The North Carolina Mountains Experience

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Good Eats in Asheville

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Asheville's acclaimed diversity is reflected in its dynamic food scene. Central to it all is the local food movement, nourished by scores of organic farms and tailgate markets.

Within a few blocks, you can nosh on Indian street food, Spanish tapas, French, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Himalayan, Jamaican, Cuban, and, of course, veggie and vegan options. While your choices are eclectic, a modern take on Southern cooking rules at many restaurants.

Beer is Asheville's aqua vitae, with local microbreweries splashing out pale ales and porters. Two large national craft brewers, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, are opening their East Coast breweries and distribution centers in the area, adding to Asheville's claim as Beer City USA.

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, artsy cafés, and microbreweries), Biltmore (upscale bistros and restaurants), and North Asheville (neighborhood restaurants) also have popular eateries.

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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) serve 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.

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Microbreweries

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 India pale ale named after the Hindu god of transformation.

French Broad Brewing Company (101-D Fairview Rd. 828/277–0222 www.frenchbroadbrewery.com) brews lagers and specialty ales. Wee-Heavy-Er, a Scottish ale, is a best seller. The tasting room also has live music some nights, usually Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Wedge Brewing Co. (125B Roberts St. 828/279–6393 www.wedgebrewing.com) in the River Arts District brews Iron Rail India Pale Ale, named after the railroad tracks nearby, and other artisan beers including Witbier, a Belgian-style wheat beer. In good weather, you can sip and mingle in a picnic area outside, where there are food trucks.

The Asheville Brews Cruise (828/545–5181 www.brewscruise.com) takes microbrew aficionados on a tour of three or four local breweries for $45 per person (four-person minimum). Van tours, daily except Monday (less frequently in winter), last about three hours and include samples of 12 to 15 beers and ales. Walking tours are sometimes available, also $45 per person.

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Caffeinated Asheville

Downtown Asheville has about a dozen local coffeehouses, with many others nearby. Clingman Café (242 Clingman Ave. 828/253–2177), 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. Double D's Coffees & Desserts (41 Biltmore Ave. 828/505–2439) is hard to miss, as it's located in an old red double-decker British bus. Izzy's Coffee Den (74 N. Lexington Ave. 828/258–2004) is an alternative, slightly hipster spot. It serves Counter Culture coffee, of course. Old Europe (13 Broadway St. 828/255–5999) remains vastly popular for its locally roasted Mountain City coffees and Hungarian pastries. Waking Life (976 Haywood Rd. 828/505–3240) in West Asheville arguably has the best espresso in town.

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