Bountiful Dining Experiences in the North Carolina Mountains
By Charlene & Richard Mixa
Passion and a love for their craft is easily demonstrated by chefs in restaurants, cafes, and eateries in the Asheville area. Culinary artists create new and eclectic dining in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains from rooftop bars to street cafes to historical inns. New eateries entice and intrigue us with their menus, unique settings and zeal of their chefs.
Up on the Rooftop! Dining spots with scenic mountain views are a new wave in eateries in Asheville. Checking out the newest rooftop bars, our rooftop culinary experience begins at Hemingway’s Cuba Restaurant on the fourth floor of the new Cambria Hotel. Under Carolina blue skies, this spacious rooftop patio has a modern décor with sleek white loungers and fire pits as well as tables. Our outside table under a canopy has vistas of long range mountain views as well as the architecture of city buildings. Tony Farga, the restaurant’s founder, who grew up in Havana at the La Floridita – a favorite restaurant of Hemingway, creates a “true Cuban dining experience.” Salud! Refreshing Cuban cocktails are welcoming on this sunny summer afternoon. The Hemingway’s Daiquiri – a namesake for the restaurant’s inspiration is refreshing. The small plate of the Empanadas de Pollo is a tasty pulled chicken with the baby tomato stack. The Mariscos Paellas for two is Delicioso! Well worth the 30 minute preparation time, the Paellas is bursting with flavors and beautifully presented. Seafood of shrimp, mussels, clams and the NC coastal catch of the day blend with the saffron rice, roasted red peppers, and sweet peas. A huge serving! Sweets of rice pudding finish our dining experience. The scenery, the ambiance and the romantic vibe make Hemingway’s Cuba a great choice for dining with a view. Salud to Hemingway’s Cuba!
Going Up! Direct to the 8th Floor! The Montford Rooftop Bar is perched on the 8th floor of the Hyatt Place Hotel in downtown Asheville. An elevator at the hotel entrance goes directly to the Montford Rooftop Bar. Stepping off the elevator we find an open-air restaurant with covered area over a long bar and sleek outdoor area with plush couches, fire pits and views. Panoramic views are north to catch a glimpse of the infamous Grove Park Inn and west with scenic vistas of Blue Ridge Mountains sunsets. Dining is delicious of Executive Chef, Philip Bollhoefer, craftily created small bites plates. We start with a Peach & Buratta Salad accompanied with a tasty ricotta cheese wrapped in fresh mozzarella, then the Sunburst Farm Trout Dip is served with a crisp fried baguette. Up next the Roasted Brussel Sprouts topped with a fried egg is a unique twist. The Blue Crab Fritters and Baked Carolina Bison Meatballs are filling and hearty. The Montford prides itself on their unique specialty cocktails. The Montford Mule has a kick and their spin of serving it in a ceramic mug. Refreshing is the Whiskey Tiki Foxtrot, Montford’s version of a whiskey sour. Our sweet treat is the tangy Lemon Bar. With earlier afternoon rains, the mountains are in a haze as the sun begins to set. Great rooftop bar dining, cocktails and sunsets!
Panoramic Mountain Vistas! The Omni Grove Park Inn easily takes the lead for dining with a view in the Asheville area. This 100+ year old iconic Inn offers dining options with “miles” of Blue Ridge Mountain views from its vantage point on Sunset Hill. Keeping with the Rooftop Bar theme, Edison, Craft Ales & Kitchen is their inventive bar and restaurant. With indoor seating and expansive outdoor seating of couches, huge fireplaces and cozy tables each provides spectacular scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired and named for Thomas Edison, a frequent visitor to the Inn, Edison serves NC craft beers, handcrafted cocktails and regionally inspired food. Sitting outside in this contemporary setting our table offers panoramic mountain vistas. From their eclectic menu featuring local purveyors we begin with their crispy Fried Green Tomatoes with a spicy remoulade sauce. The fresh Kale Salad with pumpkin seed dressing has watermelon radish and deliciously roasted cauliflower. Today’s feature entrée is the Cobia Fish in a Sea Island Red Pea Succotash with a Grove Park Inn garden salsa verde. Definitely a winner this white, firm and very flavorful fish with the succotash is excellent. Sipping wine and having a sampling of local craft beers with our dinner, Edison is great for friendly conversation with spectacular scenery. Edison and the Omni Grove Park Inn’s dining venues of Sunset Terrace, Blue Ridge Dining Room, President’s Lounge and Vue 1913 offer wonderful dining with “miles of mountains views!”
