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Good Eats in Asheville
Asheville's acclaimed diversity is reflected in its dynamic and ever-changing food scene.
Within a few blocks, you can nosh on Indian street food, Spanish tapas, soul food, French, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Himalayan, Jamaican, Cuban, Mediterranean, and, of course, plenty of veggie and vegan options. While your choices are eclectic, a modern take on Southern cooking rules at many restaurants, where dishes like mountain trout with sweet-potato fries, or buttermilk fried free-range chicken with flash-fried organic collards take center stage.
Central to it all is the local food movement, nourished by scores of organic farms, tailgate markets, and natural food groceries. Beer is Asheville's aqua vitae, with local microbreweries splashing out pale ales and porters.
The epicenter of Asheville's food scene is downtown, where cafés, bistros, and microbreweries jostle each other for street space. West Asheville (edgy, organic cafés), the River Arts District (coffeehouses and microbreweries), Biltmore (upscale bistros and restaurants), and North Asheville (a mix of neighborhood restaurants) also have popular eateries.
In the heart of up-and-coming West Asheville, the tattooed staff of Sunny Point Café (626 Haywood Rd. 828/252-0055 www.sunnypointcafe.com) serves breakfast all day. Choose organic, orange-scented gluten-free cornmeal hotcakes, the best shrimp-and-chipotle-cheese grits north of Charleston, or a build-your-own free-range egg omelet.
Microbreweries have replaced moonshine stills in the North Carolina Mountains. Here are some of the best in Asheville:
Asheville Brewing Co. (77 Coxe Ave. 828/255-4077 www.ashevillebrewing.com) brews at its downtown microbrewery and pub, and also sells its hoppy suds in a converted movie theater in North Asheville, Asheville Pizza & Brewing (675 Merrimon Ave. 828/254-1281). Here you can enjoy a second-run movie and beer, seated on comfy sofas and reclining chairs. Asheville Brewing's most popular beer is Shiva, an American pale ale incongruously named after the Hindu god of transformation.
Craggie Brewing Co. (197 Hilliard Ave. 828/254-0360 www.craggiebrewingco.com) makes brews from organic local ingredients. It brews seasonal beers like the spicy, autumnal Ante-Bellum Ale, using a 19th-century recipe with molasses, ginger root, and spruce tips. This and other Craggie brews are sold daily at the Craggie Public House with free tastings once or twice a week.
French Broad Brewing Company (101 Fairview Rd.828/277-0222 www.frenchbroadbrewery.com) brews lagers and specialty ales. Wee-Heavy-Er, a Scottish ale, is its best seller. The tasting room also has live music some nights, usually Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Wedge Brewing Co. (125 Roberts St. 828/279-6393 www.wedgebrewing.com) brews Iron Rail India Pale Ale, named after the railroad tracks nearby, and other artisan beers including Witbier, a Belgian-style wheat beer, and a robust porter with carob and coffee flavors, Community Porter.
The Asheville Brews Cruise (828/545-5181 www.brewscruise.com) takes microbrew aficionados on a tour of three local breweries for $40 per person (four-person minimum). Van tours, currently on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, last about three hours and include samples of 12 to 15 beers and ales.
Downtown Asheville has about a dozen local coffeehouses, with many others nearby. Clingman Café (242 Clingman Ave. 828/253-2177 www.clingmancafe.com), near many studios in the River Arts District, attracts an arts crowd for its organic and free trade coffees and tasty meals. The café has rotating shows of paintings, photography, clay, and sculpture. Izzy's Coffee Den (74 N. Lexington 828/258-2004 www.izzyscoffeeden.com)draws an alternative and hipster crowd for its Counter Culture-brand coffees and occasional live music and art shows. Old Europe, vastly popular for its locally roasted Mountain City coffees and Hungarian pastries, reopened in mid-2010 in a new spot (13 Broadway 828/252-0001).Waking Life (976 Haywood Rd. 828/505-3240 www.wakinglifeespresso.com) in West Asheville has the best espresso in town, because the owner is incredibly serious about coffee.
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