I'm on the cusp of bidding "adieu" to Charlotte for good but have many fond memories of the Queen City, particularly its many green spaces and generally friendly population. The food scene, however, while of course flecked with a couple of excellent hotspots, is pretty woeful for a major US city.
Luckily for denizens of Charlotte, a bustling food and bev city is just two hours away into the mountains––Asheville. In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has developed quite a reputation as a funky, artsy, and buzzy destination in the last decade, attracting tourists and new residents from all over. While I was feeling morose one afternoon, my therapist suggested I get "out of the house" to lift my spirits, and since I really hadn't spent a lot of time in Asheville yet and my departure from North Carolina was just around the corner, I made the two hour schlep up into the mountains to enjoy a bit of a getaway.
So, for the second installment of my "Eat Like the Maestro" series, let's have a look at what's on offer in North Carolina's most exciting city!
Asheville is one hell of a hippie-dippy place, so make your way over to one of the many grungy vegan haunts like Rosetta's Kitchen for a pick-me-up bite. Always zero in on the cult favorites, like their impossibly tasty (but also alarmingly drab-looking) peanut butter tofu with potatoes and kale, and make sure to sample Rosetta's own house-made kombucha brand, Buchi. Wash it all down with a pour of a local Asheville beer or cider.
You cannot leave Asheville without going to at least one brewery, and the standout for lovers of experimental and sour ales is Wicked Weed's Funkatorium. Settle in with an everything pretzel with their house-made beer cheese, and then let the pro servers suggest a flight of sour ales for you. Particularly notable on this visit was their blackberry sour and an ale aged in gin barrels with cucumber. Not a sour fan? Not to worry––Wicked Weed's standard offerings are also on tap!
Don't forget to visit the Western North Carolina Farmer's Market while you're visiting, especially if you're there in the spring! Local purveyors have permanent setups in the Market Hall, slinging everything from artisan meats to local honey. Make sure you head down to the tailgate stalls below the market hall to grab seasonal produce from the area from one of the many friendly farmers. If it's spring, grab yourself plenty of wild foraged ramps, an Appalachian specialty!
If you're looking for a grungy outdoor bar experience with an effortless vibe and friendly bartenders, look no further than Ben's Beer Garden on the south side of town by the Funkatorium. Don't leave without sampling a flight of their sake, brewed on site and made from Carolina rice and mountain water from the nearby Appalachians.
It can be tricky to narrow down places for dinner in Asheville given all the excellent options, but my visit to hyper-local neighborhood standby bar and gastropub Sovereign Remedies fit the bill nicely. In early spring you can get their masterful crudité appetizer, but don't miss the Carolina trout, this time prepared with a beguiling fenugreek butter. Remedies is also a killer bar in its own right, so let the bartenders craft one of their takes on a classic cocktail, like a "Root Daiquiri" made with sarsaparilla, burdock, and dandelion.
On your way out of town, grab a cup of coffee and healthy superfood smoothie at Simple Café and Juice Bar. Tons of curated, healthy ingredients in delicious combinations to give you a little pick-me-up for your drive or flight home.
Don't neglect to include Asheville in a future travel plan! A groovy city with excellent food and beer, an artsy hippie vibe, and endless natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities!