I just heard a local TV report state that “staycations” are no longer in. Well, OK. Not that I need an excuse to head out of town for vacation. But if staying around home isn’t cool anymore, I’ll pack up the pooch and head back to Asheville.
At the end of April I drove west on I40 and didn’t stop until I reached the West Asheville bungalow I rented for the weekend. I picked West Asheville because I’d read so much about it lately and well, I’ve been to Biltmore a half dozen times. It’s a lovely estate, but there’s more to Asheville and I was determined to wallow in it.
I didn’t really have a specific agenda but had dozens of places I wanted to see while in town. As luck would have it, the rental was just a couple of miles from the River Arts District where I found dozens of studios, Wedge Brewing (where they believe beer is art too) and The Junction, a bar and restaurant in this really incredible space – you have to go see it, really…
… and do yourself a favor, order the Seven-Eleven cocktail.
I love that every surface in the River Arts District (and really around most of Asheville) becomes a canvas. Even one of the parking garages had sherbet colored stripes painted on the support beams and posts.
Everything about the River Arts District is a feast for the eyes. Of course, most everything about Asheville itself is a feast, of local restaurants and breweries, including a cidery.
My first night in town I kept dinner simple and found All Souls Pizza (very near the River Arts District). The pizza special that night was local wild boar sausage with ramps, very reflective of the restaurant’s focus on sourcing locally and seasonally. But I’d made a commitment to eat vegetarian on this trip so instead I chose the veggie polenta crust pizza and put an egg on it. That first dinner set the tone for the entire weekend and it was perfection for a locavore. As I enjoyed that fresh from the wood-fired oven pizza, I listened to a conversation about foraging for morrels in nearby woods. Yup, that happened.
I’m more a fan of breakfast than a dinner, so mornings were my opportunity to indulge. I knew Tupelo Honey Cafe had a location in downtown Asheville, so breakfast the first morning was one of their hearty vegetarian breakfast pies, with a side of sliced tomatoes.
While walking along Haywood Street I explored the Woolworth Walk, a gallery featuring local artists and an ol’ timey soda fountain.
Downtown has some old buildings with interesting architecture, so I found myself looking up quite often too.
I don’t know if MoogFest had anything to do with the abundance of street performers, but there was beautiful music being played on a dulcimer in front of Malaprops Bookstore (by the way, they have a really great selection of vegetarian/vegan cookbooks at Malaprops).
By mid-afternoon, I was ready for a little break and decided to stop in French Broad Chocolate Lounge for just a bit.
I did manage to save my appetite for dinner one night at Chai Pani during that weekend and had a lovely meal of kale and green tomato pakoras, bhel puri and a cocktail they called “Dark & Monsoony”, their riff on a Dark & Stormy.
That was a fun day in downtown Asheville, just wandering somewhat aimlessly and ending up in really wonderful spots. Plus everyone was so friendly! Asheville citizens would strike up a conversation with me as they saw me taking pictures. On two separate days, in different parts of town young kids walked up to me and offered a “free high five”, which I gladly accepted. Is that a thing in Asheville? I don’t know, but kudos to the Asheville citizenry for being so warm and welcoming.
I spent the majority of my time in West Asheville, just across the French Broad River from the River Arts District. My dog and I would take walks on the French Broad Greenway between Carrier Park and the French Broad River park each morning. That way I felt less guilty when indulging in big breakfasts at Biscuit Head
and Sunny Point Cafe, where I had the most scrumptious organic carrot hot cakes topped with a cardamom cream cheese and served with a side of cinnamon sorghum syrup. It was like eating carrot cake for breakfast.
One of my favorite aspects of dining in Asheville is that you’re rarely dining completely indoors. I found most places had large doors or windows that opened to let the fresh air inside and let the diner gaze outside at the scenery.
I did just that at Urban Orchard Cider Co. while trying a flight of their made on site hard ciders in the upstairs tap room (I loved the Ginger Champagne Cider… I think it’s the one in the middle).
A new coffee shop cafe opened while I was in town so I made sure to stop in Odd’s Cafe and sip a cup of pour over coffee while seated on the comfortable chairs in front of the open bay door, just chillin.
My favorite place to “chill” in West Asheville was at The Hop West, the West Asheville location of the popular ice cream shop.
They have so many fun and interesting flavors at The Hop, like Cranberry Gorgonzola, Black Sesame Coconut, Orange Jalapeno, as well as vegan options and sorbets.
As much as I enjoyed every part of Asheville/West Asheville I could manage to squeeze in four days and three nights, there’s so much more on my Asheville to do list to complete. So yeah, I’ll be taking out of town vacations this Summer and heading right back to the mountains and those cool streams.
Cheers, til we meet again Asheville.