Downtown and on the ground! AUXBar is a chic, laid back restaurant and bar featuring the passionate preparations of Chef Steven Goff. Seated in the casual outdoor patio we find sharing is paramount for enjoying the variety of tapas style dishes. Tastings begin with the Whipped Pimento Cheese served with huge pork rinds, a twist from cheese & crackers and the fresh NC Oyster on the Half Shell with a tangy cucumber mignonette sauce. Dishes are served as ready so our table gets crowded with tasty small plates of Smoked Trout Dip, Charred Baby Carrots atop pea hummus, and Fried Shrimp over apple relish with a spicy BBQ Aioli. Terrific but messy are the Duck Wings in a sweet potato buffalo sauce and bacon ranch. Hot wet towels make for a quick clean up. An AUXBar favorite is Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Crumpet with Black Pepper Gravy giving a good ol’ southern flavors of fried chicken, gravy, and biscuit. Chef Steven has a passion for “pickling” and “soaking” fruits in King Cobra Malt Liquor. Each dish has a tangy “pickled” vegetable. The King Cobra Berry Wine Spritzer is refreshing with “soaked” berries. Yep, “soaked berries” accompany the Vinegar Pie. AUXBar is a unique eatery with a variety of tantalizing dishes, specialty cocktails and unique “twists” to everyday dishes.
Be part of a continuing legacy at the Monte Vista Hotel. Dine in the historic Monte Vista Hotel established in 1919 in Black Mountain, NC – Best Small Town in Western North Carolina. Having visited this historic hotel in the past, we are anxious to see the changes under the new owner Mike Boles. Taking ownership earlier this year, Mike partnered with Southern Proper Hospitality, who operates nine restaurants in the Atlanta area, to bring a new southern cuisine that emphasis fresh, locally sourced ingredient and regionally inspired comfort food to Milton’s at the Monte Vista Hotel. Relocating the dining room to the welcoming lobby and garden terrace creates a cozier atmosphere. Plus the outside patio still offers a warm casual outdoor setting. Our appetizer of Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritters is tantalizing. The Monte Vista Caesar Salad has plenty of flavor we especially like the croutons of “popped” sorghum and fried capers with a creamy lemon-dijon dressing. Opting for fish entrees the Crispy Skin-on Mountain Trout has pureed parsnips, fried Brussel sprouts and a cracked mustard sherry bacon vinaigrette creating a truly unique mouthwatering dish. While the Blackened Scottish Salmon features goat cheese grits, garlic spinach with a blue crab red-pepper cream sauce that is bursting with flavors. A southern favorite, Berry Cobbler with ice cream satisfies our sweet tooth. Cheers to Milton’s and the Monte Vista Hotel!
Foodtopia is the latest name for Asheville’s food scene. It definitely lives up to that name with the unique and memorable food experiences from rooftop bars to street cafes to historical inns and more. Visitors will find a plethora of choices for dining from upscale to downhome.
If you go:
AUXBar, 68 North Lexington Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801
Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, 36 Montford Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Hemingways Cuba Restaurant, 15 Page Avenue, 4th Floor Asheville, North Carolina
Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails, located in the Monte Vista Hotel, 308 West State Street, Black Mountain, NC 28711308
Montford Rooftop Bar, 199 Haywood St., Asheville, NC 28801
Omni Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28804