a city known for its liquid commodities. Sovereign Remedies is a much-loved cocktail bar (now with more of an emphasis on food) and breweries of one kind or another are at nearly every turn, but in the theme of this post, let’s try something new.
Most of the restaurants I have noted here have pretty cool bar beverage menus, but if you want to make it more than a one-stop evening, kick things off at the Times Cocktail Bar located at the S&W on Patton Street. Currently the Times is home to mixologist Joe Nicol, recently named NCRLA Mixologist of the Year at the annual NCRLA Chef Showdown held in Charlotte on August 27. Joe crafts cocktails with a local twist and always a fun garnish on the side.
The photo above was one we enjoyed at the bar and I am still thinking about the clever way the edible baby’s breath was clothes-pinned on the glass just for fun. The cocktail to the left is called “Left Turn at Albuquerque.” It features NC’s Fainting Goat Spirits Emulsion Gin and is the pour that clenched the Mixologist of the Year honors for Joe Nicol at the NCRLA Chef Showdown. Photo creds here go to my friends Candice and Dan at The Beautiful Mess photography in Charlotte.
When it’s time for dinner in Asheville… Go to Aux Bar, Mela Indian and Plant for flavors you are going to love!
Two recent trips to Asheville found us dining at these local places we now list as some of our favorites…
Aux Bar – 68 North Lexington Ave. This newest of restaurants on Lexington offers dining inside and out. Owned by butcher and chef Steven Goff, Aux offers a varied menu of farm to fork proteins, from pork to beef to seafood. The menu highlights regional ingredients with a focus on the traditions and tenants of Appalachian Cuisine. This is what eating and drinking local is all about – fine local food, incredible well done!
We enjoyed it all from starter plates to dessert. The oysters – photo above – were divine! The trout pate and the pimento cheese – served with fresh made pork rinds that offer a snap you won’t believe were among our favorites. The trout entree and fried duck wings – photo below – are not-to-be-missed plate, as well. Cocktails were smooth, desserts were just the right amount of sweet – what’s not to love?
And just next door to Aux, make plans to stop in at Mela Indian Restaurant 70 N Lexington Ave.
Mela Indian Restaurant offers a diverse taste of authentic North and South Indian dishes. Open for lunch with a buffet and then for dinner with full menu of delicious cocktail and dining options, Mela is now one of my favorite Indian restaurants in or out of Asheville. Warm Naan – photo above – and the Samosa Chaat starter – photo below – make for a fabulous start to the meal and are large enough to share, or take home for lunch the next day. Enjoy all the classics as well as a variety of perfectly prepared meat full and meatless daily specials.
In search of Vegetarian and vegan cuisine? This nationally known Asheville option does not disappoint…
Plant , located in Asheville at 165 Merrimon Avenue, is one of our longtime faves and was named one of the best Vegan restaurants in the country by Zagat. The culinary skill and preparations that go into the menu here are truly unbelievable. Plant is more than just raw veggies, its real food, all plant-based. Chef and owner Jason Sellers offers a small dinner menu full of big flavors from salads with mushroom “bacon” to hummus platters with falafel, rich braised tofu with green curry and a variety of roasted and pickled veggies to the cashew and coconut based iced creams shown below in a trio of delicious flavors – you’ll love every bite!
I’d like to express my thanks to my friends Glenda and Ken Cahill at Wildberry Lodge in Leicester, NC located just outside of Asheville for partnering with me on this post. Wildberry Lodge, one of the 13 members of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association is a real five bedroom log cabin, with two separate private suites, built log-by-log on a picturesque Asheville area mountain top with the perfect scenic Blue Ridge Mountain views.
Tom and I have stayed at Wildberry Lodge several times and enjoy the peace and quite of it all. The oversized stone fireplace in the common area living room sets the mountain cabin tone. Its the perfect place to read, relax and renew… indoors or out. Mountain trails, a teepee, friendly goats; and an outdoor stone fire pit perfect for roasting marshmallows and making s’mores await and when you are ready all the Asheville offers is just a short drive into town. Make reservations now and start your Asheville adventure today!