From Restaurant Dining to Food Tour to Sky Bar!
By Charlene & Richard Mixa
Asheville runs the gamut with its culinary cuisine. From downhome to uptown, the city will entice and satisfy any palate. Spending only a couple of days in the city on this visit, we are exploring and focusing on its vibrant restaurant scene. Plus our hotel, The Windsor Asheville is perfect for walking to downtown restaurants, shops, galleries and museums.
Following a round of golf at the Grove Park Inn, we have a delicious lunch at the Resort’s Cabana Grill & Bar, a cozy outdoor eatery. The chef is whipping up several new specials. Our favorite is the Ahi Tuna Salad that features fresh tuna and crisp salad greens from local farmers. Topping it off is a cool treat of Chocolate Covered Frozen Banana and Marshmallow with whipped cream and strawberries.
Conveniently located in the heart of Downtown Asheville, just a block from the Vance Monument, is the upscale Windsor Asheville. Originally built in 1907, its recent historical renovation has transformed it into 14 unique luxury suites. The hotel boasts a touch of Paris combined with a touch of the rustic. Suite 302 is tastefully decorated for a welcoming home away from home. The original 1907 exposed brick creates a rustic charm on the living area wall, while a blend of hand-selected artwork and décor create elegance. The suite also features a dining area, full kitchen, private bedroom with a king bed, bathroom, a walk-in closet and a washer/dryer. The décor is tastefully and beautifully done providing deluxe suites in downtown Asheville. Getting around Asheville on foot is a breeze from The Windsor Asheville.
Dinner plans has us strolling down College Street to the Tupelo Honey Café. The café is busy even on a Monday evening. The Asheville downtown location is where Tupelo started in 2000, now it has locations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Sitting outside, we enjoy the cooler mountain temperatures and listen to the sounds of the city. With a theme of “fresh southern scratch made and thoughtfully sourced,” foods Tupelo starts dinner with hot made-from-scratch biscuits with homemade jam. The eclectic menu offers a variety of creative southern foods from fried chicken to meatloaf to steaks to chops and seafood. The manager, John Wilson stops by and gives some recommendations for dinner, as does our waiter. My choice of the Carolina Mountain Trout is excellent. Beautifully pan seared and seasoned, it is served with a plentiful portion of creamy smashed sweet potatoes and a shaved Brussel sprout salad topped with a delicate honey vinaigrette dressing. Succulent pan seared Jumbo Scallops are Richard’s choice. Brown butter French green beans and a rich creamy spring green risotto accompany his entrée. The risotto is highly recommended by the manager. Keeping with the southern tradition for dessert it’s pecan pie. It is definitely decadent! The Brown Butter Pecan Pie is ala mode with a rich dark chocolate sauce. After dinner we take a leisurely walk along Asheville’s streets to burn off some calories before returning to The Windsor Asheville for a quiet evening.
Today, it’s a late breakfast at the Green Sage Café that specializes in healthy and natural ingredient. Their omelet sandwiches are excellent! Prior to our 2:00 PM Eating Asheville Food Tour, we stroll the streets of Asheville popping in favorite shops of the Kress Center and Woolworth Walk which showcase works of local artisans and craftspeople. We finish our window shopping at the Grove Arcade for our food tour. Our first tour with Eating Asheville was the High Rollers Tour which was fantastic. Today’s tour is The Classic Tour and our guide Kasey has a full line up of eateries.
Starting at the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, where a Used Bookstore and Champagne Bar create a most unusual place to eat, drink, be merry, roam stacks of books (covering two floors) and read. Starting with a toast of sparkling wine, we sample appetizers of fresh smoked trout dip and a southern favorite – pimento cheese. Sipping our wine and sampling the appetizers, Kasey shares the history of the Book Exchange. Our next stop is Zambra Wine & Tapas, a Spanish inspired tapas bar. The large dining room and bar reflect the Spanish and Moorish influences and is recognized for being one of the area’s most beautiful. A fabulous Sangria which includes white wine, red wine, sherry, port, brandy and ten more ingredients is refreshing. The Kale Caesar salad with charred bread croutons is excellent and healthy. Learning the history of Zambra, Kasey tells a few haunting tales of the building.
Our eating expedition continues at Strada Italaiano, a 3 star certified independently owned restaurant. Srada means boulevard or street in Italian. The restaurant bears the ambiance of a storied neighborhood trattoria. A Sicilian Red Wines accompanies the Grilled Florentine Ravioli. A spinach ravioli grilled and served atop of sherry tomato cream sauce, arugula, balsamic reduction, basil & pecorino Romano cheese. Forget small bite sized raviolis, this one is large and tantalizing. A short walk, it’s the Gourmet Chip Company. A new spin on an old favorite, these are potato chips with an artisan flair. Today it is the Corsica – a Kettle Style Potato Chip with shaved Belgian dark/milk chocolate & apple smoked bacon. Picking up a cone of the chips we savor them as we walk to the next eatery. “Eat Well, Be Happy” is the mantra for Mojo Kitchen & Lounge. The owners share their ideas and dreams of this recently opened eatery that blends the tastes of South Florida, the Caribbean, and the Deep South. Our sampling is their “take” on Fish & Chips of a blackened tilapia with a chimichurri, citrus-cumin slaw on double fried plantains. Unique with a zesty tang!
More tastings await! Bomba is located at a very active corner on Pack Square and serves a combination of creative lunches and tasty entrées. Our appetizer is a breakfast sandwich of pressed Feta cheese and cabbage accompanied by a sampling of a Highland Gaelic Ale.
Across the street is the recently opened Chocolate Lounge. Known for long lines in the evening, we are excited to taste the tantalizing French Broad Chocolates. Its two samplings of a decadent Chocolate Truffle and an Artisan Chocolate bar that boasts a single origin chocolate (70%+ chocolate). Note: Hershey may source over 1000 chocolate makers where this is a “single origin artisan chocolate from bean to bar!” It is RICH! Our finale is the Social Lounge which presents a timeless elegance. Here we delight in a cool Watermelon Gazpacho and a enticing cocktail. Their upstairs outdoor seating area offers views of Asheville. A toast to The Classic Tour! A fantastic tour and great venue for visiting some of Asheville’s restaurants and eateries. Lucky for us the tour finishes across the street from The Windsor Asheville. We are so glad the Eating Asheville Food Tour is a walking tour to burn off some of the calories. After all these samplings, tastings and sipping’s, we are ready for a short afternoon respite.
Ahoy all seafood lovers! Fresh saltwater seafood is in the North Carolina Mountains seems like a paradox. It’s a reality at The Lobster Trap where Chef Mike McCarty serves only fresh seafood, caught by trusted domestic purveyors. The menu features a variety of seafood, oysters, lobster, crab legs, and more. Impressive are the many unique seafood entrees and appetizers. As we peruse the menu, we enjoy the Smoked Trout Spread with a smooth cream cheese base. Imagine a Tower of Seafood! The Lobster Trap features a Triple Seafood Tower which includes a pound of chilled King Crab legs, one chick lobster, half a pound of shrimp, eight Little Neck clams, Jonah Crab with chipotle mustard ailoi and a dozen Gulf oysters. We opt for a Double Tower and delight in the delicious stone crab, plump shrimp, succulent crab legs, and tasty clams. The oysters are truly a sampling coming from Connecticut, Maine, North Carolina, Prince Edward Island, and Virginia. Each oyster has its own unique flavor. The Tower is excellent for sampling a variety of fresh seafood. Of course lobster is a must and it’s straight from the tank. The luscious Maine Lobster Roll with huge chunks of boiled lobster served with drawn butter on a brioche bun is mouthwatering. Getting into the microbrew business The Lobster Trap features fresh award-winning brews of the Oyster House Brewing Company with brew formulas that include five pounds of delicious oysters on the half shell. Richard is impressed with the Oyster House Moonstone Stout, a great accompaniment to fantastic fresh seafood.
Now to the Skybar! As sunset creeps over the mountain tops, we walk to the Flat Iron Building and Asheville’s only Rooftop Bar, the Skybar. Taking the elevator to the top floor, we delight in the spectacular sunset with amazing views of the mountains and the city. Basically, the cost of the elevator ride to the top is a drink or cocktail. Richard’s has the night’s specialty, a Moscow Mule which is pretty potent. I choose an after dinner cocktail with house made cinnamon-chocolate aphrodisiac blend of herbs infused in vodka and Frangelico, with Kahlua and cream served up. Scrumptious! A wonderful sunset and finale to our short Asheville visit.
If you go:
Asheville definitely has a variety of restaurants. Each visit we sample new restaurants and food tours are an excellent way to do this. Other restaurants we highly recommend while visiting Asheville are The Market Place, Early Girl Eatery, Limones, Corner Kitchen, Chestnuts and Cucina 24.
It was great to stay in a downtown hotel. The Windsor Asheville is excellent with its upscale suites and central location. It was so very nice to have a suite to spread out and we really appreciate having a washer/dryer, too. Asheville is a wonderful city for walking and staying at The Windsor added to both the convenience and fun of exploring this vibrant city on foot.
Eating Asheville Food Tours, Grove Arcade Public Market, 1 Page Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 (828) 489-3266
Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804
The Lobster Trap, 35 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
The Windsor Asheville, 36 Broadway, Asheville, NC 28801
Tupelo Honey Café, 12 College St, Asheville, NC 28801